Summary: Self-Delusion: Positive or Negative? Discuss.
I wrote this on the train into the city. It has not been beta read. It is not very good, and I am sure I have made some glaring errors with canon. But I have no TV.
"The Fine Art of Self-Delusion"
Cindy was really quite good at self-delusion. Her first exercise in the practice happened not long after her father died. She had been reading comic books as if they were candy, or the Prozac her mom was popping, and she had sobbed for an hour over one, where the hero who had lost his wife got himself through the day by talking to his wife as if she were at his side. She thought that maybe if she could just pretend hard enough she could feel her dad’s presence, she could feel his hands on her shoulders, rubbing and comforting her and telling her not to cry.
Her mom had caught her talking to him and insisted she go to a therapist, who was far too cloyingly feminine to be comforting at all, her office smelling of roses, which made Cindy sneeze. And she had said, holding Cindy’s hand tightly as if sweaty fingers were the solution to all woes, that she had to accept that he was dead, and it wasn’t healthy for her to still be speaking to him. But she could see her dad standing in the corner with an eyebrow raised asking her if she was really going to listen to this obvious imbecile when she knew perfectly well that this worked for her and she was going to keep it up as long as she needed to.
By the time she started college she had mastered the art of conversing with him silently. The funny looks she had been getting in high school were not ones she wanted to repeat. She was also much busier in college, but still she spoke to him nearly every night, telling him about what had happened that day, and asking his opinion on various decisions about school, or about the various girls and occasional boy she was interested in.
It had been hard for her to come out to her dad and she wished she had done it while he was still alive, because it didn’t feel fair to ask him to reassure her that he was okay with it. It was a little too near crossing the boundary between a fantasy and an actually possible conversation. Instead she just listened very closely to his responses when she commented on a girl, trying to catch the nuances of his tone of voice.
As far as Cindy could tell he seemed ambivalent about most of the girls – not sure if they were good enough for her – but he was downright insulting to most of the boys. Her dad had always been protective of her, and it seemed reasonable. He was also just her dad, and sometimes she felt lucky that she could keep him the way he was in her childhood, where every thing he did revolved around her. He didn’t have business, problems or distractions of his own. It had been shocking and painful to deal with her mom becoming a real person. She still loved her, but after seeing her break down, struggle back up, start dating, and find someone she was actually willing to marry, Cindy could never see her as the mom she had been in her childhood, the one who had had her own interests and responsibilities, but who had never put herself and her own feelings before Cindy’s. And it made sense. Of course her mother would be as hurt and shocked by her father’s sudden death as Cindy was, probably more. But children were never known for being particularly reasonable, and Cindy knew that part of becoming an adult was realizing that the people you thought would never love anyone more than you are just people, with all the baggage that entails.
Her stepfather was a nice man. But she was never going to fool herself that he ever thought that she was more important than anything else in the world, and he’d never replace her father because of that. And anyways, her real father was still there in all the ways that counted.
Five years out of college she had a seat at the crime desk of the Register and her dad had never been happier for her. Except sometimes he sounded like Lindsay, with all the reminding her to not to do anything foolhardy and warning her about getting into trouble.
Lindsay was her second encounter with the practice of self-delusion. Unfortunately it was not quite as benign as the case with her father, and it wasn’t entirely her fault. Lindsay was the queen of mixed signals. She was also gorgeous and driven, protective and conflicted, and she was a cop and seemed not to hate Cindy merely on principal, which was refreshing.
But, apparently, being unduly obsessed with Cindy’s safety, often to a degree that interfered with her job; inviting Cindy to meet her friends and hang out with them and solve murders; and looking at her in that painfully haunted and anguished way were not signs that Lindsay was anything but straight and still tangled up emotionally with her newly married ex-husband. And when Lindsay slept with Tom again it was the cold wet towel of reality smacking her in the face.
Her dad tried to comfort her, but there was really only so much a ghost of a self-delusion could do. And thinking of him just reminded her of how stupid she had been and how this self-delusion thing really was not healthy and she probably should have listened to that asinine therapist all those years ago instead of taking grief-counseling advice from a comic book. She yelled at her father and chased him away, telling him that it was his fault, and she didn’t want him around anymore. He left, and Cindy was alone with her tears.
