He almost always calls me back.
Here's how it works. I put the children in bed, hang out on the computer, put the kids back in bed again (and again), and then call my firefighter to get the detailed daily update. That's the routine.
Usually, if he doesn't answer my text, it's because he's on a call that requires so much of his attention that he can't deal with his cellphone. So when the phone kept ringing, I imagined what sort of call he must be on at 9:30 at night.
Most likely, it was a medical aid call. Maybe someone had gotten into a fight at their Saturday night get-together with family and was having a panic attack. Or maybe someone ate too many Ho-Ho's again. Either way, it shouldn't keep him away for too long. He's usually only on scene for 10 minutes or so.
I waited twenty minutes, but he didn't text me back. "What's the ETA on you calling me back? If you're going to be more than 30 mins or so, I'm going to go work out."
A few minutes later, he replied.
That was it, very brief. Ooooh, this should be good I thought, if it's going to be that long till he can call me back! My mind changed gears as I imagined what sort of call would require him to be on scene for an hour or more. It must be a fire. Or maybe a mass casualty incident. Or, maybe he got to break out one of his lesser-used skills, like high angle or trench rescue.
I thought about the possibilities as I started my workout.
Most likely, it was a fire. I wondered what his task was. If he were assigned to the rapid intervention crew, the handful of firefighters set aside solely to rescue fellow firefighters should something go wrong, he would probably have been able to communicate more with me. At the very least, he would be able to tell me he was on a fire call. So, probably not on the RIC team.
Maybe he had been assigned to go interior. I imagined him pulling up on scene, jumping off of the flashing vehicle, tagging the fire hydrant, and giving the signal for the engine to drive off with a trail of hose left behind.
I pictured him grabbing the cross lay, flaking it out, and calling for water. I could see the hose becoming impossibly rigid and squirly as the water flowed through it, my skilled firefighter holding it just right against his body to keep it in check while expending a minimal amount of energy. I saw him attacking the fire with controlled bursts of water until the black smoke turned to white steam.
Or, maybe he was overhauling the structure post-fire, pulling out every charred piece of what used to be furniture and piling it up outside, separating the salvageable from the irrevocably damaged. In between curses spewed at Jillian, I pictured the endless stream of chairs and soggy blackened couch cushions stacking up in front of the house.
I pictured the by-standers — the residents of the former house — standing around the perimeter of flashing lights, oddly giddy as they chat with the neighbors about the spectacle before them.
Everyone likes a good show. The reality would sink in soon enough.
My workout ended and he still hadn't called me back. I imagined him coming home, smelling like a structure fire. This should be good — it will give me something to blog about, I thought.
Finally, my phone rang.
"So, where have you been? What happened?"
"Oh, nothing much. I was at a retirement party."
". . . A retirement party?!? That's it?" My disappointment must have been evident in my voice.
". . . Well, after that we came back to the station and talked for a while. But yeah, that's it."
No lights and sirens? No water making the TSSSSSsssss sound as it drips from the blackened rafters above, instantly turning to a curling, rising cloud of steam as it hits my husband's super-heated helmet, the glow of the embers in the background silhouetting his rugged figure?
Nope. What kept him from getting back to me was being a probie in a room full of chiefs and former chiefs, ribbing each other.
Sometimes his extraordinary job can be frustratingly ordinary. Sometimes it really is just another day at the office.
At least I got in a good workout!