In my last post I shared Jennifer Seale’s blog about invisibility and the dehumanization of the human soul. She speaks of running to the mirror to check on her hands and face, certain she was “not real.” I too would spend what seemed like hours in front of the mirror, looking into the face and eyes of a child it seemed no one else bothered to see or hear.
I vividly remember sitting and listening at the kitchen table where many adult discussions were held. Some situations and conversations were set down and picked up day after day and I would return each time, “tagging” along, quiet and unobtrusive. It wasn’t uncommon for the talk to cease and someone to suddenly ask, “How long has she been there?”
Ummmm . . . about a week . . .
I have another memory of sitting on the gymnasium floor with a group of girls filling out a paper for an assignment. I turned to the girl sitting next to me—we’ll call her Lebbie Dusk—and I calmly asked her a question about the assignment.
So . . . I tried again.
Odd. Maybe she didn’t hear me. So I gently leaned over, put my lips to her ear and . . . yelled her frickin’ name at the top of my lungs.
But there was a problem. (Despite the obvious one that you as a reader and me as a [cough] mature adult recognize at this point: I may have been a bit of a pain in the butt-ox). The problem–at the time–was that it does no good for an invisible person to yell. I didn’t exist.
My sister and mother would often have conversations in front of me and, if I asked for clarification or additional detail about the subject they were discussing, it would be a surreal experience as I watched their eyes look down, to the side, up at the ceiling, at their fingernails, at the cat; every where but at me. They knew that there had been a psychic shift, a strange presence that had stopped their conversation but neither wanted (or dared?) to acknowledge it. So they simply didn’t.
Where was my Haley Joel Osment [I see dead people] when I needed one?
Speaking of dead people, I knew I was really out of the loop when I walked into the mortuary to dress my mother for burial. Laying on the table was this woman with blonde hair. For all of my life my mother had jet-black hair (granted, most of those years were from a bottle.)
“When did mom become a blonde?” I asked my sister.
“Oh, awhile ago. She heard blonde’s have more fun.”
This woman was 68.
I will concede that part of this issue may have been my doing. Maybe I was normally too quiet. Maybe I needed to express my views or opinions more. Maybe I just simply needed to speak up.
So I did. I realized I had a voice and in a moment of epiphany I decided it was time I tried to use it.
It wasn’t as successful an endeavor as I’d envisioned it to be . . .
It was the late 70’s, I was in Junior High and once again I was engaged in my favorite spectator sport, that of studying and analyzing the conversations of the adults around me. My dad was having a chat with one of his buddies in our living room (to this date I cannot even remember what the topic was). I’d taken seriously the internal challenge to get more involved, to speak up, let my voice be heard. I was up on my current events. I read the coolest magazines. I was an intelligent girl and now was my chance to prove it.
I waited for the perfect opening, screwed up my courage, took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet. I nearly exploded with:
“I read an article that in 1984 space aliens are going to invade the earth!”
The room went silent.
All eyes were now—finally–on me.
Wow. I wasn’t invisible anymore.
Not sure how much I liked it.
I sensed my dad was thinking something along the lines of, “I knew I should have had a vasectomy earlier” or “Is it too late to put her in that ‘special’ class at school?” His friend had the look of, “If I don’t make any sudden moves . . .”
I don’t think either one really knew WHAT to say so, after a reasonable amount of awkward staring, they turned back to each other and picked up their conversation, giving no more heed to me than a mental note to nail shut some drafty window.
But hey, I may have struck out but at least I swung the bat.
This is why I love being a writer. Writing gives me the venue for others—and me—to hear my own true voice (whatever truth is at that moment, aliens or no). Part of being a writer is being able to sit still, listen, and watch the world unfolding—and at times unraveling—before you. And I can do that in spades.
I see now that I have the best of both worlds. I can be in a room listening to a conversation, very much incognito, gathering information for articles, characters, and scenes. I then go home, sit at my computer, and bring into form first the skeleton, then skin, bones, and all sorts of sinews until I’ve a nice plump story. My words become the trench coat, glasses, and fedora of the invisible man.
So I suppose, being invisible had its moments. It’s been great fodder for blogs and blackmail, not to mention great scripts for creepy movies.
So now when I glance in the mirror I worry more about the growing number of laugh wrinkles than about an unseen child.
And that . . . makes me smile.