It’s not as much fun being invisible as I believed it would be. In my wildest imaginings, I “saw” myself drifting through life, popping in and out of conversations, knowing everything well before everyone else, and loving every minute. That’s not how it worked out at all.
Let me backtrack for a bit, to explain how this invisibility thing came about.
I was leafing through Weight Watcher’s Magazine, reading low calorie recipes and making plans for the upcoming week, when I spotted an ad for a new product that would make cellulite disappear. As a walking example of the ugliness of cellulite, my eyes lit up with hope. Imagine taking a pill three times a day, and within a relatively short period of time, those horrendous lumps would be gone, and I would look like Farah Fawcett!
I whipped out my checkbook, completed the order form, and drove to the nearest post office box. As I dropped the envelope into the slot, I crossed my fingers and swore that I would faithfully take the pills.
Weeks passed. Just as I began to think that I had unwittingly sent my hard-earned money to a scam operation, my package arrived. It was wrapped in generic gray plastic, with no identifying marks on the outside. Inside, I felt two bottles, about the size and shape of my cholesterol medications.
I dropped the package on my computer desk and went about my normal routine. I changed out of my work clothes and gathered snacks to hold me over until dinner.
Later that evening I remembered the mystery package. I tore through the dense plastic. Inside I found not the expected medications from my medical provider, but brightly labeled bottles. Farah herself, with trim legs and skinny tummy, was pictured as an example!
The directions were simple. Take one pill, three times a day for the first week. Drink plenty of water and exercise at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week. The second week, I was supposed to increase the dosage by a pill and increase exercise by another 30 minutes. The third week, it was three pills a day, three times a day, combined with 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. I could do this with my eyes closed.
The first week, I felt somewhat lighter. The scales at the gym showed that I had lost three pounds. Awesome!
By the end of the second week, I had lost an additional six pounds! My clothes fit better and there was a nice glow to my cheeks.
At the conclusion of the third week, another six pounds had disappeared! That made for a total of 15 pounds. All I was doing was taking pills and exercising a bit more than usual. At this rate, I would be thin and gorgeous in just a few months!
If three pills worked so well, why not take four? There was nothing in the literature that indicated any dangers in moving beyond the recommended three-pill regimen, so why not give it a try? If I began feeling weird or noticed any adverse effects, I could always drop back to three.
Oh, the joys of weight loss! When you’ve been fat your entire life and have tried every diet known to woman and failed at them all, finding success is a truly magnificent feeling. So it was that I walked about, imagining myself looking svelte in my rapidly shrinking body.
I dropped another ten pounds. My clothes no longer fit and so I got to go shopping, my true love. Any excuse to run off to a store is a good one, but even more so when it meant buying a wardrobe for this brand-new me. Boy, did I have fun!
If you can get inside my head, I bet you can figure out what I did next. If four pills worked with no adverse side effects, why not five? Yep. I increased it to five pills, three times a day. I added additional exercise time, bringing it up to 40 minutes, five times a week, just to be sure.
I had more energy than I’ve had in my entire life and I looked hot. Sexy, even. My husband oohed and aahed when he saw me in my new clothes. Heads turned when I sashayed into the office or made my many trips to the water cooler. Friends made comments about how wonderful I looked. My heart flew skyward and my eyes glowed with pride.
Not wanting to push my luck, I kept the dosage at the five pills. I sent away for a refill, intending to keep it up until I reached the recommended weight for someone as height-challenged as myself.
When I was well into the second supply, something strange happened. I had gone to the mall and picked out some new clothes. I got in line with all the other shoppers. I spoke to the woman in front of me, commenting on the beautiful blouse in her hand. She didn’t even turn a shoulder. I shrugged it off, thinking maybe she didn’t speak to total strangers, even nice ones like myself.
When I moved to the front of the line, I sensed an eerie presence, as if someone else had stepped into my body. It’s hard to describe that feeling. It was as if I could touch this person, yet not, at the same time. My skin tingled, as if a slight breeze blew the hairs on my arm, but there was no breeze.
After a customer left the register, I stepped forward. The “presence” came with me. The clerk did not look at me, but at something slightly to my right. She addressed the “presence,” and accepted her goods. She also took mine, which gave me a really spooky feeling. The “presence” protested that my clothes were not hers, and with no further ado, they were hidden under the counter.
The clerk rang up the other’s purchase, and then called for the next customer to step forward.
I could not comprehend what had just happened! I felt violated, as if I wasn’t worth her time or attention. Swearing that I would never shop at this store again, I stomped out.
Similar experiences occurred at other stores. Clerks ignored me, time and time again.
It was not until I passed a reflective glass window that I discovered that something was wrong. Why did I not appear in the glass, while the man next to me was clearly visible? I stood there for quite a while witnessing over and over again, that I was missing from the picture of shoppers.
