Super Villains in Your Head: The Cultivated Image
It happened while I was staring through my kitchen window at the wintry treetops, trying to think of the answer to a Jeopardy question. Two circling hawks came into view, and I thought briefly of how pretty they looked with the sunset playing on their feathers.
Heralded by nothing but a POOF! and a cloud of tasteful glitter, a cloaked figure suddenly appeared by the dog's kennel. I blinked and set down my tea. This figure was a life-size copy of me, yet worthy of Pinterest. It was no cloak she wore, but a southwestern poncho. Her long fingernails were painted black, but in a way that implied edge, not evil. Shiny, minimalist jewelry had me transfixed as this photogenic version of me cried,
"Take an Instagram photo of those hawks in the sunset!"
I glanced at my phone.
"You’ll have to get out on the deck and hurry because the light will be gone soon," she urged.
I fumbled through the passcode and felt sweat forming on my neck.
"Relate the caption to the writing life. Even though you spent all day preparing a talk on the Ten Commandments, don’t say that. You will lose followers."
Dear Lord, not that!
"Say something about Mondays. Don’t mention Roe v. Wade. You will lose followers. Hurry! The light!"
I scrambled for my scarf. My hand was on the door handle. But then, despite the glitter and the dazzling affect this SoCal lifestyle blogger had on me, a single, clear thought surfaced.
“What do you want in return?” I asked.
She smiled with her eyes, maintaining a perfect dimple on each cheek. “Your peace of mind, your identity, your honesty with yourself, your healthy detachment from the regard of others …”
Her jewelry was so simple yet expensive, her booties were so feminine yet comfortable looking, I felt too weak to resist. I looked to the hawks sailing in the gray and lavender sky. Could it really be done? Could I have it all, even the dimples?
But the hawks called out to me, “We are too far away for you to get a good shot with a Samsung! And trying to think of a caption will stress you out beyond reason!”
“Thank you, brave hawks!” I replied, and with my last drop of will power, I threw the Samsung at my Cultivated Image, right between her perfectly wavy tendrils.
“Not bad,” said a voice.
I looked to my black Aussie-doodle and gasped. “Tony, you could talk all this time? Your voice is so … robotic.” But Tony only stared at his treat jar. The voice had come from the Amazon Echo. I forgot we were playing Jeopardy.
The sun’s rays were too faded, now, for any attempt at a followers-garnering photograph. I breathed a sigh of relief. Until next time, Cultivated Image.