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One of childhood’s greatest philosophies is rooted in the belief that â€˜if I cannot see you, you cannot see me.’ Upon reaching a certain age, or having realized this all along, you realize that what you do not see, can in fact, be seen by others. No matter how many blankets and guises you can hide underneath -- you can still be seen. Simply by hiding under the covers does not pull the wool over the world’s eyes.
But he never invested in that realization. He discovered for himself that the childhood belief did hold true. It was all a matter of perception. And whom you wanted to remain invisible from.
If…when he pulled a blind eye no one was the wiser.
It was a highly useful power he had: finely tuned over the years. He no longer had to pull the covers over his head in order to become invisible. He did not wish to be seen, so he wasn’t. You might be standing in line, and not give one thought to the boy mere inches behind you in line, have no awareness, â€˜cept for that most basic, primal instinct that rose the hairs on the back of your neck that told you there was someone near you hadn’t noticed: that instinct that you had learned to ignore over the years.
It went beyond human physiology, it was a skill not quite so natural, yet it wasn’t like a Harry-Potter magic that the world would find so distinctly magical and peculiar.
Ignorance is bliss. But it wasn’t quite ignorance that had him wrapped in a proverbial blanket. He knew what was going on around him most of the time, it was cliché but he knew his surroundings like the back of his hand, down to every crack (wrinkle, and line).
Waiting in line at the intimate coffee shop, he didn’t observe his surroundings. He already had them memorized by heart, sitting in a leather couch late one night. There were 9 vintage posters depicting the best brands of coffee throughout the ages on mint green, beige and chocolate brown walls. The espresso machines were directly behind the counter, ensuring for a quick order for the shops’ patrons.
The girl in front of him glanced over her shoulder; she knew that someone was in close proximately. She could nearly feel a breath down her neck. Yet her peripheral vision denied the existence of anyone directly behind her. She went back to her toe-tapping, impatient for a rush of caffeine into her system. But, as a few minutes passed, the hairs on the back of her neck remained raised. Her neck craned further back, barely enough distance for it to be considered fully turning.
No one was there.
He was entertained by the girl in front of him. This was a daily occurrence, always with a different person. This was so much better than MTV, or any reality series they â€˜concocted’ (Honestly, they all contain the same idiotic slap-stick-plot, trashy blondes and testosterone filled, emotional guys anyway.) Seeing someone frustrated by their own confusion, when the answer was quite obviously in front (or behind) of them, always made him feel a slight rush of mirth: infinitely better than the caffeine than the girl in front of him, with bags under her eye, and ink stains on her fingers, so desperately needed.
The minutes passed quickly, and he was able to order his coffee. The girl had ordered hers black and the lyrics of a song he had heard once that had stuck with him played in his mind like an automatic record player.
Black coffee and a hint of nicotine…
The teen who he had ordered from was near his age: a year or two younger. The boy never saw the bony hands grasp the warm coffee and hand him exact change. He barely registered saying, “Have a good day,” and hearing a response in return.
The bitter taste of coffee touched his tongue, and he smiled. He could feel the Styrofoam against his lips and thought of the oddity of the texture. It felt smooth against skin, yet upon closer observation one could see fissures all throughout the material.
Styrofoam was deceiving. He could relate. After all, how many people deliberately hid from the world (hid wasn’t quite appropriate, but it was the best word he could come up with), even when there was nothing wrong that they were hiding from? He created a whole new meaning for misunderstood. No one barely ever saw him, he gave no one a chance to comprehend a perception of him.
He made sure of it.
He hid: yet he didn’t.
Out on the sidewalks, he inhaled the brisk air that burned his lungs, and he relished it. It was a Sunday, in the middle of a New England autumn. He had heard the weatherman describe the current weather as â€˜frigid,’ yet he didn’t feel the need to deem it as such; frigid had such a negative connotation; he delighted in the gooseflesh that rose on his neck, the one place his denim jacket didn’t reach.
Walking around for a good quarter of an hour, he found himself at his frequented music store. He could have lost himself within it all day -- perusing the brand-new and used c.d.’s: picking up the one with the most interesting artist names or the most interesting cover art, scanning it in, and listening to the album’s samples. He had found some quite interesting music that way.
