Sunday, January 16, 2022

Not Even Not Zen 238: Biomythography - Note 15, Not Now

A Biomythography - Note 15
by Secret Hippie

Yes, Now

It was the spring of 1987. The underbrush in the woodlands around me had turned green. The tree branches above bore a few green buds. White, cabbage butterflies had made their first appearances. Girls in the neighborhood were trying out skirts despite the blustery day. Some of the guys strolled into their yards in their shirts, no jackets. One of them kept his jacket on with a collar up against the gusts of wind.

I drove past a few houses in my car, a metallic blue Mustang, with a young woman by my side. I'd been living Western Massachusetts for a few months. This was only the second time I'd had a woman over as a guest. In this case, she had invited herself to my apartment. She had insisted. I'd felt embarrassed by my place although it was nice, a room in a house that I shared with a former college hallmate. He had decided to settle in town.

He was dating someone local. Now maybe I was, too.

"This place is bigger than I thought!" The young woman gave me a sly smile as we strolled through the front door. "Nice kitchen. You kind of talked it down."

My roommate, Michael, strode up with a smile.

"Who is this beautiful lady?" he asked. Sometimes he could be awkward but, more often, he was genial and charming. He seemed pleased that I was starting to have a social life at last. As a roommate, he worried about me.

Soon after I made introductions, Michael got a call. He had started two small businesses. They kept him constantly on the phone. In fact, he was the first person I knew to own a cell phone. He kept two cars leased, each with mobile phone consoles. When he took his call, he waved goodbye and wandered through the living room into one of his offices. That's why he rented an entire house, so he could run his businesses. Immediately, the young woman took me by the arm and asked to see my room.

"Huh. Mattress on the floor." She put her hands on her hips as she stood in the doorway. "But how is it?"

"It's a futon," I replied. It had been my major expense upon my arrival in town. "I kind of like it."

With a smile, she threw herself against it. She pounded the pillows for good measure. We fooled around for a while, flirting and more. Then she asked me to get up and lock the bedroom door. When I returned to the futon, we got more involved.

I didn't have much sense of time passing. Mentally, I was occupied.

So it came as a surprise when Michael burst into the room. He stood there, mouth agape, for less than a second.

"Not now, Michael!" I yelled. And I raised my left arm to wave him away.

His face turned beet red. He stepped back and closed the door.

"Hah!" Fortunately for me, the young lady laughed. "What was that about?"

"Later." I put both hands on the futon again. "Later."

Although I felt focused on the fun we were having, later eventually arrived. I put on a fresh shirt, pulled up my pants, and meandered out to the kitchen to get some water.

"Sorry!" Michael strode up to the sink next to me. He was trembling. He could barely hold his phone.

"It's fine." I had already forgotten the interruption. If he hadn't reminded me, I might not have thought about it. "Sorry if I shouted. I was, um, surprised."

"Normally, I do knock. You probably should lock the door, though."

"I thought I did." I mused over my glass of water. For a moment, it felt like the glass was dirty. Or there was something wrong with the water. After a few seconds, I realized that actually I was having a problem with the air.  It stung to breathe. "Michael, what's that smell?"

"Oh." He took a deep breath. "The house was on fire."

He had burst into my bedroom in a panic. He'd meant to scream that we needed to evacuate. Instead, he saw naked bodies, got embarrassed, and left. That meant he had to do something about the fire. He had been running around, frantic, unable to think straight or find an extinguisher. 

Downstairs, he had seen flames burst from the electrical panel. They were spreading to the window sill. But he had a fire extinguisher somewhere in the house. He knew he did. His embarrassment proved stronger than his fear or panic. It made him search again. This time he found it.

Over the span of a few minutes, I got the whole story. I'm still not sure of the cause of the fire beyond that it was in the wiring panel.

I leaned back against the kitchen counter. We looked at each other for a moment.

"I put it out," he said.  

He shrugged.  So did I.  Then I emptied my glass of water into the sink.

Later in the evening, I tested the latch on my bedroom door. In his initial panic from the sparks and flames in the cellar beneath us, Michael had pushed through the strike plate without noticing. The lock bolt had shoved the plate forward. He hadn't ripped it out of the door frame but it was a close thing. The wood had splintered. I unscrewed the strike plate and screwed it back in so that it worked again. The door never latched quite right after that, though.

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