On a domestic surveillance job, an investigator discovers a web of connection, delusion, and distraction.
At first, I only see her from afar. Her, fortyish and brunette, in a blue Nissan pathfinder.
Me, fortyish and blonde, surveilling at a safe distance in my beat-up Honda CR-V—a lousy surveillance vehicle in most settings, but nearly invisible in McMansionland and Momville.
I fit pretty seamlessly into her world of bevelled glass, cul-de-sacs, and shopping malls. Follow her to zumba classes and nail salons. And the occasional nature hike.
Everything seems normal. Except for the texts.
The husband had spotted them on her phone: a text-based flirtation with the kids’ soccer coach. Maybe it’s going somewhere, maybe it isn’t. He wants to know which.
I shadow her for days. Nothing. And then one night, the husband calls. She’s headed out. I catch up with her in a desolate mall parking lot. She ambles into one store, and another. No hurry. No mission. And then, she climbs into her car…and waits. Through the window, I can just make out the circle of her face, illuminated by the glow of a cellphone screen.
She waits. I wait. For what? I can’t say. And then, after an hour or two, she gives up. Pulls out of the dark parking lot and drives home. There’s something painfully bleak about all this, even though I’m not sure what I’ve just seen. I do have a few guesses.
There’s something painfully bleak about all this, even though I’m not sure what I’ve just seen. I do have a few guesses.
The first time I see her up close is at the kids’ soccer park one sunny afternoon. I melt into the throng of women waiting for practices to end. When I pass her, she’s gazing through the fence at one of the coaches. Tall and broad-shouldered, he doesn’t see her watching him. He’s smiling and talking to someone else. Another mom.
And this mom, my subject, has this look on her face. It’s a lovely face, delicate features, full of sadness and longing, gazing through the fence, unseen.
Suddenly, I see her. I see a fragile line of connection between her and him, a thin line breaking. In my mind, there’s another shimmering line between him and the woman he’s talking to. Equally unreal. I imagine more and more lines, gossamer and illusory, between him and various lonely, bored moms who just want to be seen by someone.
She turns away, her eyes empty.
Soon, her son and daughter run to meet her. Lines appear, from her to them; those are real, and solid. Her face animates.
There is nothing here, I think. This line she’s chosen to see is a distraction, an ersatz connection, a stand in for the one that once tied her to the big beveled-glass house.
I don’t know what will become of that connection, whether it will sever or be repaired, or whether it was just another elaborate delusion. Plenty of relationships are. Even the ones we believe in.
I drive back to my neighborhood. There are no cul-de-sacs there—just sidewalks and porches. Not much beveled glass. I write my report. “Nothing to see here, folks,” basically. And when my husband gets home, I hug him. So tight he gives me a look…and then laughs at me just a little. His laugh is big and solid. It’s the real thing, and so is he. As far as I can tell.
To hear this story (and more short pieces) about connections and distractions, check out our podcast, the Sound of Pursuit (episode sponsored by Transunion | TLOxp):