photo c. Kendall RodriguezTwo weeks ago the building adjacent to mine had a two-alarm fire. The top three floors apparently went up in flames. I say apparently, because Melinda and I slept through it. We didn’t hear a thing—not a siren, broken window, fire crackle, floor crash, water hose, evacuation order—nothing.

I found out about the fire at 9AM when I walked out the front door and saw people still standing in the street in their bathrobes. They were all looking up at the charred third, fourth, and fifth floor homes only thirty feet from our apartment. Nobody died, but a few were being treated for critical injuries.

As cleanup crews took shifts hauling burnt debris and garbage bags from my next-door neighbors, the people in my building were on high alert. Instead of our usual stare-at-the-floor silence in the elevator, we talked about the fire.

“They say there could be smoldering ashes in the pipes,” one said.

“Did you hear the smoke detector on five?” asked another. “It went off for like ten minutes the other day!”

“What do you mean you slept through it?” they all asked in disbelief.

I shrugged, shaking my head. I didn’t have an answer. The air conditioner was loud. It was on the other side of the building. We had just shared two bottles of wine and paella with friends. I was tired. I had no idea how I failed to hear the fire, and it kind of spooked me.

The rest of the block was nervous too. Once a day someone called the fire department. Red engines and marshal trucks filled our street, sirens waling, until the low battery in a fire alarm was replaced or the person burning her cookies was told to set a timer. Of course, I heard everything then.

Last night firefighters responded to yet another call, but this time they were running in and out of our building. They were fully suited up and carrying long iron pipes. I opened our windows and door. I heard nothing. Smelled nothing.

“Do you think we should go down,” I asked Melinda.

“Wouldn’t hurt. We can see what’s up.” She said, calmly.

“What do we take?” We looked around our home.

Melinda instantly grabbed her old computer with all of her music. She put on her Minnesota Viking’s hat. “Okay. I’m ready,” she said, picking up her wallet.

I stared around, reeling. My writing. My pottery. My decades of handwritten journals. “I need to get a bank vault for my pages,” I said to Melinda.

Should I change my clothes? Did I really want to be in cutoff jean shorts, indefinitely? My dresses. My suits. I walked into the office to check that Mozy had recently backed up my files online. My iPad. My library…on my one-of-a-kind bookshelves. I sighed. The insurance would take care of things that could be replaced. I opened our beautiful 60’s steel filing cabinets and grabbed our passports.

“All right, let’s go, I said, patting the pocket of my Levis to make sure I had a my cards and IDs. I ran my fingers along the leather seat on my new bike as I walked down the hallway. Our art. Our pictures. I was relieved that most of them were digital and safely backed up in a cyber cloud somewhere. We locked our door and took the stairs seven flights down, holding hands. Turned out to be a false alarm. No fire but an enlightening drill.