I was invisible. To test my theory, I went into a clothing store, took a blouse off the rack and went into the dressing room, unchallenged by the woman at the check-in counter. Once I had closed the door of my cubicle, I looked in the mirror. There was my blouse, floating strangely in the air, but no me. Not one finger or leg or hair.
Well, this presented a whole new situation. Think of the things that I could do! The perverse situations that I could observe and private conversations that I could overhear. Charged with a new sense of purpose, I flew out of the dressing room, ready to put my theory to a test.
I saw two women over in the lingerie section, deep in conversation. Emboldened, I walked right up to them and stood, nearly touching one woman’s back. Neither of them noticed me, nor did their conversation alter in any way. I listened to juicy gossip about someone named Tadzi who had gotten his so-called girlfriend pregnant and then dumped her, and about Precia, who drooled every time the boss leaned over her desk and batted his eyes at her.
Not only did they not see me, they didn’t hear me when I added commentary to the discussion. That was a bit disturbing. How could I make my wishes be known if I couldn’t be heard? Oh, dear.
A bit saddened, I left the mall, found my car, and drove home. I drove faster than allowed, daring the police to pull me over. I yearned to see the officer’s face when he looked inside the car and so no one. Unfortunately, the local police must have been hanging out at the coffee shop, sipping lattes and eating macaroons.
At home, I hurried to my bedroom and stood in front of my mirror. Nothing, just like at the store. By now, the novelty had worn off. It was one thing to imagine invisibility, but another to be so. What’s the point of shedding pounds and pounds of cellulite, if no one could appreciate the loss?
I was so depressed that I pigged out on chocolate candies, tortilla chips and butter pecan ice cream. Bring back the pounds! Put those ugly lumps back in my thighs! Let me be seen!
My husband came home shortly after I finished the ice cream. He called my name, like he always did. When he got no response, I watched in dismay as he walked right past me, without even a glance, and down the hall to change clothes. He reappeared shortly, dressed in shorts and t-shirt, and went into the kitchen to fix a drink. He turned on the television, and got comfy in his recliner.
When I did not “arrive” home, he fixed a dinner of leftovers, and ate alone. He seemed so sad and so much older. I had never before noticed the bald spot on the top of his head or the bulge of his stomach hanging over the waistband of his shorts. I had never taken the time to see how much he loved having me home and how terribly lonely he was when I was gone.
All those conferences, all those late night meetings, all those day-long shopping trips suddenly seemed so trivial compared to the relationship with my husband. When had my priorities changed? When had “I” come first, and “we” had dropped off the planet?
Embarrassed and humiliated, I threw the remaining pills away.
If I could become invisible in a few short weeks, how long would it take to become visible?
My nights and days were lonely. I cried as I watched my husband climb into bed alone and cradle my pillow to his face. Night after night, he sobbed. Not silent cries, but huge, bed-shaking sobs. I wanted so badly to touch him, to hold him tight, but my fingers lacked substance. All I could do was get as close to him as possible, and drape my misty arm over his shaking body.
There was no point in going to work. I did try that first day after I discovered my changed state, but no one saw me. People walked by my “empty” desk, and commented on my unexplained absence. When my phone rang, the secretary answered before I could pick up the receiver and told my clients that I had not come in.
I left at brunch and did not go back. I stayed safely inside my house as if I were agoraphobic. With no job to go to, I cleaned out closets and played computer games. I put photos in albums and sorted through papers that I had kept for one reason or another.
I was careful about what I did, however, for fear of frightening my husband. I left no evidence of my activities where he could find them. Each day when it neared time for him to come home, I packed everything away as if I had not been there. Which, in his view, I had not.
He made a lot of phone calls. He went through our personal phone book and contacted everyone in it. He reported my absence to the police, who politely told him that they would not look for me until forty-eight hours had passed. When they did finally come to investigate, they found no evidence of foul play.
Days went by, with little or no change in my condition. By now, I was horribly depressed, and spent more and more time simply sitting and chastising myself for never being happy being me. And eating. I ate as if I was a starving child placed in front of a never-ending buffet.
After four weeks of this tortuous existence, I awoke one morning with a strange tingling in my left leg. When I looked down, there was a lump under the covers the shape of a leg and foot. Yes! I jumped out of bed, ran to the mirror, and gaped. There was a leg. Attached to nothing, but it was there, in the flesh, so to speak.
That day was a day of miracles. Every hour, I ran down the hall and stood in front of the mirror. Body parts slowly became visible. The other leg appeared next, followed by my left hand and arm. Then the right one, my neck, head, and hair. It took several hours for my stomach to show up, and another several hours for my chest.
I was no longer Farah Fawcett thin, for the ceaseless, depressed munching had added gobs of pounds. The cellulite was back in all its glory. The “love” handles jiggled pleasantly when I moved and the double chins reminded me of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, my favorite.
