On Saturday night, the 8th of May, I stayed over at the belly dancer’s house, like I typically do on every other weekend or so. We had our drinks, had our fun, shot the shit, played music, and did the stuff that most couples do.
Around midnight, I was delirious because I had slept like shit the night before. I had gone to bed around midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning and was woke up by one of my cat’s puking. I swear the sound of them “going to the club” could wake the dead. By the time that I got done dealing with puke and a miserable cat, I was too wired to go back to sleep and so I ended up staying awake for the entire rest of my Saturday. By that night I was beyond exhausted. Shortly after midnight I was out.
Around 3:30 in the morning, I hear a smoke detector going off. In my sleep deprived state, I initially thought it was part of a dream that I was having. Then I smelled smoke. It smelled like someone had extinguished a candle, but the odor was much stronger.
It was about that time that I heard my belly dancer talking to her kids. Apparently I wasn’t dreaming and the fucking smoke detector was going off. I slowly woke up and listened to her and her kids. The kids were up, which wasn’t too far of a stretch since they are mostly night owls, and I could hear that they were telling her that they hadn’t been lighting candles or doing anything else. In fact, the smoke detector had woke them up as well.
This wasn’t a false alarm or a drill. This was the real deal. I could still smell smoke and I jumped out of bed and immediately put my pants, shirt, and socks on. I grabbed my shoes and jacket and started out of the bedroom.
My belly dancer’s daughter was in her room and I told her it was time to go and checked to make sure that everyone else was out of there. My belly dancer’s son had the dog in his arms and he was following his mom out the front door. I corralled the daughter and her boyfriend out the door and joined them on the porch. Everyone had been accounted for other than the cat.
My belly dancer was on the phone with 911 and was telling them what the situation was. About that time the smoke detector stopped doing its thing. Her son had said that he had walked around the house’s perimeter and he couldn’t see smoke or any flames. My belly dancer relayed that information to the dispatcher. This whole time I was silent and sat down and put my jacket and shoes on.
My belly dancer hung up with 911 and said that the fire department was on the way. While we were standing there, waiting, I decided to do a little investigation of my own. I wanted to see if I could find her cat (yeah right, good luck with that) and also there were a couple of rooms in the basement that hadn’t been cleared.
One thing that my belly dancer told me while I was putting my shoes on was that she had her furnace cleaned out the day before and hadn’t turned it on since the cleaning. She also mentioned that she had woke up a few minutes before the detector went off, because it was cold, and that she had turned the furnace on.
I told her that the furnace was probably burning something off from the cleaning and that that was probably the source of the smell and the smoke. I decided that was going to be part of my investigation, so back into the house I went.
The smoke smell had dissipated a lot by then. I cleared all the rooms in the upstairs first, and then went downstairs. No cat to be seen or found, which I didn’t really think I would find him. He knows his own house and bolt holes better than I do. I got to the furnace and the smoke smell was there, pretty strong. There was no visible smoke and no flames or fire.
I moved on to the other rooms to find the walls, doors, everything I touched to be ice cold. If there was a fire in there, it wasn’t close to any doors, but I wasn’t going to open them. I’ve seen Backdraft too many times. Besides, I’m no firefighter.
About the time I went back upstairs the firetruck pulled up. The crew wasn’t running lights and sirens, thank God. No need to wake the neighborhood up for no reason if that was the case.
They came in, checked the smoke detectors to make sure they weren’t malfunctioning, had their own IR camera to check the walls, ceilings, and floors for any unusual heat, and also had their own portable smoke detector to double check things.
About 20 minutes later they gave us the “all clear” and said that there was no fires going on in the house and that we could go back inside. The belly dancer told them about the furnace and they said that it was most likely the culprit and that she needed to have the HVAC people take a look at it sooner than later and make sure that everything was working okay on it. With that, they left and we went back to bed.
Now when I say we went back to bed, I could have gone back to sleep almost immediately because I was still exhausted from the prior nights lack of sleep. It was now 4:30 in the morning. Not my belly dancer though, she was wired. She wanted to talk about the last hour of events apparently.
Normally I would have told her, “Let’s talk about this later in the morning,” but I could see she needed to say whatever it was that was on her mind, and get it off her chest, so to speak.
“Every time I’m with you, I learn something new about you,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Tonight, during all of this chaos, you were unshakeable. You were the calm inside the storm. You didn’t panic or freak out, or anything. If anything, you calmed me down just with your presence and your matter-of-fact attitude when it came to putting on your shoes and jacket. You didn’t seem stressed out about it at all.”
“That’s because panicking during a crisis doesn’t help anything and if anything, it makes it worse,” I told her.
“I know, but I’ve never seen you ‘under pressure,’ you know? You just seemed like, ‘I’ve got this.'”
I just shrugged and smirked at her. “Hey, it’s me.”
She was looking at me differently than usual this whole time. Her eyes were shining and I could tell that she was aroused. I could see something else there as well. Respect.
You want to know someone’s real character? See how they act and behave under pressure or during a crisis. You’ll see what they are made of. All of the bullshit, bravado, and whatever “macho façade” that they have going on will either be proven correct, or you’ll know just how full of shit they really are.