The Doorway to Doom?
About a week ago my untapped ninja skills were put to the test when I was awakened by somebody pounding on my apartment door at 3 am, screaming that the building was on fire. At first I thought it was a prank because the smoke alarms that usually go off when someone burns toast were not making a peep but then I heard more people in the hallway yelling that it was really happening. I threw on some clothes, put my cats Manny and Joe inside the carriers without their typical cartoon resistance, grabbed a jacket and my backpack and ran outside. Three fire trucks were blocking the dead end street and most of my neighbors were already outside in the rain.
The firemen were already inside with hoses and were breaking the windows of the second floor apartment where the fire was raging. Word spread that it was started by an asshole who fell asleep smoking a cigarette. The same jerk who had passed out blind drunk in front of his door on a Sunday morning two weeks before.
He lived with his mother and they fought like wolverines, yelling in Russian and slapping each other so loudly that the neighbors in the next building heard. They had battles with the neighbors below them especially over the mother's choice of wearing high heels 24/7. Damn it, it was her floor and she could click those heels back and forth for infinity. Of course, the couple below were at wit's end with that dancing din on top of their heads. They fought back by playing thrash metal at top volume. The heels gave tit for tat until the cops were called but nothing would happen except the police asking all parties to sleep on it. The heels eventually won and the metal music weapons were packed up, the couple moving out in frustration.
The mother was very attractive and always seemed to have a rotating crew of older, richer, possibly married boyfriends lingering around. I had a bizarre encounter last month with one of the them. Walking back from a cat food run, I walked up to the building's stoop as the Russian doll and her companion were leaving. It was dark and I was reaching for my keys when the man spoke to me, "Krys?" I didn't want to show that I was startled so I confirmed that it was me even though I had absolutely no clue who he was. "Sorry to hear about your father." OK, even more unsettling as I never shared the news of my dad's passing with any of my neighbors. We're not that close. I thanked him for his sympathies. We had a brief exchange about my father and then he ended the conversation with, "If there's anything we can do, let us know." "All right but who the fuck are you?!", I wanted to say but the hermit in me did not want to pursue this any further. Was I being stalked? What in the hell kind of help was being offered anyway?
The fire was put out after an hour and a half and the rest of us were allowed back into our apartments after some fans were set up to blow out the smoke. Of course the burned out apartment was destroyed and the mother and her son were evicted.
When I pass by that sooty apartment door now, I think of the Tammy Wynette song Apartment #9. A torch song.