I woke up very early this morning to the sound of shouting, running feet and slamming doors. For a moment, I thought that a fire had broken out in my floor again, until the shouting started to make sense and I realized that it was just the couple down the hallway engaging in another tiresome quarrel.
So I went back to sleep.
The other time, though, there really was a fire, and when I finally decided to roll out of bed--having tried to cover my head with a pillow thinking "God, why don't they shut up?"--and stumble out of my door, I emerged into a corridor starting to fill with smoke. I blinked for a moment, wondering if the infamous couple had somehow incinerated each other (and the entire building while they were at it), and then inhaled a lungful of smoke. I retreated back into my apartment to change into jeans and a shirt before grabbing my keys and a book lying on the couch. The smoke was heavier when I came out. People were running ahead of me, loaded with backpacks and sleeping mats. I debated on whether or not I ought to go back for my laptop before deciding that if worse came to worst and I had to go down the rickety fire exit, I would probably end up dropping it anyway.
So there was a lot of excitement on the ground floor and people were making sobbing phone calls to their loved ones--just for the drama of it, I suppose, since nobody was hurt--while firemen lugged heavy water hoses up nine floors. Apparently a malfunctioning stove exploded in an apartment unit in the ninth floor. The fire was contained before it could reach the corridors though the firemen had to hose three whole floors so the smoke would dissipate.
My parents did call me up since I sent them a text message and berated me for staying in my horror movie set of an apartment when they had told me countless times to move out ad nauseam. I decided to make my way up to the second floor where the canteen was still open, serving food and drinks to grumpy residents toting baby carriages and kitchen pans. I had corned beef, eggs, and rice at two in the morning. The book I picked up was an exegesis on notions of death and damnation in 16th century Madrid (DON'T JUDGE ME). I read it while waiting for the firemen to give us a go signal to return to our apartment units. They were pretty excitable and pompous, by the way, for firemen. Kept shouting status reports down the stairs to anxious residents, who really didn't need to know the particulars of their office politics.
Managed to make my way back to my apartment at around 4AM. The firemen were snappish because it wasn't safe and they said so, so there. Residents just glared at them as they gingerly navigated water pools. Hoses lay strewn on the floor. I was half-expecting to walk into a swamp when I opened my door. Thankfully, all was dry and intact, though the smell of smoke still clung everywhere.
The next day conspiracy theories abounded re: the nature of the fire. According to some suspicious residents, it might have been deliberate arson perpetrated by the building management to give them an excuse to kick everybody out so they could raze the condo down and rebuild. I wish they wouldn't! I've been looking at old apartment buildings in Quiapo and Manila but none can quite approximate the creepy vibe of my apartment building, if you know what I mean. It must be preserved for posterity.