We had to evacuate the building shortly after I arrived for my first session today,
“Do you think I should get my shoes?” My client blinked up at me, in her blue-striped socks, in the hallway.
“I think, probably,” I said.
It was 20 degrees and snow-covered outside, and the information we had included some flashing white lights, a few scurrying spa-goers, and a gentle PSA, “This is to inform you an emergency has been indicated and you must leave.”
I didn’t want to seem alarmist, but I felt certain shoes were a solid choice.
“I’ll believe it when I see the guy with the ax,” she said*.
We were outside all of four minutes before the firemen were waved off, including the one with the ax.
Everyone had the same, accurate, hunch that this was a precautionary alarm, set off by the construction next door. We stood close to the door, were not herded off the property or even away from the awning.
My last couple years in high school were during the height of the Anthrax scares, where any kind of powdery substance became cause for concern, and quite frankly, mass chaos. At least five times a year we were shepherded out of the building and off the grounds, and waited in the sheer depression that is a pool of sulking teens to go back inside.
Three years ago, the building next to my old apartment caught fire and I watched as the flames burst through the glass and climbed out over the roof like a demonic beanstalk. I called my mom.
“So, you can see it from your window?” She asked.
“Yeah, it’s the top floor, same as ours.” I bobbed my head up from the windowsill. I, apparently, didn’t want the fire to see me.
“OK, well I think maybe you should leave the apartment,” my mom said.
I took my computer, jewelry, a change of clothes, and my favorite photos that are not digitally backed up, and I sat at the bar in the basement of the building, drinking water and stalking the fire department’s Twitter updates.
If the wind had changed direction that day, I could easily be telling you a story about how I ended up with an armful of possessions on a bad day in February. But it didn’t, and I’m left to think and rethink my choices if put in the same position again.
This, of course, is hypothetical, and I don’t do well with those questions.
In high school I don’t think we were allowed to get anything out of the lockers. I’m almost sure of it but it feels hazy and when I picture standing in the cold, I picture myself in the clothes I wore today with my whole and confident self, and not my flared jeans and frizzy hair, unsure with which sulky teen pool to commiserate.
Today, I carried out everything I brought in without a second thought. Which is all you can really hope for in an emergency - that your decisions come as second nature, without much frenzy, and of course, include a pair of shoes.
*She did opt for shoes.