Through Sophia Loren Glasses
Ursula Villarreal-Moura

My mother and I were driving past an exclusive neighborhood called The Elms when I asked how I would know if I had slipped into insanity. Two months before, when I turned fourteen, my consciousness had expanded into a thousand-floor hotel. Inside every room, I encountered duplicates of myself, all devious masterminds.

"You're not crazy," she said, shaking her head. "I can tell."

The open windows of her tiny Toyota welcomed a hot breeze that ballooned her white blouse and made her tan arms resemble hot dogs.

"But, is there a line?" I asked.

In my mind, I shuffled over a black-and-white checkered floor, a human chess piece in clunky black men's oxfords. I jerked myself over the board, puppeting myself from black square to black square.

"I can't say if it's a line, but I know you're just overthinking things again," she said.

The chessboard vanished and I imagined my mother massaging my grandmother's knuckles while explaining to her in Spanish my whereabouts. "She's locked up in an institution with others like her." From behind her gigantic Sophia Loren glasses, my grandmother's eyes were certain to flutter with shock.

I jittered in my car seat. All my dreams lately spackled of black magic, and upon waking I stayed convinced I was cloaked in curses. It was clear I had to glue myself together for others. I'd hunt for swaths of normalcy at my private school—graph new veins into my central nervous system—present myself without blemish or fracture.

"Do you have homework?" my mother asked.

Her attempt at a distraction soured the air.

"Don't tell me you really think you're crazy," she said, turning for the first time to study my mood.

Her face echoed a soap opera. Her lipstick faded into last week. We had been driving in the same direction for entirely too long and our destination eluded me.

"Most crazy people don't even realize they're crazy—you know that, right?" my mother mumbled, holding a conversation with herself.

I pictured myself being escorted out of my high school in a straightjacket, my peers spectators to my unraveling, all of them too stunned to snicker or attempt a joke.

My mother's eyes darted up toward the rearview mirror.

"I'm sometimes on a chessboard," I muttered. "It doesn't look like I'm going to win."

We maintained a speed of 55 mph and drove for four more years without ever stopping.

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