On Wednesday I became somebody. I had been home from work for about fifteen minutes--long enough to change clothes and then change again when Jonah insisted I pick him up, hands sticky with the remnants of smooshed banana. "Gross," I told him. His black irises gazed back at me. "Gwosss," he said.
I glanced down at my phone and saw a notification on the Somebody app which could only mean one of two things: either a message was delivered to Leslie or Joslyn (fat chance, Utah), or the much more likely possibility that someone selected me to deliver a message on their behalf.
There is a moment, well, forty-five moments, when you're asked to decide if you will accept the mission. And this is where I learned that I am a giant wuss. In the two times previous I had tried to use the app--perhaps emboldened by selecting messages on my own terms--the anxiety of new connections didn't occur to me. Yet this time, all I could think about was, crap, I have to meet strangers. I quickly rationalized reasonable excuses for ignoring the request: 2.6 miles away? In Los Angeles? At rush hour? How 'bout asking for my second born while you're at it.
But I felt like a Texas-sized hypocrite so I clicked to accept. The app's second tier check is to validate whether the recipient is up for receiving a message. I eyed Larissa's profile--a Somebody veteran who'd delivered four messages herself; there seemed little chance of her backing out. She said yes and we said yes so I sac'ed up and jumped in the car. More accurately, Ryan talked me into it by offering to drive and agreeing to be the one to force Jonah into his car seat. He might have also pried my fingers from the door frame. He's great.
I spent the drive to Atwater mulling the message over in my head. Hi Larissa, it's me Pamela. I've escaped! Kisses, Sophia Winestria. Who is Sophia and what did she do with Pamela? I said it aloud first the way I say everything, then I tried repeating it in a British accent. I didn't expect it to be hard; I've visited London probably ten times in my life and worked there for almost a month last year. I'm practically native. "Babe, that's really bad," Ryan said. We have been together for six years and he still doesn't understand that I will cut him.
Nervous, I sought coaching: I called my actress friend Sachie who, owing to the fact that she's Taurus, (her words), is really good at dialects. Unfortunately I got her voicemail so I turned to my only remaining advisor, Google. A YouTube video came up for British accents. I played it repeatedly, rehearsing the mission in my head.
Nearing the pin, Ryan found a parking spot. My pulse quickened. I begged him to come with me but he refused. "You can do this," he coaxed. If it hadn't been so goddamned hard to get Jonah in his seat to begin with, I would have leveraged him as my human shield. Instead I set out walking the pavement on my own.
Sachie called back. I ducked into a storefront and shoutwhispered into the phone: "CAN'T TALK. SENT TEXT. HOW DO I SAY THAT IN BRITISH?!" With the poise of a seasoned professional, she repeated the mission back to me in a beautiful lilt, and also in a way that didn't sound anything like what I had made up. Fearing near failure, I repeated to her how I had practiced. "Oh that works too," she lied.
As I looked down at the map, I began to realize that the pin was inside a bar--a wide open bar with a sidewalk patio, teeming with too many people. If there is a tenth circle of hell its name is Anxiety and it is a place which requires walking through a crowd looking for someone I've never met to deliver a message from a separate, also unknown person with a potential personality disorder. If you've ever been in this position then you know the desperation of trying to catch the eye of strangers who don't want to be caught.
Finally I saw her: Larissa. She looked up from her beer and smiled brightly. She knew the game.
"Hi Larissa, it's me Pamela. I've escaped! Kisses, Sophia Winestria."
Larissa clapped and squealed and smiled. She hugged me and introduced me to her friend. And that is when my unofficially-diagnosed Aspergers kicked in to high gear: she hadn't asked but I proceeeed to recount in alienating detail my two previous missed connections with the app. Turns out, to be simultaneously proud of oneself and to also want to punch yourself in the face until you stop talking is a thing.
In the end Larissa's friend snapped our picture, and I left the restaurant feeling like Los Angeles is just a teeny bit smaller.