It’s weird to watch everything you ever had literally go up in flames. Having to stand on the side of a dirty street while your home burns down is a humbling experience. I’ve never felt so helpless.
I started running toward my building but stopped at the wooden barricades the fire department had set up to keep people a safe distance away. The fire had spread to both buildings next to it and the water being poured into them didn’t seem to be helping at all. I saw neighbors from my building standing around the barricades watching in awe. I called Zoey and told her what happened, she told me she was on her way and hung up.
I backed up a little from the barricade, I don’t know why, maybe it was to try and separate myself from the reality of what was happening. Someone ran into me hard. I ended up on the ground with a scraped up hand and my head hit the concrete. They were on the ground next to me rambling apologies in a panic.
“Randy?” I said when the person who hit me offered me their hand to help me get up.
His eyes were wild and his face was blotched with soot and sweat.
“Faith!? I’m so sorry, are you okay? I’m trying to find Teddy, we got separated in the stairwell and I haven’t been able to find him.”
“I’ll help you look.” I said. We split up after agreeing to meet up in 15 minutes at the same spot. I slipped through the crowd calling Teddy’s name but didn’t see or hear him. I ended up near a stoop of a building that wasn’t on fire yet, right on the edge of the wooden barricades. I stopped to catch my breath and heard crying. I couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from but it sounded like it was coming from an alley next to a burning building about 150 feet from the barricade. I looked around amid the chaos. No one was paying attention to where I was. I hopped the barricade and ran towards the sound.
“Teddy!?” I said practically sliding into the alley. “TEDDY!?”
The crying had stopped but there was whimpering and I followed it. The sky above me looked like it was on fire, the blaze was spreading and I could hear firefighters yelling nearby the opening of the alley. Embers from the burning building were trickling down around me.
“Teddy?” I said looking around a trash can.
Teddy was covered in soot and was cradling his arm. It looked burned. He was wearing Iron Man pajamas that were singed in places and absolutely filthy. His pants were wet and there were tear tracks on his face.
“Teddy, let’s get that looked at buddy.” I said holding my hand out to him.
“I’m cold, Faith.” He whimpered.
I whipped off my coat and wrapped him in it before sweeping him up in my arms and running back to the barricade.
“How did your pants get wet?” I said trying to distract him as I climbed over the wooden barricade with him in my arms. His arms were wrapped so tight around me I was having trouble breathing.
“I-I had an accident.” He said. He started crying and buried his head into my neck.
“That’s okay, Teddy. It was scary. It’s okay. We’ll get you some new pants soon.”
I weaved back through the crowd to the meeting place Randy had designated.
“Oh, my God. Thank you, Faith! Oh my God.” Randy started crying when I transferred Teddy to him.
“He’s got a bad burn, you should take him to a paramedic.” I said.
Randy nodded, pulled me close to him, and kissed me on the mouth before giving me a grateful look and then disappearing in the direction of an ambulance. I stood and watched numbly as the firemen carried out some of my neighbors. Someone had put a blanket around my shoulders and I turned to see Zoey, Anna, and Molly. I hugged them all at once.
“Faith, have they brought any pets out?” Molly asked gently.
“N-no.” I said. My voice caught in my throat and I couldn’t speak anymore.
Zoey waved down a fireman and asked if they could look for my cat. He shook his head and brushed her off. I flung off my blanket, hopped the barricade and started running towards my building but suddenly ended up hanging upside down.
“What do you think you’re doing?” A fireman had flung me over his shoulder like a sack of flour and started walking me back to the barricade. At first I kicked and tried to break free but gave up and started crying.
“Please.” I said when he set me back down, “My cat. He’s still in there. I need him. He’s all I have. Please.”
The fireman looked at me and then back at the building.
“PLEASE.” I said. I was begging at that point.
“I’ll look for him when I go back in, but it was a bad fire…”
“I understand.” I said quickly so he wouldn’t finish the rest of his thought.
I felt like I watched the fire burn for hours. The sun was coming up and each time someone would come out of the building empty-handed my hope was extinguished a little more. I felt selfish. There were full body bags sitting in front of one of the ambulances and I was dying inside because no one could find my cat. Randy and Teddy joined me on the curb across from the crowd. Zoey, Anna, and Molly were helping people in the crowd, getting coffee and blankets, doing what they could at my insistence to be left alone for a little bit.
“Faith, thank you.”
“No problem, Randy. I’m glad Teddy was found.”
He put his arm around me and I put my head against his shoulder.
“They’ll find him.” He said.
I didn’t say anything.
“What are you guys going to do?” I asked him after a long time.
“I don’t know yet. Probably stay at a hotel for a few days…”
The fire burned for hours, it was hard to control because of the wind. Three buildings other than my apartment complex caught on fire. I watched until the building was a smoldering skeleton of wood, bricks, and metal. I was holding a cold cup of coffee in my hands and staring at the ground when a pair of boots came into my line of vision. I looked up and my heart sank.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t find him.” It was the fireman from before.
“I-it’s okay. It’s not your fault.” I said with no emotion.
Zoey, Molly, and Anna surrounded me and shuffled me into Zoey’s car. I’ve been living in Zoey’s guest room for the past four days. The fire has been all over the news. 11 people died and the police think it was arson but have no idea who could have done it. The only things that I didn’t lose in the fire were the clothes I was wearing, my purse, and phone.
I can’t stop thinking about all the things I’ve lost so suddenly. And it’s not just material stuff; it’s the memories that go with it. I’ve lost photo albums from my college years, family photos, my computer and laptop, the signed apology from Kevin that I framed, Murphy’s kitty castle, my college and high school diplomas, graduation photos, and, of course, Murphy. Bruno has given me as much time as I need to get things in order but I haven’t been able to do anything except grieve for Murphy. I can’t believe he’s gone. This is so surreal.