So, Argentina being in the southern hemisphere has its seasons reversed. Meaning,, that every time I get on Skype to tlak to my parents, they complain about the latest heat wave as they sit their sweating in shorts and tank tops, and I, well i complain bitterly about the cold in sweaters and scarfs up to my eyeballs. And the truth is not that its so cold, especially compared to how it gets back home (and not even to mention the Perma-blizzard that was my time at Houghton), but more so because my apartment has a half-broken water heater (love those cold showers!) and simply no central heating. So you dont come inside and warm up, but you come home and hover closely over your electric heater.
So, in order to survive and ward off the frost bite, I’ve been sleeping with my heater on all night-this crazy contraption with glass rods that heat to burning red hot and a clear warning sticker stating, “Danger: Do not cover.” Well, if you know anything about foreshadowing, you can probably already see where this story is going….
Anyway, the other night i put on my 15 layers of clothing, pull my little heater as close to my bed as its little power cord will allow, and crawl into bed under every blanket I own.
“JOY!! JOY!!! DESPERTARSE!!!” That is the yelling I wake up to about 4am. And i jump awake to see thick clouds of smoke and small little flames dancing on my pillow which as ignored the warning sticking about “Danger: Do not cover” and is laying directly on top of those red hot rods.
So we grab the pillow and throw it out onto the balcony, quickly the fire is out and over. The smoke, however, would linger for days. And because it was a feather pillow, as my roommates would say it smelled like “parilla” (bbq). And i dont know that i would say that exactly, but it was quite the distinct smell that seeped into all my clothes. Made for a very particular perfume. And when I went the very next day to the store, the manager looked at me like i had an extra head when I asked for a smoke detector-and I wanted to be like, do you smell my hair?! (i did find one eventually). So, in the end, only the poor pillow was the worse for the experience…and it probably didnt help that we left it in time out on the balcony for like two weeks.
Forgive me if i conclude trying to be all philosophical? It was just that, although the fire happened in my room, it wasnt until enough smoke escaped through my closed door, past the closed door of my roommates, Diana and Alejandra (amusingly dreamed that i was making Colombian arepas), rousing them out of their sleep, and that they figured out where the smoke was coming from finally bursting into my room yelling did I actually wake up. Later, when I had a second to pause and think about all this (remembering that i heard at some point the majority of people that die in fires is not from the flames, but smoke inhalation) it made me realize how much of life really just hangs by a thread that we have no control over. We worry about dramatic things like plane crashes or the dangers of living in developing countries, but the real danger can come from something as ordinary as getting into your bed a night.
When i was still living in Honduras during the middle of the glope de estado (military coupe), I asked my dad if he worries about me. And his response was, “no, because there is no place safer for you to be that in the will of God.” and that i believe really is the crux of the matter…