Now You See Me; Now You Don’t
By: Mary Fran Bontempo
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Today I heard the four most beautiful words in the English language.

Tossed casually in my direction by a complete stranger, they nonetheless instantly soothed my spirit, affirming that there is, indeed, hope for the human race.

“Be right with you,” the pharmacist said.

I hadn’t been standing at the counter for more than a minute, but it was long enough for that familiar sinking feeling to grab hold of my psyche. Oh no, I thought, I must have become invisible again.

Apparently, my talent for donning the cloak of invisibility is one of the superhero powers I haven’t quite mastered. It strikes at will, and at first, I assumed, randomly. Only after careful scrutiny did I realize that the power to turn invisible surfaces at a very specific time, namely, whenever I’m standing in a store, at a sales counter, waiting to make a purchase.

Perhaps you’ve found yourself similarly afflicted. You arrive at a store, fully intent on purchasing merchandise. Once you’ve selected the items you want to buy, you march to the register, only to find that despite the items in your hands, which include a credit card or cold, hard cash, the salesperson cannot see you.

You can see the cashier. In fact, you’re close enough to reach out and give her a hug, only that’s weird. But I’ve contemplated it, given the fact that try as I might—by plopping my merchandise on the counter, coughing, clearing my throat, tapping my fingers, sighing, standing on my head, holding my breath until my face turns blue—I simply cannot make myself visible. (Truthfully, in lieu of a hug, I’ve thought about a throttling, but that’s not only weird, it’s illegal.)

My super power turns itself off at will also. How else to explain that, although I’ve been standing right in front of her for ten whole minutes with nary a glance in my direction, the clerk finally turns to face me, makes eye contact, slaps on a fake smile and murmurs, “Can I help you?” with no apparent alteration in the preceding circumstances? Suddenly, I’m there, front and center. She sees me, I think, absurdly grateful for being noticed.

Whenever this happens, I’m back in gym class, the last kid chosen to play on any team because everyone knows the only thing I’m really good at is schoolwork. No one ever saw me unless they needed answers to homework. The only difference? In gym class I kind of wanted to be invisible.

But now, as a big girl praying desperately to be noticed so I can get on with my life, I once again stand there watching the person who can set me free studiously ignore me until she’s ready to admit me into her world. She knows she holds all the cards; if I bolt with the goods, she can have me arrested—the ultimate power play. If I squawk, I’m the rude customer; she knows that, too.

I’m not asking everyone to drop everything when I arrive. Just a little acknowledgement. You don’t even have to speak; simply hold up your index finger and nod. I’ll understand and you’ll have my eternal gratitude.

It doesn’t happen. I cool my heels, muttering over and over again, “Pick me! Pick me!” and waiting for the cloak of invisibility to drop.

Until today, when the pharmacist said the magic words, “Be right with you.” I’m sure she had no idea, but she just picked the geek for a game of volleyball. And boy, did it feel good.

When’s the last time you were “invisible”? Click “comments” below, and share!