Beware the Ides of March

Hi, I’m back! The past two and a half months have been busy and exciting in all kinds of ways. I plan to write about these ways in an organized manner over the next few weeks. But for today, I will only reflect over the past week.

I like the month of March, not least because my birthday falls right smack dab in the middle of it: March 15. I’ve always been aware of the “ides,” but since I’m no Caesar, I never paid it much attention. Until now. This is the story of the most absurd birthday week ever.

Sunday, March 11. On such a beautiful Sunday afternoon, what more could I want than a walk in the park with my dog? Marshall and I left the apartment around 3pm to walk across the street to our local park. But pretty immediately, he started shaking. He wouldn’t walk toward the park. Then he started sneezing. Finally I looked up and noticed black leaves blowing toward us. I smelled wood smoke. Then I looked over at the park, and it was covered by raging flames! My first reaction was to call Jon and say “get out here with your camera.” He did exactly that, and these are his photos below.

reeds on fire in the fens

It turns out the reeds that surround the lakes in our park catch on fire every once in a while. This is a first for us, so it’s good to know! The black residue and the smell of smoldering wood lingered in the neighborhood for days after the fire.

firefighter walking through the reed graveyard

After the Fens Fire, Jon and I had a date with some friends of mine from St. Louis who were in town for the weekend. We took the T up to Cambridge to meet them, had a lovely dinner, and then were on our way back home when it happened.

My stomach started to hurt on our walk from the restaurant to the T station. When we got on the train, I started to feel dizzy. There was no where to sit, so I told Jon that I had to get off the train. And that’s the last thing I remember. When I woke up, I was lying on the sidewalk, looking up at Jon and listening to him tell the 911 operator that I had passed out. Almost instantly, there were a bunch of EMS workers surrounding me. After a bit of debate, I decided it was best to get in the ambulance and go to the hospital. After all, I have never passed out like that before, and I was still feeling really strange.

Monday, March 12. The past few hours were gross, and I don’t have to go into detail, but let’s just say I had a stomach bug that is going around Boston right now. Jon stayed with me at the emergency room while they tested my heart (all good) and blood tests to figure out that I had a virus. Then he ran home to let the dog out, because he had been alone for a while. Jon came back to the hospital, and a bit after midnight he started to feel sick, too. I told him to go to the bathroom, and that was the last time I saw him for a couple hours.

By 6am, I was feeling well enough to walk, so it was time to leave the hospital. I had to ask around to find out where Jon had been placed, since my bed had been placed in a hallway outside the ER nurses’ station for the past ten hours. I found Jon, dazed in his own room, and we collected our things to go home. We warned the cab driver to drive very carefully…

me on my stretcher in the ER. gross.

Tuesday, March 13. We’d spent the past two days in bed, fighting fevers, stomach aches, and overall exhaustion. We found out that my cousin and her boyfriend also had the exact same sickness at the exact same time, so at least we could trace the origins to our illness to the Saturday night we had spent together. While I felt like a zombie, I’d even ventured out to CVS to get our anti-nausea medication. But nothing could have prepared us for the bizarre thing that happened at 7pm on Tuesday.

I was washing my hands in the bathroom when the lights went out. Jon was in bed, taking one of his many extended naps. We rushed to find flashlights and candles. Our cell phones barely had signals, so there was no way to get the internet to figure out what was going on. Slowly we got messages from friends explaining that there had been a fire down the street and some power generators were shut down. The electric company was telling everyone to go to bed, and the power would be back on when we woke up.

Wednesday, March 14. Around 6am I woke up to the sound of water flowing inside the building. I went over to our door and peeked into the darkness to see a line of firefighters marching toward the unit down the hall from us. Since we had no power, I was scared there was a fire and the alarms had not worked. That was partially the case. I called for Jon to come look, and he went into the hallway to ask our neighbors what had happened. It turned out the guy in the unit above hers had lit a candle, placed it on a chair, and fallen asleep. The fire wasn’t huge, but the sprinklers went off and flooded his second floor apartment, plus two of the first floor apartments down the hall from us. We were literally feet away from being flooded out.

I went to work that morning with a dead cell phone and a lunch consisting of applesauce and bananas. I checked the electric company’s website every hour to see what their latest updates were about the power. “Power will be restored by noon. Power will be restored by 3pm. Power will be restored by 7pm.” We went to bed that night, again, with no power, but with a promise that it would be restored when we woke up.

Thursday, March 15. Happy birthday! No power. No heat. No hot water. Food in the fridge and freezer spoiled. Jon came with me downtown so that he could charge his cell phone and use the internet at a coffee shop. We decided that we could not handle another day with no showers and no lights. After the candle-on-a-chair incident, our apartment manager called for a “no candle” policy as well. So we called up our good friend Julia who lives down the street, just past the power outage line, and moved shop to her living room. She and her roommate gave us magical things like access to a shower, hot bowls of soup, birthday cake in a mug, and a warm place to sleep.

Friday, March 16. We woke up to news that power had been restored in our building. Our block was one of the last in the city to have power restored. Even when the electric company claimed a day earlier that all power was on, our building and the few buildings around us rolled our eyes and said, “um, no it’s not.” We walked back to our place, turned on the lights at last, and accessed the damage.

Our hallway smells like a sewer. It will be a construction zone for a while, as the units damaged by water and fire are restored. Our apartment had been a mess from two sick people, unable to do dishes or laundry or cleaning. Everything from our fridge and freezer had to be tossed, which was probably the most emotional thing that I went through over the past week. (I hate wasting food!!!!) We were supposed to have a party Friday night, but after we got sick we knew we had to cancel. The birthday/housewarming party is rescheduled, if you want to attend!

Sometimes we have those moments where we say to ourselves “is this really happening to me?” Sometimes those moments are gathered close together. Sometimes they all fall during important times, like a week where we thought we’d be celebrating our anniversary, my birthday, and St. Patrick’s Day. While absolutely nothing went as planned this week, it’s all stayed memorable. Now I’ll know that not everyone who collapses on the T is intoxicated. And emergency rooms at night are disturbingly understaffed. And just because the electric company promises something doesn’t mean it will happen. And when my friends say they’ll help us out no matter what, they mean it.

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