The new, improved, free of self-delusion Cindy headed out the next day ready to take on the real world and ran straight into a new problem, Jill. She hadn’t expected Jill to be a problem, because Jill was taken, and Cindy didn’t do that. And even though she had noticed Lindsay’s dead-sexy best friend in passing, she hadn’t really been open enough for Cindy to feel like they were even friends. Lindsay had accepted her strangely (and mendaciously) easily and Claire was warm and ironic at everyone when they were off the job. Jill had never seemed to have a problem with Cindy’s inclusion in the club, she had even ganged up with her against Lindsay a few times, but she had also never really seemed to notice Cindy. She was the charming funny one, who made everything easy, and Cindy couldn’t help but smile every time she did, and yet she had never had a private personal conversation with her. It was awful because although Claire was a great tough lady to know, and Lindsay was cool and sexy, Cindy felt that if she managed to get to know Jill, Jill was the one who could be a real friend.
Then of course the thing with Luke went out the window and Jill was re-titled “slutty-Jill” and Cindy was confronted full on with the fact that she had a crush on the woman. She had always had a weakness for self-destructive slutty girls, unfortunately self-destructive girls rarely noticed the nice, supportive, self-effacing redhead in the corner. Her first female college crush that her father had clearly indicated as A Bad Idea had been a French-Turkish bi-girl who smoked like a chimney, confided in her when she was high, and kissed her when she was drunk, and then quickly returned to her search for a white knight, never noticing that what Cindy wanted most was to be that white knight.
Jill drank too much and sabotaged her relationships, but she wasn’t looking for a white knight. In fact, it didn’t seem like she was looking for anything. She talked it up a lot, but Cindy had never seen hard evidence of her actually going on dates. She seemed hurt and sad, but could still turn on her crazy sexy self, and Cindy had found herself with Jill and two Vodka Martinis at their table at Joe’s before the others got there more than once. In this situation, of course, Cindy became a blushing cringing mess the whole time, but she wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to hang out with Jill for anything. She let herself think that maybe they were actually friends.
And that was where it all went wrong. Somehow Cindy had deluded herself into thinking that they were actually friends, and when she wrote an article that basically trashed the DA’s office from the front door and onwards with the force of the Incredible Hulk, that Jill wouldn’t mind. Jill’s blazing fury quickly disabused her of that notion.
They weren’t friends, they had never been friends, and now they never would. And even though Cindy had never let her crush on the other woman get out of control, it was a hard reality to face that she had absolutely no chance. And all the time she had spent with her had only made her crush worse, because it would take her a long time to forget all the different ways she had seen Jill smile. Her sarcastic glance and even her forbidding glare were burned into Cindy’s memory.
Cindy hated herself for slipping, letting herself fall into delusion again, and for being too weak to stand up to her editor. She was angry with Jill for not forgiving her, but couldn’t believe there was any reason she deserved it. Mostly she was miserable. She hadn’t realized how much Jill had become a part of her life, how her crush wasn’t just a crush anymore, and how she just wanted to die.
When she heard the shots and felt the sting, the first thing she thought was “I’m actually going to die.” The second thing was, “I’m going to see my dad.” And the third was “I wish I had a chance to make Jill believe I’m sorry.”
When she woke up in the hospital, she didn’t understand for a moment why her friends were there. She thought for a moment that they were all dead, and they were waiting to punish her for her betrayal. But they were just there to see her, and that was oddly harder to believe than that they were fiends waiting with whips. They had taken time off from their incredibly important jobs to make sure a skuzzy nosy reporter was okay. And then it was just her and Jill.
Jill didn’t give her an answer to whether or not they were still friends, but she spent the night on the bed holding Cindy’s hand. And when Cindy woke up and she was still there, still asleep, she let herself fantasize that it wasn’t what it was, and that this was the way she could wake up on any randomly chosen morning of everyday. Except without the oxygen tube under her nose.
“Hey dad,” she said, quietly, but aloud, “This is Jill. Don’t say anything about her past. She’s not like that, not really. And she’s very important to me.”
“Cindy… Who are you talking to?” Jill was just waking up, and Cindy wanted to remember that sight forever.
“My dad. He usually likes to know the people who spend the night in my bed.”
Jill snorted with laughter and Cindy felt a smile rise to her face, regardless of the pain making itself known in her chest.
Maybe it was just a delusion, but the only thing she could do was hope that she had a chance. If she had a chance with this woman, life was too short to let it go by.