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Saturday, May 14, 2005

"It's the only time I've ever been to Staten Island."

My wife and I are currently packing up our belonings and cleaning the apartment.

After just shy of five years, we have decided that we've had enough of New York and are moving to Atlanta. And it's far more difficult then I thought it was going to be. I'm taking apart my enterainment center and my computer table, and as I look down the length of my railroad apartment, it hits me that this isn't home anymore.

It's incredibly hard to say goodbye to such amazing people. And you couple all of this intensity with the realization that I'm about to be chin-deep in debt with a mortgage and a car payment, and I'm a freakin' mess.

I left work on Thursday. I had been working at the same firm for four and a half years, and leaving was much harder than I imagined. I really grew attached to the people I worked with, but that night's farewell drinking extravaganza was a wonderful way to wrap it up.

Getting home that night at around midnight, I wrote a poorly-worded, cheezy e-mail thanking my coworkers for making going to work a pleasure, and proceeded to immediately pass out.

I wake up at four in the morning with a pounding headache and my wife screaming, "PETE! I THINK THE BUILDING IS ON FIRE!!!" Shooting up, the blood rushes to my head. I stagger, nearly passing out, but grab the doorknob and inhale. There's definitely smoke.

I open the door to the bedroom, and there is a cloud of smoke in the apartment so thick that I can't breathe. I try to run into the kitchen so that I could find out where the fire was (if it was our apartment or even on our floor), but I can't breathe. The smoke is thick, smelling of burning plastic. I turn around, ripping the cords out of my laptop (which holds the only copy of all of the music I've been working on for the last year and a half), and yell for my wife to get on the fire escape.

Aside from minor smoke inhalation, we are fine and luckily no one in the building was hurt. We didn't have too much damage-- while our apartment smells like a barbeque pit, we only had to deal with the minor inconvenience of a layer of greasy soot on all of our stuff.

The fire was on the first floor apartment, and while no one will confirm it, the rumor is that the boyfriend of one of the two girls who rent the apartment had a cigarette they left lit as they went to walk the dog. The two girls, who I have passed several times in the hall and have always thought of as extremely nice people, lost everything. They had no insurance. The entire apartment was gutted.

I saw the other girl in the apartment outside as I walked my wife to work on her final day. She was trying to salvage anything she could, holding a half-burned copy of The Devil Wears Prada. I ask her how she's doing, if she is okay, and if she needs anything. I feel the overwhelming urge to give her a hug as she tells me how she wasn't even there, and she had just come back from spending the night with her grandmother in the hospital.

"It's the only time I've ever been to Staten Island," she says, barely holding back tears. "I go to Staten Island and I come home to find that I've lost everything."

And while I wanted to tell her that she shouldn't blame the boro, maybe it'll help her deal with the whole experience if Staten Island bucks up and takes the fall for this one.

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