I have always had this idea that my eccentric streak is mostly charming, and therefore not a cause for concern. This idea received a check the other day when I took a look at my passport photo and realized that the woman with those eyes seems more deeply disturbed than harmlessly eccentric.
Wow, I thought. If someone posted this picture on the New York Times website and said I had blown up three buildings, no one would be surprised, not even me.
This is not the type of cheery thought I can deal with before I have my morning coffee, so I went and had my morning coffee, and then came back to the passport, trying to decide if I could blame it all on the lighting.
Then, as unease started to trickle down my spine, I looked through the stack of photos I have that haven’t made their way into scrapbooks. There aren’t a lot of pictures of me, mostly because I don’t like photos of myself, but there are some, and in all of them I look like I could single-handedly take out a small city without flinching. Except when I have my sunglasses on. Then I look like a somewhat impatient middle-aged woman, which is what I am.
Well, I thought. This is disconcerting. I will have to remember to wear my sunglasses more. Also, it explains why I kept getting stopped by the police that time in Istanbul.
When Jessica got home from school, I figured I’d get her take on the situation.
“Hey, sweetie. I want your opinion on something.”
“Oookay,” she said doubtfully.
“See this picture?” I said, stabbing the passport photo. “Does it look like me?”
She glanced at it. “Yes.”
“Take your time.”
“Mom. It looks exactly like you.”
“Even . . . the eyes?”
“Why are you looking at me like that? Stop looking at me like that. I do not like it when you look at me like that.”
Oh my god, I thought. I have become that Scary Person you cross the street to avoid. How did this happen?
The next day, I accosted a friend of mine on the street before she could get to the other side. “Do I look insane?” I demanded.
“Not until just now,” she said.
“No, I mean it,” I said. “Really. Do I have . . . insane eyes?”
“Um. Not insane per se,” said my friend. “Just, you know, intense. Very very intense. That’s all.”
“Uh huh,” I said.
“Well, okay,” said my friend. “You do look a little . . . but no one minds! Really. We don’t.”
“Wait, so being my friend is like . . . hey, you never know if she’ll set fire to the place, but it’s all good?”
“Exactly,” said my friend.
“I’ve never set fire to anything!”
“Sure,” said my friend. “But you would if you thought you had a good reason to.”
“I might have a very good reason!”
“Maybe,” said my friend, “but if you ask the next ten people who walk by if they can think of a reason why they’d burn down a building . . . .”
“I can think of ten good reasons to burn down a building!” I said. “But that’s because I’m a writer.”
“Ah,” said my friend. “Then let’s just say you have writer eyes.”