Through Sophia Loren Glasses
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
"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
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