Awakened in the night to a fire alarm, and was out on the fire escape before I realised I had no fire escape. That was only the first sign that something wasn’t quite right.
Then I was eerily aware that I was back in school. Instead of Cincinnati, where I did study, I was at DePaul, where I almost went to school. Had a great audition there, got in and was given a reasonable scholarship. But the teacher discouraged me from going to his school. Should’ve ignored him but I didn’t.
At that point in my life, I didn’t pay enough attention to that quiet, little voice. The voice we all have, but have to learn to follow. My voice said, ‘Go to Chicago,’ and I ignored it.
Despite all that, here I was on the fire escape outside my window, and the elevated train went rushing by. It always shook the whole building, but this time what was more noticeable was the smoke billowing out of the floors up there. The whole building above my floor was burning. I’m lucky I got out when I did.
Had no time to collect any valuables, and in that instant I mused, ‘Now I know how Tom Petty felt.’ Completely ridiculous, huh?
Then I was on the ground outside my building and looking up at the nearly hundred other tenants practically falling down the fire escape. You know, the old wooden ones like the ones in that movie where the dude’s looking for the one-armed guy who killed his wife? You know the one I mean?
As I’m standing there, I heard Harry Caray doing the play-by-play. Like he was calling a Cubs game. Exactly like he did in the old days. The guy was keeping score on who safely escaped the building.
Here’s what was most incomprehensible: he kept saying I was on the losing team. As he read the list of names of people who hadn’t yet made it, there was my name. I was somehow out here on the street, but still on the list that I wasn’t yet safe. Why was that?
Was I like that David Addison-guy in The Sixth Sense? A ghost but I didn’t yet know it? Had I died in the first moments of the fire, but I just didn’t know? Why on earth hasn’t the play-by-play announcer not said my name?
Turns out I was never in any danger. It was my stylish new facial hair that saved me. The powers that be, who were taking care of the list, hadn’t recognised me with my new 'stache.
One of the firemen came up to me and informed me they had coffee and tea in the building across the street. Especially in this moment of calm after the impending emergency, this was music to my ears. A moment of overwhelming gratitude washed over me.
As I walked into the foyer of the, where they’d made a make-shift first-aid station, the woman asked the nicest question that’s ever passed a person’s lips. She quite simply asked, ‘How d’you take your tea?’