I returned to college because I thought there had to be more to the area than I remembered. I set off for the bookstore, which was across a park green, although I knew it might not be open. I expected it to carry the same things it had 20 or 30 years ago, as though I had never left. As happens in this recurring dream, the landscape had changed dramatically, and I found myself at the top of a hill looking down at a lush green hollow where the road curved. Open-air arts and crafts booths, like something you might find in the country, filled the hollow. It looked magical. I wondered how I could have missed such a strange sight in the city 30 years ago.
I was at home in the trailer, where everywhere I looked—the stove, even the kitchen drawers—the gas was lit, although the flames didn’t burn anything. I didn’t question how or why; I knew this to be part of my mother’s cleaning ritual. I looked for her to ask her how long she planned to leave the gas on and the fires burn. She said, “At least one hour,” which made me nervous. She pointed to my dad, who was working outside on a bare pile of dirt, and to an oncoming storm. Several trees had been broken up, and I thought about how too many had been lost to development since I was last at home. I had a strange feeling that soon none of the familiar trees would be left.
The storm slammed into the trailer in a way that made me realize it was more of a hurricane or tornado than a summer thunderstorm. Its destructive force filled me with terror.
When it moved on, the walls of the trailer were left flattened, and nothing—not even the vintage metal suitcase of photos—had been left behind. My parents were standing off to the side where my dad had been, hugging one another. My dad waved to me without letting go of my mother. Despite the gesture, I had the impression that it would have been okay if I had been blown away, too, but that may have been because the scope of the loss left me devastated.
I wondered if the photos would turn up somewhere and if they would be too wet to be salvageable.