Amber Alert


You don’t know me. I live in the house next door.  I’m the one who never turns the music on too loud. You like that, but it’s one of those things you don’t notice.  Like your heart.  You don’t notice your heart until it malfunctions, until it seizes up trying to find the next beat, shoots pain through your body like an electric current.  Or until it breaks.  You notice your heart when it breaks.

You don’t know me because I am invisible. I look like everyone else who is invisible. Not like the homeless woman who sleeps under the tarp out back of the local church.  She’s not invisible.  She’s homeless.  You see her and look away. She makes you uncomfortable.  She makes you wonder how it feels to sleep on a sidewalk under a tarp in the February snow.  Or else she makes you frantic, eager to fill your mind with other thoughts (like your to-do list, your meeting tomorrow, your kid’s soccer game on Saturday).

Either way, looking at her, or looking away, you see her, the homeless woman.  She’s not invisible.

But I’m not out there on the street.  Invisible people live in houses and apartment buildings.  We have beds and refrigerators and windows with blinds on them.  We have mailboxes close enough to yours that every now and then you get our mail by mistake. Flipping through your stack, you come to an electric bill for me and what registers for you is not my name, but only how the letters don’t arrange themselves into yours.

You don’t know me.  You don’t know that my car’s in the shop so I’ve been walking.  You pass me every morning on your way to get your morning coffee.

I wanted to tell you about my car.  Because we’re neighbors, and because it turns out I don’t really mind walking -- when the weather isn't too hot or too cold -- so I’m thinking I’ll do it even after my car gets fixed.  I think you’d like that.  You seem like someone who cares about the planet.

You’d say, "Wow, that’s great," and you’d mean it.  Maybe we’d hug. People hug a lot now.  I like it when that happens, spontaneous public affection.  But when you’re invisible, certain things are hard, like saying, "Hey, I’m your neighbor," to the person in front of you at grocery store. 

You don’t know me. I live in the house next door.  I walk quietly, read, eat, listen to the television quietly.  Every now and then, I feel an urge to break the quiet wide open. Turn up the music impossibly loud, dance, stomp, cry, scream.  I imagine you next door.  Surprised.  Suddenly aware of your neighbor.

"What the heck?" you’d say, and maybe you’d knock on the door, but I wouldn’t hear it because I’m doing so much banging, splashing through my house that’s filling up with my tears and the words I never say, and me.  Me.

And when the water started to leak through the front door, you’d pound on my door to be heard.  I’d open the door and you’d start to speak, "What the?" but the words would get stuck in your throat because there’d I’d be, breathless, hoarse, wet, reborn.

You’d recognize me.  You’d see me.  You’d know me then.

Originally published in Making Me (magazine).

1 cherished words:

Kelley said...

Powerful and painfully beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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