He didn’t need to be invisible here, so he wasn’t. One of the employee’s approached him, asking if he needed any help finding anything, to which his reply was “No, I’m good, thanks.”
Coming out of the store, he didn’t need to look up to see that the street he walked out on was lined by brick after brick building. Awnings were rare, but a few did exist. He could see in his minds eye the homeless men that congregated on their street corners, determined to panhandle strangers and endanger themselves by weaving in and out of traffic. As he walked, his eyes, familiarly, grew out of focus; he could see, (he was never really able to quite describe, even to himself, just how), yet he couldn’t
He had tried researching his handy little trick online, yet after pouring over the windows on the screen for hours, it seemed as if the only thing he was able to see was a glaring green light for hours afterwards. He had never stayed on the computer for longer than an hour after than day.
When the infallible World Wide Web failed him, he turned to the dusty library where only vague mentionings in obscure mythology mentioned a brief paragraph or two of something that may or may not have happened.
All in all, he had no information on why no one had to see him if he didn’t want them too. All he knew was that if he didn’t look, no one had to know about him; it had come in handy on several occasions.
He had been staring off into the sky on playground equipment in winter, when he was clinically diagnosed as â€˜pre-teen:’ he had turned his head, at one point to find a boy, older than himself, bent over with a bloody nose. He had not heard the grunts as fists flew out from the teenaged boys from the nearest high school, nor the sharp intake of breath as a nose was broken.
Unsure of what had happened, he turned his head back to the sky, letting his hair fall over the edge of the carousel, and let his mind simply absorb the sky.
He had fine-tuned the skill over the years, learning to let everything simply absorb within his mind, never fully following the details of his surroundings with his eyes. It was never that he wasn’t aware, either. He would sit, anyplace he felt like, when it was isolated, and studied I down to its very last detail. He had a knack for memorizing details, and his mind refused to let go of them. He would have had it made, he thought, would he ever be blind.
Had he been aware, he could have seen a bullied childhood complete with heads in lockers, and more than rough, roughhousing. He could see it as clearly as whatever he choose to see whatever was directly in front of his face. But he hadn’t, and he wasn’t bothered.
He was fully aware of the places that surrounded him, just not its inhabitants -- he never felt the necessity to get close enough to people to even notice them. Strangers blurred into one cohesive group: a blotch of color against drab, gray sidewalks and buildings. The noises that they made blended into one sound, neither distinct, nor distant. It was like a quiet, giant hum; a muffled radio: one could ever discern the exact sounds it made, but it was always there.
It let him be alone with his thoughts, he could muse all he wanted, think whatever he wanted without being eagerly distracted. He felt more productive, more self-independent than the other teens his age who seemed so easily confused at the smallest detail of self-discovery.
He passed by the clichéd, darkened alleyway, the one that he never paid much attention to, though on occasion he had come down to study the cracked bricks, decaying, and crumbling with age right before his eyes. It was apropos for a metaphor for time, he felt, the way the bricks seemed to crumble quite blatantly, the way the dirt flew into your eyes with the slightest gust of wind; it was all gone in a brief moment.
The alleyway lacked a distinct smell despite the garbage bins, empty paint cans, scurrying rats and unrecognizable pests. The artifacts had been there for as long as he could remember, back even when his mother had to hold her hand while they crossed the traffic-ridden street to go drop him off at grade school.
A loud crash disturbed the wool that had grown over his eyes as he walked. Startled, for one the very few times in his life, he focused on the depths of the alleyway.
He saw nothing.
Throughout his life, he could see every detail when he chose to concentrate; yet for the first time in his life, that he could remember, he lacked the sight of whatever had caused the noise.
A clanging reached his ears. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Percussionists, their equipment, aerial, spherical speakers, and soundboards included, currently resided in his ears. He knew that the noise wasn’t just in his mind; he knew that he was hearing it from the alleyway. Yet, as he looked around, no one was frozen to the spot, no one wondering what in the world the clamor was that was coming from the alleyway.
Glancing around the surrounding streets, he slowly stepped into the alleyway, looking left and right each time before he took slow, delicate steps.
