Friday morning around 4:20, the building’s fire alarm started going off.
I immediately jumped out of bed. My husband snored a few more times, and then, while I was pulling on my pants, sleepily asked, “Is that the fire alarm?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“I’ll find the cat,” he said. This is always a problem when the fire alarm goes off. Our cat hides. I think it’s partly because she doesn’t like the noise, and partly because she’s learned what the noise means: That she’s about to be shoved into her carrier and taken outside into the cold. It’s not her idea of a good time.
My hands shaking violently, not from fear but from the sensory assault, I threw my laptop, e-reader, phone, medications, and hairbrush into a bag. In times like this you find out what your priorities are.
My husband was still looking for the cat. “I’ll go see if I can find out what’s going on,” I said. This had happened many times before, and it was usually a false alarm. Also, we take comfort in the fact that we’re on the second floor, and the first floor is partly underground, which means our balcony is very close to the ground and we could comfortably jump off it if necessary. In fact, my husband sometimes jumps off it when he’s taking the garbage out to the dumpster, rather than going out the front and walking all the way around.
I went out of our apartment into the hallway and looked down from the top of the stairs. At the front of the building, there’s an outer glass door that’s always unlocked, then a vestibule where there are mailboxes and an intercom system used to buzz apartments, then an inner glass door that’s always locked, for which you either need a key or you need someone to unlock it by buzzing you in via the intercom. From my vantage point I could see that the inner glass door was completely smashed and the intercom phone was ripped out of the wall.
Other residents were gathered outside and some were lingering in the vestibule, avoiding going out into the cold. One neighbour came out of his apartment and stood beside me at the top of the stairs. “Da f%#k?” he said incredulously.
I went back into the apartment and reported all this to my husband. “I don’t smell smoke, but something’s definitely going on.”
I tried to make sense of what I’d seen. I’d think from the smashed door that it was a break in, but then why would the phone be damaged as well? Maybe these were just acts of petty vandalism. What else could the motive be? And was there actually a fire, or was the fire alarm pulled by the vandal as a further act of mischief?
Or maybe it was the result of a domestic dispute. Maybe someone’s ex wanted to be let into the building but was denied and flipped out. That would explain the vandalized phone. It did look like there may have been a lot of anger involved. I don’t understand that kind of anger, but I have witnessed it, and it’s certainly possible that someone’s angry ex could have just gone into a rage and tried to destroy everything around him. But wait a second, he smashed the door, so he could have gotten into the building. Was he in the building right now? Maybe the person he was going after pulled the fire alarm to get help.
Or maybe it was a thief, like I originally thought, and he pulled the fire alarm because he was trying to get everyone out of the building so he could burgle our apartments. Or was it even more sinister? Was someone trying to get everyone gathered out front so he could mow us all down? Was it terrorism? Our building’s management had recently sent out a letter informing us that they would be taking refugees into the building (which I am in favour of, by the way). Maybe someone didn’t like that. But again, why the ripped out, smashed phone?
We chose this neighbourhood two years ago because it was one of the safest neighbourhoods in the city, but crime has been increasing in the last couple months for some reason that is unknown to me, which makes me very uneasy. Being safe is a huge priority for me and I arrange my life accordingly.
My husband still couldn’t find the cat. I prayed that God would help us find her and then we did. My husband had been looking in all her usual hiding spots but oddly enough she wasn’t hiding this time. She was just lying on a shelf amongst some folded clothes, probably wondering what all the fuss was about.
My husband put her in her carrier and we finally hurried outside. The fire trucks had already arrived and the police arrived soon afterward. We waited outside for half an hour. It was chilly, but fortunately nowhere near as cold as it usually is this time of year.
Finally the firemen said they couldn’t find any fire and we could go back inside. They said they would work on getting the alarm shut off, but it still took another 20 minutes or so for that to happen.
I threw up as soon as we were back in the apartment. Because that’s what I do. Whether sick, stressed, tired, scared or just simply overwhelmed, I throw up. It happens on average a couple times a week. My husband jokes that it’s my hobby, but I hate it.
My husband and I went back to bed at about 6:00am. Usually our cat sleeps at the end of the bed, but she crawled up between us and draped herself over one of my arms. The three of us cuddled up together until my husband had to get up again for work.
I was a wreck for the rest of the day. Just utterly useless, exhausted, and completely worn out.
I want a house, but it’s not feasible right now. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which it ever will be. My husband’s work is a temporary contract. We have debt from when he was unemployed. I suck at holding a job. A rented apartment is the best we can do.
I pray for stability and security. I pray for a permanent job for my husband and for a safe, secure home of our own. I have been praying for this for most of our marriage. It’s funny how so many of my prayers are answered, but not this one.
“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” ~ Isaiah 32:18