(continued from part one)
suddenly there was a man in the alleyway. a stranger, in the courtyard. was it the building super? no. the owner of the building on fire? “they’re coming!” he yelled up to the woman and her friend. "they're coming! don’t jump, they’re coming!”
i could hear huge, giant screams of “help me!” from somewhere else inside that building. shrieking. or was that my imagination?
the woman screamed back “i have to jump! i can’t get out! i have no fire escape! i’m going to die!”
don't cry, i told myself. strong. calm. rob now, yelling at her “no! i see them! they’re here! i see them! don’t jump!! please don’t jump!”
a ladder. a fireman. within seconds the woman and then the man were crawling out the window onto the ladder and down to safety.
the flames from ten feet away were shooting up and threatening our ash tree. i knew if that tree caught fire we were in trouble: it would surely cause the flames to jump buildings. the fire was even stronger now, harsher. reaching further up. the bottom of the tree…had it caught? was it burning…?
again, glassy eyed for a split second. someone could still be in that building, i thought. someone could be on the fourth or fifth floor, and not know what was happening. sleeping. or maybe a pet.
suddenly i could hear it. i could hear reggie howling. reggie, our dear old airedale, dead over a year ago, howling, crying, terrified and trapped.
“think,” i said to rob, looking him dead in the eye. “what in this apartment can you not live without?” there was some panic. moments ago this was small, an annoyance, nothing threatening to us. now the heat coming in our back window was unbearable.
it was shut, and we were out the door.
in the rush to get out i had managed to grab my computer and stuff it in my backpack.
i thought of a photo of my mother that was on my computer. that’s why i took it. not for the internet, or for my writing, or for my music, or for anything else. for a picture of my mother that i knew i had on my hard drive.