There was a small fire on the balcony one night and I jumped out of bed so fast when I realized that the combination of a crackling noise and the smell of smoke was just that.
It was my first apartment to have on my own.
I dialed 911 after putting out the bright orange flames with a small fire extinguisher as my heart beat so, so fast. I may have called my boyfriend, Tim (now husband) before doing any of that first. It is all a blur these many years later.
The fire started from a cigarette butt that either me or my friend did not extinguish completely after sitting on that old, wooden balcony and talking for hours, chain smoking and drinking beers. I remember sitting there and watching the “smoky” grey clouds quickly go by as a cool front blew through and we discussed our lives at length. Our young, not really planned-out-yet lives.
And, of course when I recounted the story to my parents later that day I blamed the fire on my friend’s mistake.
What? I do not smoke.
Well, not anymore.
Not 99.5% of the time anyway.
I moved into this apartment after I graduated from college. I bought a new, not thrift store or borrowed sofa at the local furniture store and paid for it with the money I earned from selling jewelry at Service Merchandise. I was so happy with the green color and the cushy decorative pillows that came with it. Funny thing, later on, this first “real” sofa of mine was SO large that it did not fit through the door of the apartment Tim and I shared after we married so we traded with his mom. I missed my sofa then…
This beginner abode of my own was one flight of stairs up and I spent many a night in the very small kitchen, with tired feet from working retail, microwaving Lean Cuisines or heating up frozen skillet meals for one. At times the metal set of stairs seemed so far up, but I was glad for the extra safety of the second floor as I dead-bolted the front door each night.
It was in the tiny bathroom there that I got ready for many a night out with my girlfriends or Tim. And the place where I almost called the cops on my yelling and cussing neighbors too many times to count. They were so angry.
There was no washer and dryer in the apartment so I spent one morning each week of my day off doing laundry at the Laundromat down the road. While waiting I read that month’s issue of VOGUE and dreamt of owning the clothes the models wore, instead of the ones I did, spinning away in the 50 cents per cycle dryer across from me.
I have a flashbulb memory of Tim and me walking to his black Corolla in the parking lot at MY apartment, to go to dinner or perhaps somewhere else. As we are getting into the car I tell him how cold I am and we both say “Burrr…” and our nicknames for each other are born (we call each other Bur and Ber. Yes, we are strange.)
When I moved in I was so excited to have a fireplace of my own and houseplants that were all mine to water (or not) and a place to curl up and watch TV without interruptions. But it was lonely at times and honestly, living alone was not really my thing.
It was kind of a dump but it was my own place and the only one I would ever inhabit completely on my own. I do not remember missing it much when I left but thinking back on it now it is good to recall MY apartment with my antique writing desk in just the right spot on the wall by the bedroom and the blue and yellow accessories in the bathroom and the short time spent there to take care of just me.