Girl in My Rearview Mirror

I noticed first her earrings. They burst on the scene, sunlight glinting off their teardrop shapes, and shot quick, sharp bursts of white at my rearview mirror, like infinite flashes of light off water’s surface at sunset. They danced and cavorted as she laughed and made all sorts of facial expressions. I waited at a traffic signal at the intersection of Fair Lakes Parkway and Route 7100, its stop and go cycles notoriously long, and was already self-inflicting the drama of mentally measuring the length of time between light changes when her enchanting face showed up in my mirror. No longer interested in VDOT’s version of Survivor, I instead hoped for an extraordinarily long cycle.

It was just after eight o’clock in the morning at one of Fairfax County’s busiest intersections; one whose traffic signal, in addition to having to allow sufficient time for the throngs of commuters headed for D.C. to cross, has the audacity to intermittently address itself exclusively to those only turning left, leaving the rest of us to wonder if paying slightly more for a home a bit closer to work might have been worth it. The only thing missing to make Satan’s contribution to vehicular control complete is a timing sequence for pedestrians only.

As she talked and laughed I wondered if her rhapsodistic manner was well-represented by her voice. If it was high and squeaky it would soon irritate; if soothing or sexy, the opposite. As this I pondered, I saw her pull the phone from her ear and look at the display—squinting her eyes unnecessarily like we tend to do—and when she again put it to her ear her face turned serious. I supposed it was a call from her boyfriend asking if she knew where he’d put his stupid, red, paisley tie.

I imagined him standing naked, still dripping from his shower, having just risen without seeing her off to work. Having been with her for awhile, and, no doubt, taking his good fortune for granted, he no longer got up early to fix coffee and take it to her while she put on her face. Now, dressing for work and unable to find his tie—probably a slob—the sloven thinks nothing of burdening her with his wardrobe insecurities, as if she can do anything about his strewn clothing while on her way to work. I could tell she was listening to him whine as she rolled her eyes, weary of her role as consoler. At last rescued, she again pulled the phone from her lovely cheek and pressed the display, her nails likely done with “Limited Addiction” by Essie Cosmetics. Free of the slob, her face again animated and happy, she demonstrated her talent for multitasking and performed a trick: she held the cell phone against her right shoulder, then while holding it there with her cheek, she put some finishing touches to her eyes. Is she something, or what? Her nimble fingers delicately swept mascara through her hyaluronic acid enhanced eyelashes while she focused on her rearview mirror. Like a street performer holding aloft swirling plates with flimsy sticks and wanting to further impress his audience by adding a spinning hoop to his ankle, she began bobbing her head to some music while continuing to talk and decorate her visage. I was very impressed.

I wondered to what music she was listening; probably light jazz by Fourplay or Acoustic Alchemy. Perhaps she plays music like that at home when the idiot isn’t there. I pictured her arrival home where she gets a call from the wardrobe-challenged boyfriend about his “being late” again and relishes the thought of a few hours without his incessant chatter. She’d change into a cozy, comfortable décolletage sweater, slacks and Alpaca slippers; put on Sade’s No Ordinary Love (our favorite song), open a bottle of 2008 Gotham Shiraz—she loves the peppery overtones—then settles into her Eames lounge chair with her feet up, and takes her first languorous sip of the tannin-rich wine.

I pondered the likelihood that she might, after listening to her messages and hearing me introduce myself—I’ll remind her that I was the driver with which she earlier shared time at the infamous intersection on her way to work—would invite me over. If so, I’ll bring bread, some Brillat-Saverin cheese, Gelbwurst sausage, and a chilled bottle of Veuve Clicquot. Later, we’ll go to Eventide Restaurant in Arlington. We’ll begin with aperitifs at their street side bar, later move up to the next floor for a romantic dinner—she’ll love their Lobster and Winter Squash Gnocchi—and end on the rooftop at a candlelit table sipping a glass of Graham’s 20-year-old Tawny Port. Once familiar with its food and warm ambiance, she’ll no doubt want to often meet there for drinks after work where we’ll learn more about each other…eventually falling in love. When that time comes I intend to be the best boyfriend and lover imaginable—someone, that when I meet her parents, she can be proud to call her fiancé.

An annoying honk intruded as I contemplated the use of the Virginia Prepaid Education Program versus the Internal Revenue-blessed 529 Plan to fund our little Julie’s college fund. Between what we’re able to put away monthly, plus any monetary gifts from her family, our love child will be assured sufficient funds are available when the time comes to write a tuition check to the school that educated three United States presidents: the College of William & Mary. My concentration now shattered, I searched my range of vision for the offender. To my left was a diminutive Indian-appearing woman driving a Toyota Camry, the Asian community’s equivalent of the National Bird, in what I like to call a “headless car”—because from behind only the driver’s seat and its headrest can be seen. To my right—a dump truck driver engaged in a favorite commuter pastime; I grimaced at the veracity with which he endeavored to enlarge his nasal passages with his thick digit.

What the…? Again, that irritating, obnoxious honk from some cretin that thinks his or her day holds more promise than mine, demanding that the rest of us hasten to make way; as if my job interview isn’t important. I glanced up at my nemeses, its green eye staring me in the face, and cursed Lester Wire for not tending to his own business. Back in 1912, had detective work in Salt Lake City kept him sufficiently occupied, it’s doubtful he’d have opportunity to invent something as pestiferous as a fucking traffic signal. Without warning the dump truck driver sounded his horn, its blast like that of a locomotive. My acoustic startle reflex kicked in, I hit the gas pedal—and, with my ability to time the synchronization of clutch pedal and gas pedal momentarily crippled—my 1981 Datsun B210 lurched and died. Fuck! My peripheral vision espied my future wife as she whipped her late-model Mercedes GL450 around me. As she passed I saw her appraising face, her sneer evidencing her distaste for my mode of transportation and total apathy for my woeful financial state. Oblivious to my plight she sped away. I turned the ignition key—my nerves sufficiently settled—eased forward, eventually reaching a speed that wouldn’t invite my fellow drivers’ derision. As I climbed the slight hill leading to the on-ramp for Route 50 and bore right, I saw to my left my ex-lover waiting at the light to go straight. I honked, her earrings lagged behind her head for a split-second as she turned my way, our eyes met, and I gave her the finger.