map Invisible

by Susanne Stanmeyer

Published in Issue No. 201 ~ February, 2014

Artwork by Akiko Nishiguchi (Japan)


She watches the movie wrapped in a brown afghan made by a repressed old Baptist woman. The movie is about the end of the world.

Denim groans against the leather love seat as a man joins the girl in the afghan. She shifts away from the man so quickly that he doesn’t notice.

But I do.

Sitting in the shadows, I try to watch the movie.

The man says the girl looks tense.

It’s because of you, I think. But I don’t say it out loud because I understand that I am supposed to be invisible.

The girl shrugs. I guess I am. The movie is kinda intense.

You want some gum, he asks offering her a piece of Trident.

She shrugs again. Sure, I guess.

If you sit on the floor, I’ll rub your shoulders, he says.

Happy voices float up to the loft where there are two plus one. A balloon floats up and then down. Up and then down. Over and over. There is laughter. And pizza.

I’m hungry. If I were really invisible, I could get up and leave and they wouldn’t know that I had been here. But I’m not really invisible, just forgotten.

He has trapped me too.

He should leave her alone but he doesn’t.

Why don’t you sit on the floor, he says to her again. She slides off the couch, still facing the TV.

You have beautiful hair, he says to her.

I do not have beautiful hair, I say to myself.

The girl laughs and tosses her hair flirtatiously. Encouraged, the man says, you have beautiful eyes too. Are they green?

Yes, she says. Green like a cat.

I have blue eyes. My eyes are nicer. And I burn with anger toward her and toward the man. The anger confuses me.

He brushes her long wavy hair away from the nape of her neck and blows softly.

She giggles. That gave me chills, she says.

Did you forget, I would like to say to her, three minutes ago you wanted to get away from him? Now, she flirts.

The girl is drunk on the power of her new body. I envy her drunkenness and that power. I do not have it.

I push myself further into the chair.

I hear you want to be a model, he says.

Yup, she says.

He leans down and kisses the back of her neck. She and I both stop breathing. She is entranced. I am horrified.

That wasn’t supposed to happen. He can’t be her boyfriend. If he kisses her, he’s her boyfriend. He is supposed to be safe. Can he do that? Can he kiss her? Why is he kissing her and not me?

There is a scream and a crash downstairs.

Pastor Dave, someone yells.

Damnit, I hear him mutter.

Don’t go away, he says and winks at her.

I won’t, she says playfully hugging her knees to her chest. She looks like a little girl. Because she is. She sighs happily.

When they arrest him, she’ll go to court as a witness. Even though I was the witness, not her. I will not be a part of it, even though I was, because my part was the shadow on the wall.

After Dave leaves, I stand up and let my blanket fall to the floor. She doesn’t look up. She doesn’t even move. The movie is still on but I can’t follow it anymore.

Bye, I say.

She doesn’t say anything. She stares at her knees and wishes she hadn’t forgotten that I was there in the loft. Ashamed.

I am ashamed too.

So is Dave when he sees me come down the stairs.

I wade through the people at the party. Dave is sweeping up the remains of a white glass vase. No one says anything to me. They are animated and drinking Coke and eating pepperoni pizza and batting around a new balloon. No one wiser except for her and him and accidentally, me.

Putting on my coat, I leave. It feels like the lead apron they put on at the dentist before my teeth are x-rayed. I take it off. It’s 20 degrees outside, but it feels better to be cold than carry any more weight on my shoulders.

I wonder what he has made me.

Voyeur? Conspirator? Hater? Paralyzed? Helpless?

It’s worse for her. She is –

Slut. Pregnant. Not pregnant. Suicidal. Dead.

But for him, nothing changes. Neither of us leave a mark, not the girl and certainly not the shadow.

The old woman who made the afghan, I reconsider her heart. Maybe she was protective, not repressed. Whoever she was, I wish the old woman had been there. She would have taken the afghan from the girl and ordered us home to our mothers.

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P.D. Carter is a short story author and novelist and has been waiting for years for the publication fairy to find her work and publish it. Recently her husband broke the news that the publication fairy isn’t real and she began the stressful, surreal process of submitting her work herself.