section 5


March [or maybe April]

I cannot pretend to have ever really been what the world describes as a high achiever – my ambition was always limited by a lack any sense of possibility, any sense that  I deserved any more than the minimum.

Taught at my mothers’ knee to ask for little, take up no space and give off an air of hopeless apology for my very existence [ after all – I should not have survived- my living, a reminder of what had been lost ], it was no real surprise that my teachers failed to notice me and on occasions looked surprised when I gave an answer in class – perhaps I have been translucent for far longer than I know.

I drifted in to office work, in the kind of role where invisibility is both an expectation & a benefit. Temping suited me, there was no need to make relationships , no-one needed to remark on my lack of whatever it is that puts people  into the centre of their own personal map – I had fallen off the map long before anyone noticed that I had ever been there at all.

The changeling changed things of course, 2 of us took up more space, the shape we made, a teeny tiny family shape was more familiar to others, I became more noticeable, a fraction more visible, but my visibility was always tenuous & by the time she – my twinny self – returned, I was comfortably back in my place , my little island, close to but touching nothing else.

All of this is partial explanation, it is quite possible in a large city to go quite mad, to leave all normal reference points, to travel with no compass guidance, no north star, no internal sat nav [ barking the command – turn round when it is safe to do so & resume your journey] – it is easy to get lost – for the loss to creep up upon you, to realise that you have  forgotten  to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, that there are no road signs anymore. The temptation is to run in panic, to  move faster and faster , but I am wiser to this now – I try hard to stay very still and make only tiny movements, but it is so,so hard.

I am waiting for direction, waiting for a sign, I cannot believe that she will leave me lost in this maze, like a dutiful child , I sit waiting patiently, trying hard that she will still come & save me.

1st April

Its Aprils’ fools day, I have been fooled already, long before today, a day set aside for such foolishness,  so am rather enjoying the experience of seeing others look cautiously at the TVs, radios and daily papers, wanting so much to believe those authoritarian voices , but hearing a tiny internal voice “are you really sure that this is happening?” – Welcome to my world.

My disappearance carries on apace, sometimes now when I look down at myself I can see only absence, a missing limb, no foot where a foot should be and clothing poling around where substantial flesh should be . To see myself, I need to mentally prepare, once I have prepped myself, I can see the  me clearly, it is only fleeting glances that reveal the enormity of the absence.

I am confused though when I try & understand how others now see me – middle aged women are generically invisible, so perhaps I am simply learning to see me as the world has seen me for  years, eyes have slid over me without seeing , hands have taken the proffered bank card & processed a transaction with no other notice paid of me, I have been ignored in so many places while the still visible younger women are petted, feted and made much of. Perhaps I am not the first woman to have become invisible, maybe all over the world other middle aged women are staring into mirrors and seeing nothing.

She, on the other hand, is most definitely here, a very large presence indeed and there has been a new development, and she has a voice. Until recently, she has become a more persistent but still silent companion, I find myself shrinking from her contact where once I actively reached out for her, where once I uncurled towards her to make our perfect twin circle, now I curl up, fearful of her intrusion into my own perfect shape of singlehood – I emulate that solo comma, the single embryo.

Her voice is a surprise to me, or perhaps she performs the function of a tape recorder, playing back a voice to the speaker, shocking us into asking “do I really sound like that?” – Her voice is insistent, with a whinny undertone and I have to admit, a terribly limited conversational range – “why did you leave me?” – “come back to me” – “it should have  been me” – it is rather like suffering from a ghostly form of tinnitus – mostly I am able to if not ignore her than to function with an on-going one voiced soundtrack – after all, these days everyone seems to be plugged into their own personal movie music, perhaps I am just more limited in my playlist options.

 

Technology has saved me, has masked the most obvious symptoms of my madness, my need to respond to her sometimes – to shout out “just shut up, you have no idea what it was like”, a decade or two ago, I would have been with the mad street shouters, but now, everyone it seems is conducting conversations with the invisible, I blend right in, although it has to be said that my voice is perhaps just a little too loud, a little too desperate, too needy to pass for everyday conversation.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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