Imagining reality

By Cece King | Jul 23, 2020

The telephone wire stretched over an open field, its ends disappearing into infinite darkness.  It would disappear every half second, keeping time with our car’s blinking hazards. Open shut. I tried to time my eyelids to erase the light our car cast and better focus on the sky. I thought the scene looked vaguely Midwestern, although I’ve never been to the Midwest.

A rushing sound alerted us to the approaching vehicles. My sister jumped, so I did too, and then my mom. The three of us stumbled over each other off the side of the road into a little ditch. We sought refuge behind our little car. Perhaps we hid to prevent ourselves from being run over. More likely, we felt the unseen car posed an unknown threat.

But my dad stood out in the open optimistically. “I bet they’ll pull over and ask if we need help.”

Sure enough the car slowed down and the driver asked my family, “Is everything all right here?” We could barely make out the silhouette of his face, but his words were kind.

“Yes, we’re looking at the stars,” Dad said. The man rolled away. “There’s supposed to be a comet tonight.”

“Oh really? Sounds interesting!” the man yelled from his window, already 10 feet away from where the conversation ended.

This moment was one of anticipatory goodness. Despite the darkness and the silence my Dad was confident the strange driver was friend not foe.

The next morning a bee looked straight into my water glass, glaring at her own reflection  (worker bees are female). I had no idea why she was hovering, but she probably thought she was seeing a completely different bee encroaching on her garden territory. She must be wearing a pretty nasty expression, I thought, to have alarmed herself so much.

This bee’s moment, if you’ll allow me to anthropomorphize, was one of anticipatory confrontation. She saw her face, presumably already an unhappy one, and “put ‘em up.”

It’s funny how much our imagination dictates reality, which we trick ourselves into believing was decided by the fates long ago. My dad assumed the driver was friendly, so their interaction was friendly. The bee thought she saw an enemy, so she took up an en garde stance against herself.

We decide the outcome of so many low stakes interactions by assuming how they will go. Unlike the bee, most of us can distinguish ourselves in a mirror. Yet, we aren’t so good at disentangling the random realities from the ones we create. Not knowing the difference isn’t always a pejorative, at least not when we manifest positive interactions. But the bee looked ridiculous, and no one wants to be the bee and become their own worst enemy. Perhaps if her attitude had been different from the get-go, she wouldn’t have had to respond to such a menacing reflection in the first place...

Cece King is studying geography, Middle Eastern Studies and Spanish at Dartmouth College. She also attended The School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington, DC, and was a contributing writer with Straus News publications in New York. She is writing for The Camden Herald and Maine Women magazine this summer.

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