The Desire to be Invisible: Part 2 of 2

And so it began. Some days the woman came in with her children, other days she was alone, but regardless of who she was with, she also came over and to say hi and to have a quick chat. Over time Richard learned her name was Annabelle.

As time went on Richard began to notice a change in those around him. As he talked to Annabelle more and more, others began to notice him too. One time, a woman asked if the chair beside him was taken. Another time, the cashier spotted him behind the counter and shooed him away. Stunned, he realized he was losing the best thing that had ever happened to him. So, he stopped going to the coffee shop. He withdrew and avoided Annabelle at all costs and slowly things went back to normal.

A few years went by and he occasionally saw her. She always waved and smiled when she saw him, but he withdrew and hid, unwilling to surrender his anonymity, his shield of silent.

But one day, as he was walking along the sidewalk enjoying the late spring sun, something shifted. He’d been feeling rather tired that day and thought a nap in the afternoon sounded like a splendid idea.  Before he could get home, however, a tightness in his chest caused him to pause his walk. Then the tightness grew sharper and slowing spread up to neck and jaw like a claw reaching out of his heart clutching, grabbing. He looked around for someone to help him, but no one saw him. Fuzzy black spots crept in from the sides of his vision and he tried to clutch a nearby tree to keep from falling, but it was too far. He fell in the middle of the sidewalk and struck his head on the pavement. No one saw, save one woman on the other side of the street. Annabelle.

He woke up in the hospital attached to tubes and wires that ran to beeping machines and other hospital contraptions.

“You’re awake,” Annabelle said, rising from a chair in the corner.

Bernard groaned. “It’s you again.”

She ignored him and walked out of the room. After a few moments, she came back with a nurse trailing behind her. “I’m so sorry Mr. Torres, I don’t know why, but we keep forgetting you’re here,” she said. She bustled around the room checking this and that as Annabelle stood off to the side smiling at him. Finally, after the nurse left, he asked: “How is she able to see me.”

Annabelle shrugged her shoulders. “You have a gift and I have a gift.”

“What’s your gift?”

“I have the ability to open people’s eyes and help them see the truth in front of them.”

“That’s why people see me when you’re around?” he grumbled.

“Kind of. I’d think you’d be grateful at the moment,” she frowned for the first time since he’d met her.

“ I am.” He grumbled. After a long pause, he added, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she responded, smiling broadly again.

“So everyone can see me now?” he asked.

“No,” she shook her head. “Some people are more stubborn than others. Like you for example.”

He laughed in surprise. “Who do I need to see.” He looked around the room. “Is someone here?”

She frowned. “No. Like I said, it takes some longer to see the truth, but that truth doesn’t need to be a person.”

“And what truth do I need to see?” he asked.

“That you need other people.” She smiled.

He frowned and said nothing.

“Like I said, it takes some longer than others.” She sat down in her chair and pulled out a book while he sulked in his bed. “But you will see. You all do eventually.”

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.