Out of Sight, Out of Mind
713 words long
Your condition has become impossible to ignore. You wish the same could be said for yourself.
Notes from the author:
This one began with a dream: A man standing in a doorway, on the fringes of a party. No one can see him. No one even knows he's there. He leans over, hands clasped behind his back, to sip from a martini glass carelessly held in the outflung arm of a guest.
I set out to write a sort of welcome brochure along the lines of, "So you're a ghost. Now what?" But the ending changed on me during the revision, giving the second person narration a much more sinister feel. I find the results rather disturbing, to tell you the truth. But this is what I've got for you, so this is what you're getting.
It's been several weeks since you were first forced to acknowledge your condition. Until then, you could tell yourself it was nothing to worry about, nothing that hadn't happened to you before. Everyone has to repeat themselves occasionally, maybe raise their voice to make themselves heard. Everyone's birthdays sometimes get forgotten. Things of this nature had been happening with more frequency, true, but you figured you were probably just having a series of bad days.
But it was odd, not to mention frustrating, that no one at the afternoon meeting acknowledged your contributions at all. You began to wonder whether you had lost your voice, and only the expectation of sound convinced you that you were speaking. In the restroom, you examined your reflected mouth both inside and out. The mirror offered no solutions. You shouted your name at the glass, and the echo brutalized your ears.
No one came running to find out if you'd gone mad. You weren't as relieved by this as you ought to have been.
The next day, your wife tried to make the bed while you were still in it. It took you three attempts to get her attention. She said she'd thought you'd already left for work, although there was no good reason for her to think so. She always left an hour earlier than you did. She laughed uncomfortably when you pointed this out, as though embarrassed for you.
At work, there was no email waiting in your inbox. You even checked the server manually, but no messages waited. The empty folder, the lack of new assignments, the way everyone passed your desk without a glance--it added up to something, but you had no name for the total.
When your wife came home from work, she did not greet you. She did not respond, not even when you screamed at her. She tucked herself into bed without reaching for you, and she sprawled in her sleep as though her body were used to sleeping alone. You struggled out from under her too-heavy arm, unaccountably terrified that it would sink through your insufficiently solid rib cage.
You slept on the sofa. You woke early and left, trying not to wake her as you went.
You probably couldn't have woken her if you tried.
Your usual walk to work was made harrowing by the cars that plowed straight through your crosswalks, by the pedestrians who did not reciprocate your polite step to the side. It was as though they thought they could walk through you. Unable to face the office elevators, you took the stairs. Exhausted, numb, you arrived at last at your desk, only to see a new hire unpacking her briefcase there. As you stood, staring, someone did indeed walk right through you. Their passage left a trail of ice across your bones.
You did not go home that evening. You have not been home since, except for once, just the other night. You are trying not to think about that.
You have grown almost accustomed to your condition; you are even finding ways to enjoy it. There is a strange freedom in being able to sing loudly on a crowded street without attracting notice. Boarding streetcars without paying your fare gives you a small thrill, the sort that you imagine drives teenagers to shoplift. You have spent whole afternoons watching children play without fearing the eyes of their suspicious parents. You have gate-crashed parties, leaving the bouncer none the wiser, but the parties soon grew tedious. No one heard you trying to chat them up. You couldn't get a bottle opened for love or money. You stole someone's drink but were unable to consume it. The vodka missed your mouth and spattered the ground.
You have not needed to eat or drink for some days now, nor sleep. It's all right. You find other ways to pass the hours of darkness. But you miss being able to dream.
You resent feeling guilty about what you tried to do the other night. Why should you be ashamed when, ultimately, you did nothing wrong? It's not like she even knew you were there. For all practical purposes, you weren't there. You're not real to her now; maybe you never were. Nothing you did that night could possibly have mattered, therefore it doesn't matter what you tried to do.
None of it mattered. Ever. Thirty-five years of trying, and for what? Not even an epitaph. No memorial, no teary-eyed loved ones. Your whole life has left no trace. Your co-workers, your wife, probably even your parents--no one remembers that you ever existed.
Maybe you never did.
Who are you, again?
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