A few weeks ago, Keith went to bed early, even though it was Saturday night, because he wasn't feeling good in an allergy/cold kind of way. I joined him in bed a little after 11 o'clock. I was having trouble falling asleep, tossing and turning, when I opened my eyes nearly a half-hour later to see bright, flashing lights streaking across our ceiling.
When I saw the lights, it clicked in the back of my mind that I had heard sirens a few minutes ago, but they weren't right outside our house. I immediately poked Keith and crept out of bed to peer between the window blind slats. I knew that Keith would want to be up, because he's usually more of a nosy neighbor than I am. When we hear raised voices outside, he turns down the radio/TV to find out if people are arguing or not. What can I say? He's just a naturally curious person.
Gomez also kept us company at the window, while Beckett was completely uninterested. He revelled in having the bed all to himself.
So there we were, me, Keith,and Gomez, peering out through the blinds. The attention was focused on a house directly across the street, but we couldn't figure out what was going on. There were three fire trucks and an ambulance, but we didn't see any smoke or flames. Maybe it was a false alarm?
Watching the commotion, it made me realize again how little we know about this neighbor. He's older, with a flowing white beard and hair pulled back in a ponytail. We know this, because we've seen him. We also know that he drinks, because we've seen him weaving down the street, and heard him in the middle of the night. Not all the time, but more than once. The rest of what we "know" is conjecture and hearsay: he was in the Vietnam War and has never been the same since. He lived in the house with his mother, who recently passed away. She had a huge sum of money, yet lived in a modest house on a quiet, modest street. The house had been falling into serious disrepair for some time, with a dilapidated roof and overgrown shrubberies. In the past year or so, however, its appearance has improved. The roof was replaced, the shrubberies cut back and maintained.
This is what I was thinking about as we watched a firefighter lead our neighbor down the driveway to the back of the ambulance. He was walking on his own, holding onto one of the firefighter's arms. He sat in the back of the ambulance, which didn't move, so I hoped that meant he wasn't in too bad of shape.
We turned our attention back to the house. At this point, groups of firefighters had been surveying the house from all different sides. Finally they put up ladders to the second floor and started breaking windows. For the first time, we saw smoke come pouring out of the windows, and a few flames.
After that, the excitement of it was over pretty quickly. They threw some burning items (I saw a table, I know that for sure!) out of a window into the backyard, and the smoke disapated. I thought I could smell it on the air, but that may have just been my imagination. We went back to bed, although not to sleep; the sound of sawing and hammering filled the air as they boarded up the broken windows.
And now, nearly two weeks later, the house looks the same. It surprised me, the day after the fire, how little had changed. The windows were boarded up, and a smoky window blind lay half on the porch roof, half draped down the side of the house. But otherwise, it still looked the same. New roof, well-trimmed landscape.
One recent change is the dumpster that is now parked in the driveway. I've seen insurance company cars and workers' vans come and go, but the outside remains the same. What are they going to do with the house? Will he move back in? Are any of his belongings salvageable?
What is the point of this long, rambling post? I think this incident signified, for me, how the exterior can sometimes be such a poor indicator of what's happening inside. From the outside, the house still looks completely liveable. But who knows what it looks like inside?