The bob sits perfectly in a dimple it made for itself. I just cast my line and reeled in the slack. My eyes have adjusted to dusk. The sky glows orangey-pink just above the horizon, silhouettes the treetops across the way. The water mimics the sky. I realize it’s not the other way around: I don’t see a bob floating where the stars will soon appear.
Two evenings before, the scenario is similar, except we’re not fishing. At exit 72 on Interstate 540 in Arkansas, we head west on Route 412. We enter Oklahoma and head north on Route 59/10. This road gently winds and rolls and climbs, and about 90 minutes south of our destination of Miami, Oklahoma, is Lake Eucha State Park. A bridge splits the lake, which is a decent size, and at the right moment at sunset, it offers a breathtaking scape – open, expansive – of a significantly big enough body of water (the first we’ve seen since the Mississippi) that forces me to pull the car over so that I can take a few pictures.
Nothing’s biting. I’ve moved about 50 feet away from the truck where my mom and aunt and my aunt’s husband are, and I’ve found a spot to stand in the tall grass surrounding the pond. We may have started a bit on the early side, but this time of day, this is when the fish are hungry. This is when I find out how patient I am. I squint to see that the bob is still. To either side of it, little vortexes appear and vanish, creating subtle ripples, as fish feed on insects resting on the water’s surface. I consider casting my line again, but I decide against it. Disturbing the water might mess up the sky.
Many people – which means close to everybody – think my mom and I look very much alike. Many people mistake us for sisters or confuse one for the other. We’re about the same height; I’m a smidge taller. We have the same color hair and similar complexions. Our faces don’t look very much the same, though a friend of mine finally made the distinction that I inherited the top half of my mother’s face. So, if you were to look only at our eyes and foreheads, it would be harder to tell us apart. Maybe that’s what many people do. Our builds are somewhat different; we’re girthier in opposite halves of our bodies, which is to say she’s got broader shoulders while I have the bigger rear end. But I guess that’s not what people notice.
We have pretty deviating personalities. In some aspects, I’m definitely my mother’s daughter. We’re people-pleasers, which sometimes makes us indecisive. We’re also very good at blaming ourselves for things that aren’t our fault. We both have strong, stubborn tendencies. My hard-headedness might be more resistant – a mutant strain – to humbling experiences, which I acknowledge as more hubris than a desirable quality. We worry differently; our thought processes aren’t the same. Our temperaments, our prejudices, and our perspectives can be, have been, and are quite disparate.
We disagree about a lot of things. But we somehow understand each other.
The crickets are loud. I’m not being very social, but that isn’t news. Mom is talking with my aunt and my aunt’s relatively new husband. They’re catching up on old times; they haven’t seen each other in at least 10 years, maybe 15 or more. Mom keeps reeling and casting. I have my camera around my neck and am holding the fishing pole with both hands. I shift the pole to my left hand to take some pictures; it’s something to do while waiting for the bob to move.
This doesn’t mean I’m more patient by any means. Mom may have just been practicing her cast; I may have just exhibited an attention deficit. We came to an agreement on the road that she would drive during the day, and I would get the twilight shifts. Since the days are longer in the summer she clearly volunteered to do the majority of the driving. It’s 100 degrees in the Plains and the deep South. Factor in humidity and be grateful the rental car has a decent air conditioner. Still, the heat manages to pierce the windshield, and it drowses this passenger, even with all my picture taking and tweeting and text messaging.
Mom lets me DJ and sings the catchy parts of some of the songs. I don’t see how she stays awake. Well, energy drinks. But even they can only do so much.
When it is my turn to drive, the only thing I don’t do is take pictures, except when I have to pull over because the sunset demands it, but then I’m not actually driving. But it’s like a big joke, because capturing those moments on camera during a road trip is impossible. Mom notices the sunset first and points at the water. I turn to one side of the road, then I turn around and cross the road onto a path, hoping the sun doesn’t disappear before I can park.
Some parts of the lake are glassy, polished smooth. A slight breeze gently wakes other parts of the lake, adding texture to its reflection of the sky. The sun went down a little too quickly. I admit my defeat but heartily welcome the break from the car. Mom and I walk around the campground for a while, taking in the fresh air. We’re both a little paranoid about leaving the car alone for too long. When we get back to the car, we take a deep breath, and we brace ourselves for the next couple of hours. During the final stretch, I send a few more tweets and texts, and I check my voicemail and return some calls. I give Mom background on the friends who are communicating with me. She listens attentively.
The pond continues to darken as the sky. I see my bob dip underwater, and I feel a tug on my line. I quickly yank back while reeling. Whatever’s dragging through the water on my hook excites me. The friction, the fight. The end of the pole bows and I wind up the rest of my line, which brings up a floppy fish.
I don’t know whether I’m part of the sky or the pond. They look so much alike, but their contrasting properties create that very illusion. There’s just enough to discern the reflecting images aren’t identical: stars, brush, pole, bob. The mirror isn’t entirely true.
Are my mother and I purely individual, or are we products of each other, even though we’re not exact images, visual echoes?
Maybe we’re both.
Not five minutes later, Mom catches a fish, too.