[a short story, by Sha’Tara]
For those who know me, this needs no introduction. For those who don’t know me, I’m the recluse, the quiet one, the dreamer. I live on the edge of the worlds that have made a pretence of harbouring me, and I do not trust them. I trust nothing that pretends to be what it isn’t and if life has taught me anything, it’s that everything is pretence. Fake. Lies. Definitely not conducive to trust.
But now, imagine the opposite; that everything was trustworthy, safe, true, real. Can you imagine the extreme boredom of such a condition? Unthinkable to me. And this brings me to talk about Elizabeth, or Liza as she was then known.
Liza was a bit crazy. Some said it was because both her parents died in jail and that her adoptive parents should have gotten the same. I only knew the bits about her I got to know during our last two years of high school. We sat together sometimes during lunch and compared notes. We talked about boyfriends, well, as I remember she didn’t say all that much.
“C’mon Liza, who is he?” I pushed her once.
“Not that it’s anybody’s business, but he’s the invisible man. Much too old and sophisticated to be around here. He’s self assured, rich but not ostentatious. He can be funny at times. But I like him best when he’s being serious.”
“Oh! And the name of this paragon of manhood?”
“He doesn’t have a name. A name would spoil him, it, the scene, can’t you see that? An invisible man with a name? That would make him visible.”
“So who is it? Who?”
“He’s the invisible man. Why do you want to know more?”
“It’s natural curiosity, Liza. Maybe… maybe he doesn’t exist at all except in your mind, yes? Is that why you won’t tell me who he is? He’s a figment of your imagination?”
“Is that what you think? That I’m hallucinating a man? That I couldn’t get one any other way?” She got up, threw her lunch wastes in the garbage bin and walked away without turning her head, her pony tail swinging wildly as she walked out of the cafeteria.
That was the last time we talked. She avoided me after that and frankly I was relieved. That was too close for comfort. I’m a book person. Other peoples’ private lives might contain a certain aura of mental interest but not for very long. Boredom sets in. I prefer action romance to every day middle class lives of frustrated teens with bad sexual experiences or hearing about their parents’ failed lives. Jesus, listen to me. Seventeen and as jaded as an old spinster. “Oh Jane, you’ve got the brains, the marks, you can be whatever you want. A librarian? There’s no future in that, haven’t you heard of computers? By the time you’re thirty libraries will exist in the cloud and a book will be something you go see in a museum, or in someone’s collection. Really Jane, where’s the drive?” It was that line, or similar lines, that followed me through high school. But what better company can one have but books?
About a month after the cafeteria incident, Monday morning, I came in to an announcement for a general meeting for the entire school in the auditorium. Bother, I hate these things. Hired a new business manager? The grade eleven Physics teacher quit? The principal got an award for saving a few thousand dollars for the school by closing down the music department? New security measures to be taken? Whatever it is, it’s the last place I want to go to, but no choice, the hallways were blocked and we were all ushered into the auditorium.
We took seats and we waited, nervously, impatiently and noisily. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to be there. Finally our vice principal, Mr. Morgan, came on the stage and asked for silence. After some time the room quietened completely.
“Students of Eleanor Pringle High, I’m sad to announce that I have some bad news for you, for all of us. One of your classmates, fellow student, Elizabeth Raynor was found murdered in Sullivan park early this morning. This news was kept from the media until this announcement could be made. Counselling services for those close to Miss Raynor are available through the office. Any of you who wish to deal with this in your own way by taking the day off may do so. Normal classes to resume tomorrow morning. Again, the principal, myself and all the staff offer their sympathies for your loss, our loss.”
After dismissal I was accosted by Brian Lopez. “Hey Jane, you used to talk to Liza at lunch. Do you remember her talking about an invisible man?”
“Yeah, sure, why?”
“Did she ever describe him, like what he looked like, give you his name?”
“She wouldn’t talk about it, said he had to remain invisible.”
“That’s it, see? Yesterday around lunch time we met at the Subway in the mall. We sat together for a snack and talked. She was excited, said she was meeting her invisible man in the park that evening.”