The first time I saw her do it, she was wearing blush colored cat-eye sunglasses that she found in the sale acre of Forever 21. “Four bucks!” she shared with her sister over the phone. The lenses on them had a bashful tint, and I could see that below them, her eyes skipped along points on the low hills to her left, then snaked between the dash and side mirrors in a lopsided infinity loop. She pulled down the sun visor. Flipped up the flap and pursed her lips. Given the opportunity, she would deny this behavior, saying instead that she had been inspecting the aftermath of a break out flare-up. Regardless, she looked kissable.
One stoplight past the airport, it started.
“There’s a minivan turning.” She said with reservation.
“Those guys, in orange, they’re closing down the left lane. Now, I’m turning my right blinker on. I’m drifting right, drifting right, drifting right. Here I am in the right lane without having checked my blind spot.
Tangled now in the wires of narration, she committed.
“A wide worker man with a goatee is stacking all the cones. One in the other. Then the other in another. Then three into four but four’s all he’ll go ‘cause five’s one too many cones for a wide worker man to…
I’m braking. My foot is on the brake.
Hello, lady in the silver Jetta, I see you got your car at Perry Ford. Was that a good experience? I bet you wrote a check for it. I bet your name is Georgia.”
And then I saw her breathe in deeply; her seatbelt shifted upward on her collarbone and music followed the exhale out of her lungs.
“Georgia. Georgia. The whole day through. Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.”
Through two verses of nonsensical lyrics that she made up on the spot, I listened. It was throaty but tender. At one frame, she pounded the heel of her right palm against the steering wheel—not to keep time, but to alleviate the tension when there’s
“No peace. No peace I find…
…just an old, sweet song…
…keeps Georgia on my mind.”
I recognized the look in her eye when she rolled onto the gravel in front of her driveway. Under the rose lens it whispered, I don’t remember getting here. Her left hand crossed her body and reached down for the red release button. The belt slid slowly over her twin badges of femininity, and found its place coiled in the car door. A steep driveway separated her from home, and she called her Mom to swap stories about their days. While the phone rang, she peeled off her sunglasses from behind her ears and leaned her body to the right with an elongated spine so that her eyes met their reflection in the rearview mirror. She tilted her head back and widened them slightly with both brows raised and both lids flat and without crease.
“Hi baby.” The sound came over the Bluetooth Speakers.
She shot back into her bucket seat. “Hi momma. How was your day?”
For ten minutes they talked about the ducks that keep breaching her mom’s HOA contract to break in for long dips in the pool.
“A Mallard and a…what’s it called when it’s not a Mallard? Anyway, they keep showing up, the pair of them, and I’m not sure what to do about all the swimming and pooping they keep up to. Raul, he’s the new pool guy—you gave him the check last time you were home, remember?—he’s not much help. How was your day?”
While her mom spoke, she raised her left elbow chin-height to give a light scratch to the back of her neck.
“I watched this video today, one of my favorite authors gave a talk about Self Delusion in the creative process. It was that whole “fake it til you make it” kind of thing, but much more eloquent and really… applicable.”
“What… does that mean, self delusional…?” she asked. The same shake in her voice that was present two summers ago when she wondered out loud about what, exactly, a beer bong is.
“It was all about faking confidence and security in your art, until eventually you start to be confident and secure in it. He said that he gets really anxious about his books, and their deadlines, and whether or not the stories will come together by the end of it all—and instead of egging on self doubt, he asks himself ‘what would an extremely confident person do in this situation? What would that person say? Whatever the answer, that’s how I react.’”
“Sure, okay. That makes sense, I do that everyday.”
I heard them smile through the speakers.
“So he’s got you feeling, all…loony, I take it?”
“The loony tooniest, momma. No, but, okay, so then he said that he also tried meditating. But his sessions were completely half-assed and frustrating, so he made up his own type of meditation by talking to himself. Out loud. In the middle of central park—to get out of his head and into the present moment.
“Nutjob. Go on.”
“…narrating everything around him, he said it was the best way to stay present, instead of letting his mind wander to the stacks of blank pages burning pathetic frown-faces into his desk.”
“So in the car, today, I tried it. I just talked out loud to myself and narrated everything going on around me. And by the end of it I was singing, and suddenly I was home, and nowhere along the way was there a thought or worry in my skull. It was nice. It was wonderful, actually.”
The exchange went on like this for a short while longer, until finally, they said their talk-to-you-laters and she clicked the off-hook button on her steering wheel to end the call. From where I was looking, the space between her shoulders and ears seemed wider. Her neck was long and smooth below her jaw and her mouth curved instead of pursing towards me. I thought to myself, if this is what self-delusion looks like, it looks a hell of a lot like confidence.