As I lay in bed last night, waiting for the Ambien to kick in, ruminating about my poverty situation, I heard sirens. They sounded close so I looked outside. Something down the street. I went back to bed, more sirens, then also saw helicopter spotlights spilling into our bedroom.
I looked out the living room window, with a view of the street we live on and suddenly there were over 10 fire trucks about a block from our apartment. Under the street lamps, I could see smoke vapors. I put on my shoes and went to the fire escape, with a better view of our street. Sure enough, a building was on fire. Which one, I didn’t know.
I asked Eric if he wanted to go check it out with me. He declined. I put on a t-shirt and grabbed my phone. Neighbors were spilling out onto our street, it was like a carnival: flashing lights, flurry of activity, confusion.
Once on the street, I saw there were 20, maybe 25, fire trucks, dozens of firemen focused on one task or another. Probably 100 residents gathered and walked the street, now completely closed off by policeman. I conversed with folks I knew. What happened? I don’t know. Which building is it?
By the time I was on the street, all flames had been extinguished. There was still residual smoke. Also, it appeared that firemen were continuing to evacuate people from the 3 buildings in close proximity to each other.
The Gladys Kravitz in me was in heaven. So much drama. I took picture after picture. I took pictures of the fire trucks and the helicopter and the people watching. I felt like Diane Arbus. I am documenting the SHIT out of this, I thought to myself.
The entrance of the building across the street had a high staircase so I climbed to the top to take more pictures. Better view. Two guys stood next to me talking.
“It looks like the firemen are trying to give CPR to a dog over there,” one said to the other.
“Dog?” I interrupted.
“Yeah, it’s too small to be a person.”
Sure enough, I looked in the direction he pointed. 8 large firemen were huddled over something, what, I could not see, and they pumped away.
I moved to get closer, trying to get a clear view. I could see the men but I couldn’t see what they were working on. If it is a dog, I probably know this dog, this is my neighborhood, I thought.
They worked for several minutes and finally another fireman brought a white sheet over and covered whatever it was. I was surprised and heartened by how vigilantly they tried to save this creature.
The high that I experienced when I first stumbled onto the scene was gone. I know this probably is going to sound bad, but if you are a dog person, you might be forgiving: I wondered if I felt worse or better knowing it was a probably a dog instead of a person. (Can I blame this on the Ambien?)
I walked back to the house. Eric and the dogs were sitting on the couch, watching a Guthy-Renker infomercial. I relayed all that I’d witnessed. I hugged the dogs a little extra.
“It was so sad,” I told Eric. He agreed. Eric went to bed, as did the dogs. For some reason, I felt compelled to Instagram a few pictures I’d taken. (More Diane Arbus illusions.). Eventually I made my way to bed, and finally, to sleep.
This morning my friend Glenny texted to see if the fire she heard about had been near us. She’d heard that a dog had died. I looked up the news and sure enough, it was the fire on my street. A woman was injured and her pet dog was not able to be saved.
I was glad that I knew what happened, how the story ended, but of course, I thought about the woman and her dog all day. Perhaps more details will be revealed, at this moment, I don’t know the name of the woman or her dog. I have concluded, perhaps incorrectly, that the woman was older and that she lived alone. A family of two.
Before Ricky and Millie, and of course, Eric came into my life, for a while anyway, I was a family of two. The first dog I got in my adulthood was a spaniel mix that looked like a caramel sundae. In fact, when I drank, I called her my little caramel sundae. Her name was Lucy. In the years before I adopted Mandy, all we had was each other. We walked to Larchmont Village together almost every morning. We took road trips, she loved visits to the beach. She was something special. I love all my dogs, my boyfriend too, but sometimes I think I might have loved Lucy most of all, because she was my first and the one I needed the most.
If you’re reading this, maybe you had a Lucy. Or a Mandy or a Millie or a Ricky, or even an Eric. (How lucky I am to share my life with a person who takes it as a compliment to be clumped in with a bunch of dogs.) Family is family, whether it’s big or small, human or otherwise. So tonight, I say a prayer for my neighbor, a woman I know little about but can’t help but feel a connection to. I am sorry about the passing of your dog, your Lucy. My prayer for you is peace and that the good memories will be a comfort in the days and weeks and years to come. God bless the beasts and the children and those of us who’ve loved them, too.