Twenty-Six

We’ve traded in flip-flops, sandy toes and lazy days of walking in the forest for the city.

Work was a reason.

So too a number.

Last November, I woke up early in our pine tree paradise and drove to Buenos Aires and put our life to the fate of 26.

I was given the number on a piece of paper. It matched the number on a ball in a mesh-wire globe. Two women took turns spinning the globe and taking out balls and passing them to another woman who would read out loud the numbers to a room of parents. Those with chosen numbers cheered and sighed with relief.

Then came mine.

“Twenty-six,” she called out, followed by the name of my five-year-old daughter.

With that, my daughter got into one of the best public schools in the country – in our favorite part of Buenos Aires, a few blocks from our apartment. So too my other children, who would enter because she was in.

In the crowded room, I felt the blood rush from my face. A number had just changed my life, our life. I had hesitated before making the trip, uncertain if we wanted to move back to the city. But we had noted her down for the raffle, on chance.

A friend the day before said maybe fate will tell.

My father asked if I believed in fate.

I said, “I don’t know.”

And the morning of the trip, the cleaner, a lovely lady, told me she’d woken up crying that night. She’d dreamt that we had left.

Anything could have changed this fate. I left with four hours to get to the city, my father in shotgun. It takes four hours to get there without traffic. We stopped for coffee half way there and my Dad said we’d better take the coffee to go if we want to make it on time.

At the last tollbooth, we had a half hour to park the car, go to my apartment and make the 20-minute walk to the school.

We raced down 9 de Julio and snuck past protesters about to block the avenue, and we were the last car to squeeze by.

With 15 minutes to go, I thought of running to the school but hopped a cab instead.

I walked in as they were about to start the raffle. A man came in minutes later and was turned away, too late.

Was this fate? I don’t know.

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