L.A. Story: Was it a dream?
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
I guess I asked for it. Whatever impishness moved me, however, arose from the fact that I never do this kind of thing. I work, am a mom; I didn’t think I went much of anywhere. But yes, I did send out this noontime text to my impudent young co-worker Andrew:
“Mag get out OK? I am sitting by a pool in L.A. Yes I am! If only for a few mins. Teddy off observing class.”
My 18-year-old and I had arrived in Cali the previous day. This was our last college visit, and scheduled for just after my office shipped our magazine. Only odds and ends had been hanging when I left.
Teddy and I had both been taken aback by the populousness of the L.A. region, and the smog, and I certainly feared the freeways.
But now we had gained the deep greens, red-tiled roofs and archways of a cloister of campuses outside the city. Teddy was on an overnight, staying with a student host. I had a very rare morning to myself.
Ping: “Nope,” Andrew texted back. “It was a disaster. The computers went down. We lost everything. Jeff and I have been retyping the whole issue over today from galleys.”
I stared at the screen, and then retorted, “Excuse me? I don’t think so.”
We’d arrived in a surreal state, at least on my part, having been near-sleepless for two days, a side effect of the accursed Prednisone I’d been prescribed for an injury, and accursed inability to sleep the night before any early flight.
Then I had to drive on the four-lane freeways, with my mouthy teen sure he could do it better – “God, Mom!” – and all around, and yes, someone honked at me, deservedly, but it’s easy to criticize from the passenger seat.
And our two days were jammed with meetings and tours, such that on the second afternoon Teddy asked, dazed, “We only got here yesterday morning?”
In our first meeting, an official hinted, hesitated and talked around an issue about which we knew nothing at all, and only later did we learn of a scandal in the admissions office (exaggerating scores) that made national news.
At his overnight, Teddy, aka “Prosby” (for Prospect) and the host kids stayed up until 1 or 2 a.m., with dinner and campus “Snack” and a party, then one roommate got up at 5:45 a.m. for ROTC.
Upon our departure, my husband texted me about a big blizzard in Denver. Yet our flights were still scheduled. And so we drove up into the hills for a swift look, and then I braved the freeways and city again, at the last minute missing a turn and looping around madly, remembering how a friend once crashed a block away from the car-rental agency.
We returned the car in midday glare, and were hurrying our bags toward the shuttle bus when my husband texted: 600 flights had been canceled in Denver. I also found a text from Andrew.
“Urgent! Jeff wants to know if you have any copies of Spotlight 201? We lost that in the great computer crash of this week.”
In the halogen-white car-rental lobby, I froze; set down my duffle, computer bag, purse.
I returned, “What?!” I’d written and rewritten the Spotlight profile, combed through it.
“Never mind,” he texted next. “We found a copy in your trash and retyped it in! Whew! IT’S HELL HERE!”
Hands shaking, I hauled out my phone.
“Andrew, I thought it was a joke! I didn’t believe you!” Sweat rolled down my ribs. “I thought it was our … how … we always joke.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Andrew. Is this a joke? Or is this not a joke?” Heat and light and cigarette smoke swirled around me.
“It’s a joke, Alison,” Andrew said calmly.
And of course we didn’t get home that night, and in the end Teddy is going to the other coast, and north, to college; and now that I think about it, the whole trip might have been a dream.
– “Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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