We had our first real fire alarm at our apartment today. The alarms go off somewhat regularly, but usually just for a minute, so we’re in the habit of ignoring them. Today, the alarm was accompanied by a robotic announcement: “There has been an emergency reported in the building. Exit immediately. Do not use the elevators.”

As my fingers fumble to loosen the laces of my shoes, my husband offers me a choice of three coats. “Which one do you want?” He’s so great in a crisis.

As we enter the hallway, I try to blink away the film on my contacts, before realizing it’s smoke in the air. We join our neighbors, silently hurrying down the stairs and out the door. Outside our building, we spread out, still observing social distancing, even now.

After twenty minutes, we decide to take a walk. We can’t do anything by waiting, and we might as well enjoy the fresh air. Our quarantine clock has already been reset, so there’s nothing to lose.

The streets are oddly empty. We cross streets without waiting for the signal because no one is around. Almost every business is closed (although the restaurants all have signs for how to order carryout).

When we’re allowed back into our apartment my feelings are mixed. I’m glad I’m safe, that the sprinklers didn’t go off and soak everything I own, that I’m back in my familiar space. But this space feels more stifling after escaping for awhile.

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