The fire is burning out of control now. The once grand department store simmers with light and heat. Everything – jewelry, candles, glassware, hosiery, ties, kitchen wares, appliances, furs, items in layaway, even the burly, sleeping security guard – melts into the strange chemical cloud that shrouds display cases, obscures the eerie smiles of mannequins, clogs the aisles, floats up the down escalator and rides the elevators where no operators work the controls.
She watches from across the street, from her apartment window. Sad because she put in forty long ears at the store, beginning as a novitiate in gift wrap and in time ascending to manager of fine bras. But the sadness of loss, like the burning building, leaves when she closes her eyes.
The heat from the fire still intense on her skin, she is adrift on a raft in a hotel pool, on a Caribbean island at high noon. If she squints a bit, and allows the aura of flames to lick at her vision, she is floating on a bed in a cabana, an island man filling her with heat.
It is a problem for her. Always such a faithful store employee, she should rightfully keep a vigil. Eyes wide open, and watch the walls of her dear store collapse. But if she does the island man will disappear, much too soon as far as she is concerned.
Let it burn, she decides. She pulls the man with dark skin closer to her. She will not open her eyes again. Will not watch the humiliating end of her beloved store, even though she has been its mistress her entire life.
Besides, she is starving. For one thing, she knows that the pizza delivery man cannot even dream of coming down the street with the store on fire. If she keeps making love to the island man, maybe she won’t think of food.
So she keeps her eyes closed, does not see the two hundred firemen down in the street. Fighting the inferno, each of them wishes he was with the woman he left alone at home. She does not see as the firemen run as the wall facing the street collapses outward, into the apartment house across the street. So lost now in lovemaking, she is not aware how the fire, in is jealousy, angrily climbs the brick façade of her building. How it scours the windows for the right one, where a once faithful lover has so cruelly looked away. How the chemical cloud, so full of all things, drifts through the white lace curtains of her cabana on its way to a kill.