The Desire to be Invisible – Part 1 of 2

Richard Torres was invisible. He had been this way since his twenties, and now, well into his eighties, he hardly even noticed.

He had always towered above everyone. Rarely did someone’s head reach the height of his shoulders. When he was younger, he used to stoop and slouch, but now he stood ramrod straight. It didn’t matter what people thought about him because, quite frankly, they didn’t think about him at all.

It’s important to understand at this point that invisibility is not how they portray it in the movies. Hollywood depicts it like a superpower, or that you need to walk around naked because your clothes will give you away, or that mysterious objects appear to levitate when you pick them up. But all of that is simply ridiculous. If you’re clothes or the objects you pick up give you away, then you aren’t really invisible, now are you?

No. Richard was fully clothed. But perhaps, instead of invisible, it would be more accurate to say that Richard was exceptionally evanescent. Maybe people could technically see him, but they took absolutely no notice of him.

Richard, or Rich, as his friends would have called him, if he had any friends, enjoyed his invisible existence. People were a hassle and he enjoyed not dealing with them.

Now, on this particular day he walked into his favourite coffee shop and passed the long line that snaked nearly to the door, past the cashier, and stepped behind the counter. He picked up a coffee cup and helped himself to his favourite dark roast. If someone had been paying attention, they may have noticed that something was amiss, no one ever did. They either stared at their phones or off to the side with glazed over eyes. Some spoke in animated conversations with others in line, but they didn’t notice  him either. Each person was utterly captivated by their own small worlds. Richard was essentially orbiting in an entirely different solar system from them.

But don’t feel sorry for him. Like I say, he rather enjoyed his extreme anonymity. And he hadn’t needed to pay for anything in decades.

After grabbing his coffee and swiping a muffin, he settled into one of the armchairs by the window and opened his newspaper. He slowly flipped through the pages, the crinkling of the paper breaking through the soft music playing in the background.

As he sat there a woman walked by the open window. She had unruly orange hair and was wearing an overcoat and rubber boots despite the warm day. She had two children in tow, both with the same untameable orange hair. As they walked by, the woman stared straight at him, smiled, and waved. At first, he didn’t realize that she was looking at him. Unfazed, he assumed the wave was meant for someone standing behind him so he ignored her. But then she stopped walking and continued to wave at him. Finally, feeling a bit silly because really, who can see an invisible man, he checked to see who she was waving at. Sure enough, no one was behind him. He pointed at his chest as if to ask, “me?” To which, she nodded, grinned.

Stunned, he raised his hand and gave an awkward finger waggle. At this, she finally stopped waving and turned to catch up with her kids who had not paused at the window. Suddenly, Bernard felt exposed. He looked around. Could everyone see him? But nothing else had changed.

The couple at the table to the right had not even paused their rather loud argument. The woman in the armchair next to him, was still buried in her book, and the people in line were still oblivious to his existence.

Finally, just to make sure, he leaned forward and asked the woman sitting in the armchair if she would mind passing him the magazine that sat on her side table. She didn’t respond. He tired again, this time making his voice a bit louder until he was nearly shouting, but even then, she didn’t acknowledge him.

For the rest of the day, Leroy found himself more alert than usual checking to see if anyone else noticed him. By that evening he’d convinced himself that the woman must have been looking at someone else.

But this was not the case as the same thing happened the next day. And the day after that. It was on day four, when she was on her own rather than with her children, that she slipped inside the café and sat in the chair beside him.

“Hello,” she said, smiling broadly at him and clutching the purse in her lap.

“Hi,” he said, his voice croaky from lack of use.

“Whatcha reading?” she asked.

“The newspaper,” he replied. It had been over 60 years since he had had a conversation with another person. No one else in the coffee shop appeared to notice the conversation, but he still wished the woman would go away. Clearly, he needed to find a new coffee shop. Or maybe he should just stay home from now on.

“I can see you,” she smiled.

“Yes, I noticed that.” He frowned.

“They can’t,” she said, looking around at the others in the café.

“I noticed that as well.” He paused and leaned forward. “Why can you see me?’

She shrugged. “You have your gift and I have mine.” With that, she stood up and walked out.

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