The Invisible

First there were mindsets. Then there were constructs. Then archtypes. But, let me tell you, it’s all bullshit. The only thing that worked was the invisible.

Until now.

* * *

Annie stares in my direction. She pauses as I wave my arms. My throat is raw from calling her name. But she doesn’t see me.

* * *

Years ago, I thought I was being clever. I’d had it with all the soul searching and the psychological fence mending. I was an adult but still carried the baggage of my less than optimal childhood. My parents were flawed. My siblings were flawed. Hell, my first marriage was flawed. Because I was flawed. All the pain I’d suffered, all the unfairness I’d suppressed, all the rage I felt on a daily basis simmering just below the surface—all those dings and dents to my psyche were enough to put me on the scrap heap for life.

But I wanted to change. I knew I could change. But I just didn’t know where to start.

Then one day, driving to work, I glanced over at the empty passenger seat and thought: What if there was another me—an empty me—that I could give all this shit to? Just hand it over like an errant child to social services? Just say: Here—take it. I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to have to deal with it. Every piece of sadness, every burning ember of rage, every suicidal thought—here—now it’s yours.

And it worked. It took it. The invisible. That’s what I called it. I felt freed. I felt invigorated. I felt emboldened. Whatever was still feeding the old me, I removed from my life. Bad habits. Dark thoughts. Toxic relationships. I gave it all to the invisible.

Needless to say, my life changed. Divorce. A new place to live. A new way to be. Without anxiety, without fear. I had reached a point where the possibility for happiness was not just a concept for ridicule and sarcasm, it was a very real thing. I was alone, yes, but was I really? I had the invisible. It was there whenever I fell back into my old ways. To take away the second thoughts. To stop me before I spiraled. It was a process, but one that kept me moving toward that elusive of all destinations: a happier me.

* * *

Annie looks confused. There’s a weight in the air that shouldn’t be there. But I can’t warn her what’s about to happen. They begin the conversation.

* * *

Annie. She saved me. She saved me from myself. When she came into my life, it was as if we already knew each other. It was one of those magical alignments that don’t come along often, but when they do, it’s like a slap across the face from the cosmos. As if it’s saying: Here—I did all the heavy lifting. Here’s your opportunity. Now, don’t screw it up!

Lucky for Annie and I, we didn’t. We both saw it. We both saw each other the way two old friends see each other from across the room.

I can’t tell you how that felt. It was as if I came alive in that very instant. Everything I thought didn’t matter suddenly did. Everything I thought was just made up bullshit, was very, very real. Love was real. Beauty, grace, hope—all of it real. Life was indeed good.

* * *

The lights flicker. The flowers in the vase on the table shudder from an unseen draft. I try to get through to Annie, but the moment holds her captive. She must sense something bad is about to happen. Her life is about to change.

* * *

It was a whirlwind romance, a magical few years, and then the invisible returned. It missed me. It missed our exchanges.

I knew something was up when, this morning, I was driving to work and the safety belt warning alarm went off. Please fasten the passenger-side safety belt. But there was no one in that seat. No reason for the car to believe there was someone sitting there without their seatbelt on. And then I felt it. A darkness. A slowly opening pit of foreboding and unease that sucked at my psyche like a sinkhole, pulling me from one reality into another.

The invisible. It was back. It was letting me know it was time to pay up.

I had given it too much. I had filled the pit and made it whole, and like a vacuum satisfying the laws of physics, I was now the one sitting in the passenger seat.

* * *

Annie’s hands are shaking, she’s fighting back tears. She doesn’t understand. I’ve just told her this isn’t working anymore, that I need to leave. This me that isn’t me. The one who has taken my place.

She gets up and walks over to me. She slaps me across the face. She tells me to get out. Get out of her life and never come back. I do. That me that isn’t me. He leaves, taking my future with him.

Annie sits back down. The tears come. She’s crushed, as if all the world has suddenly fallen in upon her. I can feel her heart breaking bit by bit. I sit in the chair next to her and try to console her. But my arms wash right through her. I’m desperate. I want so badly for her pain to go away.

I whisper in her ear. “Give it to me. Let me take it. All of it.”

Her sobbing stops. She turns to me. It’s as if she can see me. And I begin to feel it. My emptiness begins to fill. So much pain, so much hurt, so much anger. I take it all.

And I will continue to take it, until she no longer needs me. Then it will be my turn to give back.


FFO: What’s the most difficult part of writing a flash piece?

KN: Trying to keep the story from drifting away from its center. The trick is to find that anchor and write only what relates to that anchor. In a way, it’s writing from the outside in. A flash piece can borrow from the past, and hint at the future, but it must remain in the moment in order to be successful. Open too many windows and the reader is looking this way and that. Close those windows and the reader is forced to focus only on what’s in front of them.

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