Something strange happened last night. I woke up because somebody was knocking at the front door. I had been dreaming, and my dream had strangely evolved around the noise. But now I was awake, and it was not just knocking. It was more like some lunatic or a desperate & scared person was punching and kicking on the door. I had friends sleeping over in my room, but they were fast asleep. My mother - I'm staying at her place - did not seem to stir in her room either. In the dark I opened the bedroom's door. The banging on the front door stopped. I was awake enough to think that it was strange somebody could knock so frantically at a door without calling or screaming. I was sleepy enough not to care. Maybe it's because I have been reading a Stephen King over the last few days, or maybe it's because I was half asleep, but I did not like the way the banging had stopped at the exact moment I opened the bedroom's door. It felt odd. Standing there in the dark & quiet living room, staring at the front door, waiting for the banging to start again, wondering who (what) was behind, thinking it could be my ex-stepfather & how I'd like to beat the shit out of him, another idea started to form. An idea that popped up from nowhere but seemed obvious. It's "the Other Guy." It's Backman. It's "the Guy In The Back." He's trying to come in. Don't let him in. Raving madness is behind that fucking door. So without making any noise I went back to bed. I could not sleep. A while later, birds started to sing, the first cars of people going to work passed by. I laid there, looking at the ceiling, waiting for the banging to start again until I fell asleep again. Tonight, for the first time in years, I locked the front door before going to bed.
Again. And 3, and 4. Like yesterday, the day before and so on. Another 12-hour work day, no lunch break, mad pressure & still can't fucking sleep. Can't think straight. Could get something done. Like learn Russian or learn how to knit multicolor muffles or solve a Rubixcub with my butt cheeks. But nooooo... so much more fun to curse at Bob Rock on TV while he's turning Metallica into a joke. Tempted to go get myself a beer at the Deli. One of those obscure beers that taste awful but have a cool name. Wondering if I like this Lautréamont guy, after all. Thinking that I'm gonna have to spend a few days in Paris and being in Paris is the last thing I want. Thinking that I should try to find out if you can move a blog to another site that has no relation with the original site without having to spend 10 years in the operation nor leaving tracks. Almost got in a fight today, with some uptown guy I don't even know. Then it did not happen. What the fuck you gotta do to have somebody want to punch you in this city? Burn their SUVs? Rape their dog? Piss on their mother? Fucking cycos, they depress me. Every other night in Brooklyn, smoking a cigarette in the street, there will be some guy asking me for something, wanting to shake hands like we've known each other since forever. You know the kind. They just won't shut up until you give them somethin. Tell him to beat it and the guy wants to talk about anger management. Tell the guy to fuck off & he wants to be your psychiatrist and talk about feelings. After a while they finally get it and wish you good night & God's blessing. Him and the uptown guy... I don't get it. Cycos...
Since those good old high school fire drills, you know what to do. All it comes down to is leave everything behind and go. Now. For a drill, it works. You know that eventually you'll go back to your desk and that goddamn test will still be there waiting for you. In real life though, you want to make a couple of exceptions. I leave everything behind except my passport and immigration papers. oh, and the cash and credit card and Metrocard. Oh, and the laptop.
Oddly enough, I totally forgot the iPod.
The way it started is it sort of smelled like somebody was smoking. A minute or two later, what started only as a faint smell was now reeking of burning plastic. So I left the room to see if my roommates knew what was going on, this time. They knew alright. The kitchen had caught fire. A grey smoke filled the living room despite the open windows. They way the living room looked and smelled, you did not even want to check the kitchen. My roommates were arguing about what had caused the fire. I didn't care too much about that. Once I got confirmation that somebody had put out the fire, I went back to my room uploading and sorting out tons of pictures.
Still, the smoke was getting worse so I opened the window. That's when I heard the fire trucks coming. Because I have an IQ below average, my first thought was : "What a coincidence ! Two fires on the same block at the same time." Then I heard voices screaming, so I looked down and there was a bunch of 7 year old kids yelling at me to go out. The building is on fire. Go! Go! So I leaned further out the window, and looked up, but everything seemed fine. To the hysterical kids downstairs I said, OK, OK. I stepped back, wondering what's going on. 1) They think our little improvised camp fire in the kitchen is a major thing 2) There really is another fire on another floor of the building 3) The fire we had in the kitchen had actually started somewhere else and was still raging.
That's when somebody knocked on the door saying, Er..., Cecyl, we have a problem. So the emergency-thinking kicked in at full speed. Slapping shut the laptop that was desperately trying to upgrade something, to the door I said, "I know, we're out in a sec." To the girl I say, "Fire. We're going out. Now."
That's when the exceptions start applying to the rule. "Get your cash and credit cards, passports, immigration papers."
It's strange, but I didn't think about the books one second, except as fuel for the fire. For some reason, my beloved iPod didn't make it in the list either, whereas the laptop did.
It took less than 2 minutes. To me, it's an all-time record, but I'm sure it would have been too long....
Also, I took the time to close the window. Maybe two years ago, there was a fire in the building across the street. It was in winter too, and I saw the firemen breaking all the windows from downstairs, while others inside were throwing out anything even vaguely flammable. On the street corner, the tenants in tear where talking on their cells while watching their mattresses, clothes, pillows, chairs, CD's etc. fly out the windows.
It's just that, by that time, I had figured out that only option 1 was making sense -- our neighbors had been alarmed by the smoke coming out of our windows --, and that there was no way I was gonna let them flood my room with water for nothing.
As I opened the door, I caught a glimpse of the cat rushing between my legs and under the bed. Stupidly, I closed the door behind me, condemning him.
In the hall, there were silent roommates and a couple of upset firemen. Firemen are funny. When you try to give them important information, they interrupt you with a dry, "we know what we're doing. Just stay back." When you let them do their job, they bitch because you didn't say anything.
Guys, next time you come, you better know what you want.
Yeah, I digress, I know. So, well, d'you think I'd be writing this shit if the building had burned down anyway?
It was the kitchen fire that got all the neighbors call 911. The thing is, in winter, everybody use those small heaters that can be messed up or set fire to something too close to them, so you never know...
It's below zero deg. Celsius outside I'm glad we didn't have to watch the firemen flood the apartment and everything inside.
Come to think of it, I'm sure the reason they were so pissed is that we had put out the fire by ourselves... No hard feelings guys, you're still New York's Bravest.
These last months, it's like all of my friends have decided to invite themselves as guest stars in my dreams. One after another, I see them in composite places of New York, Grenoble, Lyon, Paris, B.l.V., Marseille. France is everywhere. I'm in a bar that probably no longer exists in the South of France, knocking my knuckles hard on the counter and thinking, I'm really back, this is not a dream this time, this counter is real, those people are real. My first thought after this realization is, What visa do I have? How do I go back? Then, cut. Waking up in Brooklyn. Cut to late in a stormy night in a small bar in the Lower East Side, smiling at the barmaid and emptying my glass, and as I put back the glass on the counter I think, This is not a dream this time, this counter is real, those people are real.