At first the sound of the siren is way off in the distance. But then it swells until it’s right in front of the building where I live. Then the siren fades and I hear a fire truck idling beneath my window. Sometimes there are two or three fire trucks.
This happens at least once a week. About 500 people live in my building so the odds of someone doing something to set off their smoke alarm are high. The cause always turns out to be something like burnt popcorn.
But each time I wonder just a little if this time it just might be the big one. What if it really is a fire and I, being a cripple, cannot escape? Of course I don’t want to burn to death for the same reason nobody else wants to. I imagine it hurts like hell. But I also feel that I have a political obligation not to burn to death. Not burning to death, to me, is an act of defiance. Because some people warned me back when I was a criplet that someday, if I got too pushy and bold, I would probably burn to death. “You’ll never be able live on your own! What if there’s a fire?" Or, “You can’t come into this theater/restaurant/fill-in-the-blank! What if there’s a fire?” Etc.
The only place a cripple would be safe from burning to death would be a nursing home. Because everybody knows nursing homes never catch fire. They’re all made of miraculous fireproof materials.
It really sucks when I hear that criplets of today are still being intimidated by that same what-if-there’s-a-fire shit. And that’s why I feel that the best way to support those who reject that nonsense and dive into life anyway is to make damn sure that I die by any means other than burning to death. Because if I do burn to death, I will surely be made an example of. “See, we told you! Here’s what happens when a cripple takes a risk!” My charred corpse will become a poster child.
So I have extra incentive to avoid burning to death. I don’t want to let my fellow cripples down. You know those people who douse themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire in order to make a political statement? I’m the opposite of those guys. I want my tombstone to read, “Here lies Smart Ass Cripple. Well, at least he didn’t burn to death.”
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