He never really cared for his appearance, he liked how he looked, and was quite fine with that mindset; he saw no wrong to it; he never really got how girls could obsess on appearance for hours at a time, most especially his sister. However, this became the first time that he wished his appearance were different. He longed for shorter legs, as if sensed by a sense in his legs, was a sense of foreboding, one that wouldn’t seem to leave the limbs. Shorter legs would allow for shorter steps -- prolonging the time until he would reach the center of the alleyway.
And as he reached the middle of the alleyway his lungs locked -- allowing neither breath to escape his lips and nostrils nor mouth.
He saw them. And them saw he. Even if he had been discreet, even if they had been able to not see him -- he would have been seen. He sees them, so they are able to see him as well.
He had felt the wool around his eye crumble right in front of him, and he was left with decaying calico, which, unlike cotton was coarse -- he was not used to seeing with a different perspective, and it had left him slightly woozy, it had confounded his usually perceptive brain, leaving him with thoughts sanded, and fuzzy around the edges.
Aaron never should have walked into that alley.
Skeletons hung out of windows from the buildings they lived in -- talking to each other: dirty, defiled, dripping and oozing with filth. Elbows so sharp that they seemed to poke through skin: they should have. Their eyes were set into their head: flat, and lifeless. Rags of clothing could not even have been called clothing, nor tatters, nor scraps. There were no vestiges of coloring to the less-than-scraps. Shadows didn’t allude to any colors, or differences in shades of black, and gray.
Their skin was ghostly pale -- they had never seen light. It was nearly translucent, pallid and sagging off the skin. Where joint met, the skin was stretched too thin -- elbows, ankles, spines, wrists, hipbones, and knees threatened to thrust through the skin at any moment.
They turned their eyes toward him, all in unison. Like owls, their eyes were unnaturally wide, their necks craned too far to be humanly possible. They stared at him, absorbing him, taking him in with their non-seeing eyes.
They were slightly clear, opaque, like the eyes of his grandmother; diagnosed with glaucoma. And just like his grandmother…they scared the living sh** out of him. He had only seen his grandmother once, at the nursing home. After he had seen her, he ran, hiding in the first closet he could find where he spent his time with songs in his head.
He didn’t know how he knew this -- but he had the sudden thought that they couldn’t see. Their eyes were unfocused; yet saw right through him, not through him…into him.
They were not a part of his grounded reality…they couldn’t be, and he felt pure, unadulterated fear for the fist time.
It was a raw fear and it grated against every nerve, charging along every neuron, sending the fear along to every receptor, until every inch of his body, internal and external was so very aware of this new acute fear, that even the surrounding air seemed charged with fear.
And he could hear that pulsing, pounding, drumming again. This time, it was only the bass drum of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra that resided in his head: a slow pulse, deep within his head. He closed his eyes and turned away, not caring that in every T.V. show they would have come after him. The pounding remained, and the eyes still bore into him. He could still see the skeletons, hanging out of the decaying buildings.
He was hit with a sudden sense of longing. Where was the finely tuned skill he had developed throughout the years? He had never needed it with the desperation he was feeling now, simply liked how simplistic the world turned out to be with it. Right now, he needed it. He did not like the holes that he could now see through.
Concentrating, he pulled the blanket up over his head, and when he opened his eyes, again…
He was blind.
As he walked home, he did not care, only cared that he was no longer seeing skeletons and no longer hearing the pounding drums. The skeletons went clear from his thoughts and the vestiges of fear that once resided there left no remaining traces. The edges of his mind were left sharpened once more, and he could think clearer than ever.
He walked home, with defined steps, determining that his theory that he would have it made, blind, proved right. He didn’t need to see with his eyes where he was headed, his mind’s eye already knew.
After he got home he was subjected to every medical test his doctors could subject him to.
The diagnosis was left undetermined.
Aaron was happier than he had been in a while. The blanket remained firmly over eyes, more snug than he could ever remember it being. He loved it. Though the blanket, when he could see, never required much concentration, it needed none whatsoever now. Should he have wanted others to notice him -- that was the only time when he had to concentrate -- it was like tuning a new skill, he enjoyed the challenge, and the thrill of it. But best of all… he did not need to see.
All he needed was the calm reassurance of being blind, and the thoughts of a reflection gone from his mind.
Cornish, New Hampshire
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"They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night."
~ Edgar Allen Poe
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Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...