My imperfect self was gloriously beautiful. Feeling full of life, full of air, full of joy, I skipped throughout the house. I went out in the backyard and danced, with arms upraised and tear-filled eyes taking in the blue sky and feather-like clouds. I sang and sang some more, enjoying the halleluiah tunes that bounced off the trees. I was back, I was back, praise the Lord, I was back!
Suddenly my joy turned my stomach a flu-like sour. How would I explain my absence to my husband? If I concocted a story about a kidnapping and escape, he would expect me to report it to the police and identify the men who had taken me away. I’m a lousy liar. Always have been. When I lie, my cheeks turn red and I fidget and fuss and make stupid sounds that resemble a pig grunting while giving birth to a litter of hundreds of squirming piglets.
Not knowing what else to do, I went to my computer and researched reappearances of missing persons. The only story that seemed plausible had to do with a blow to the head that caused a concussion and resulting amnesia. I could do that, for I had experienced two different concussions. I knew the symptoms well: dizziness, disorientation, numbness, difficulty speaking, and uncontrolled shaking. All I had to do was act a bit ditzier than normal. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?
Where to wait? Should I sit at the computer? He wouldn’t find that abnormal at all. Should I fix dinner? No. He’d see through that right away, for I never cooked a thing. Fix him a drink? Wouldn’t do, for he knows how I feel about alcohol. The computer, then. I’d play solitaire until he came home.
I planted myself in front of the computer and whenever I heard a vehicle pull into our courtyard, I began a new game. Right as the cuckoo clock struck five, my husband pulled into the driveway. I heard his door open and shut, watched out the window as he walked toward the front door. I smiled as he stopped and smelled one of my favorite roses, inhaling deep as if trying to remember his long-gone wife.
The key entered the lock and the front door opened. The door closed and like always, he latched it closed. He’d lectured me more than once about my cavalier attitude about doors. He feared an invasion and the damage that a burglar might do to his home, his material goods, and especially to his wife.
He dropped his keys on the file cabinet near the door and then stepped around the computer desk. That’s when he saw me.
Shock clearly registered on his face. I watched in fascinated horror as my husband slipped through a range of emotional states. Surprise, disbelief, terror, and even embarrassment, as if I had caught him doing something unthinkable, all passed, one after another. He settled on elation.
Like a little boy who had lost his mother and then been found, he scuttled over to me and pulled me from my chair. His long arms wrapped around my chest, encasing me in the tightest embrace that I had felt since our romantic days of young love. His head fell on my shoulder, and he cried.
“I thought I had lost you. I thought you didn’t love me anymore. You’re back!”
“I will always love you,” I said.
Those words triggered an unexpected reaction. As if a nest of wasps had stung him, my husband pushed me away and took several steps backward. “Where have you been?” he shouted. “You never wrote or called. I looked everywhere. I called your friends and not a one knew where you were.”
“I don’t know where I was,” I answered in the best “confused” sounding tone that I could muster. “I remember driving home. I recall cleaning out the closet in the guest room. I don’t know why, though. I remember bringing in the step stool so as to reach things on the top shelf. There were some old computer games up there that I never played anymore.
After that, I have no memory, until today, when I found myself in the backyard where the sun was shining and the sky was blue. It was if I had been born again. Like I had been lost and then found, like in the song. So I came inside and walked around, touching everything. And then sat here to wait for you.”
I waited anxiously for his reaction. Would he accept such a cockamamie explanation as fact? Would he welcome me back without further ado? Most importantly, could our relationship heal?
The answer is yes, yes, and yes. He had found the step stool in the bedroom and had put it away. The computer games were in a box on one of the beds. He put them there, thinking that I was going to play them. So, he believed every word of my lie.
That night we reveled in each other’s presence, like newlyweds. Even though all we did was watch television, eat popcorn and go to bed after the weather report finished, it was the best night of our marriage. We had each other, with all our imperfections, and that’s all we needed.
So, did I ever go on another diet? Sure. What woman doesn’t dream of a better-looking body? My diets, however, were with sanctioned, medically approved plans. No more strange pills for me. I was done with that phase of my life. If I never lost another pound, I didn’t really care, as long as I had my husband.
And my job? Well, I did lose it. When I supposedly failed to return to work, the agency hired a replacement. That’s what my friend Sally told me.
I did find a new job fairly quickly. The local school district needed an aide to work with special needs children. My salary was one third of what I made in my high-powered previous position, but my satisfaction level was off the roof.
These kids were normally the invisible ones on campus. They looked a little different, acted kind of weird, and couldn’t carry on a real conversation. High school students don’t like to be seen with odd-looking characters, for at that age, you are whom you are with.
With time, I helped my students make friends. With time, they lost their invisibility. With time, they became some of the most popular kids.
Being invisible is traumatic. It hurts the heart more surely than a bullet or a knife, for from those injuries one can heal. Invisibility only goes away when another person discovers the true person buried under the cloak.
I had been lost, and now I was found, and found I would stay.