I rode down to a hydrant with fire hose attached, living the dream, spraying streams of water down the street gutters. I stepped off my bike and crossed to the other side of the road and onto park space adjacent to the burning house.
A man in sweatpants and a white undershirt came to stand at my side. He said that it was a boarding house, and one of the tenants had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette, and there you had it. I simply nodded.
As a matter of coincidence, I had my digital camera and immediately took photos of the blaze, despite my better judgment. Then came memories of my old man and I, late into a night of my youth, on a street with a house burning down, opting to stay in and not rubberneck -- a term I heard for the first time then, in reference to those that glean inspiration and reality from tragedy.
I was tipsy, my judgment markedly skewed and I did not feel much guilt at my decision to record the event. Shortly thereafter, I witnessed several others snapping images or capturing video on cell phone cameras or more sophisticated equipment.
Scanning the crowd that had gathered, I began to posit those that have been a tenant in the house. A man in a football jersey, pajama pants and no shoes shifts uneasily back and forth. Bides his time between the sidewalk and a cab of a Cleveland pump truck.
I noticed my friend Dan with a few other guys on bikes. I drew alongside him, stated something about how crazy the whole thing was. He said that a friend of his had called earlier, told him to call the fire department as a house was definitely on fire. Dan's friend then rode down the street and roused the residents of W. 32. He was a hero.
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