To the Woman Who Stared at Me at Exit 38

I think maybe you were once very pretty. You are, still, in a tired way. But like a sunflower in fall, it is clear that you have seen better days. I look at you because I like looking at the cars that I pass. They seem like self-contained worlds to me. You look as if you understand that.

At first, I’m flattered that you are staring at me. I do look good with facial hair, highway wind whipping through my closely cropped hair, and black shades on. But you hold your stare for too long. I make eye contact with you and hope we will share a moment. I hope you will wave or turn away and laugh with your friends. But you don’t. You keep your eyes on me, and as much as I try to look away, I can’t.

Your eyes are empty. That’s the best way to describe them. And I’m terribly scared of them. I’m scared of them because they don’t seem self-aware. In fact, they seem the opposite of it. They are empty. They are shells. And they warn me that most people have souls that look similar.

The woman who waves or laughs is no more self-aware than you are. She is simply better at acting. She knows that a well-placed laugh can make it seem like she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She knows that a well-timed wave goes well with her personal aesthetic.

The scary thing about your eyes is that they show that you have given up. As I try to cut away every opinion, every action, every thought that is not my own, you realize that it is not an achievable goal. You have given into the cookie cutter. You have allowed it to rule your sunflower face. Nothing in the world can make you more or less than you are now because you will be gone by winter.

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