She went to sleep as she always had, immediately and deeply. She awoke, choking, in a room filled with smoke and to a kind of fear she had never experienced before. She was 21 years old, and she was confronted with the very real thought that her life might be finite.
She couldn’t have known that, after she went to sleep, her roommate’s boyfriend had left a burning cigarette in the ashtray next to the couch. She slept while the end table was jostled and the ashtray tilted and the cigarette rolled into the groove between the couch arm and the cushion. She slept while later, after her roommate’s boyfriend left and her roommate went to sleep, the couch exploded in flames and ignited everything around it. She slept while her roommate, closer to the smoke, leapt out of her own bed and threw open her window and hung from the ledge outside her window.
She ran to the bedroom door. It was hot to the touch, and she knew not to open it. She ran to the window, opened that, sat on the sill with one leg dangling down, seven stories above the ground. She saw her roommate hanging for her life on the ledge under her bedroom window. She assumed her life was over.
Some minutes later, she heard someone come into her room and she heard the words, “You’re going to be OK now.” She felt a damp towel being placed over her head and strong arms pulling her from the window sill. The arms stayed around her along the hallway, down seven flights of stairs, and onto a couch in the lobby. The towel was removed and she heard the same words, “You’re going to be OK now.” She didn’t see the speaker. She saw her roommate brought into the lobby on a stretcher and she heard a firefighter say, “We can’t find the other girl.” She went up to them and told them that she was the “other girl.”
The firefighter asked her how she had gotten out of the apartment, and she told him someone came into her room and saved her. He said that was impossible. The apartment door had been locked. They had to break the door down to get to the roommate. They knew no firefighter could have entered before that.
She called her mother. Before she could speak, her mother asked “What happened? I know something terrible happened. Your grandmother came to me in a dream and kept crying and saying ‘Something happened to my end table! It’s gone!”
The end table, along with everything else in the apartment was, indeed, gone. The mystery “person” who saved Susan’s life was never found. Susan never expected that he would be. She doesn’t know where her grandmother’s powerful spirit resides. She is simply grateful that love transcends both death and displeasure over ruined furniture.