The house across the street burned last night.
I woke to my husband standing at the window, awestruck, saying, “I can see flames.” And I could, too. I’ve not seen anything like that before, right from my bedroom window. The number of firetrucks in one place– I think we counted seven of them, lighting up our room with their dancing blue and red lights.
I walked into the hallway and smelled it immediately, acrid smoke mingled with the smell of water in the air. And instantly that smell transported me to lying on the floor of my neighbor’s kitchen when I was six the night of our own house fire.
Our fire started near the chimney, which was the first place I saw flames lick past last night, too. Ours happened in early December and I remember my dad saying that the tree caught quick and destroyed the presents. I was terrified that we’d have no Christmas. And when my mom told me we’d be in a hotel for a while, I remember asking if it had a pool.
One of my sons slept through last night. The other paced around, checking on the fireplaces and the space heater in the basement.
This morning I woke to burned debris in our yard. The last time that happened was this summer, after the murder, after the riots. We live about 20 blocks from what is now George Floyd square, but the debris had to have been from even further away. Or maybe it was from either of the convenience stores within blocks of here.
For weeks after, my son refused to believe that those sounds were just fireworks, even though it was summer, and that’s the natural order of things. On New Year’s Eve this year, we told him, again, just fireworks.
A celebration because 2020 was hard work.
In the warmth of summer, the governor on television had urged us to be in touch with our neighbors, to have a plan, because the unlicensed trucks and SUVs gunning down our street were proving elusive, like our sleep.
And that’s how I knew the woman who lived there.
And she and her son are ok.