Picture this: younger me in a comfy, overstuffed chair, reading a book, and taking furious notes to prepare for class. Suddenly, the lights dim and the rear end of someone else descends rapidly in my direction. I squeak out in protest and surprise. They jump up and glare down at me in disgust, and I apologize as if I were the one that had gotten in the way. This was college for me. Nearly five years of being sat on in the coffee shop as I did homework. This has been my life. Nearly 29 years of being run over by the vertically gifted.
Sidewalks are places for most people to walk, but for me they are a gauntlet. When I was quite young, I learned what it was like to be invisible to the tall. It started in the hallways of my school in about third grade when most kids started growing and I stayed the same size as your average kindergartner. At that tender age, it became necessary for me to learn to navigate crowds with silent precision so as to avoid bodily injury and losing whatever I was carrying to the pavement. When I was smaller, this need to take extra care was an irritation at best and often felt like a burden. As I grew to become every so slightly less small, I realized it was a gift.
My life is still full of bumps and bruises in crowds (crowds are not the short person’s friend); however, those marks are a fair price to pay for the benefits I reap. In offices I am able to move about unnoticed by bosses. In bars I have the uncanny ability to enjoy a drink in peace and waltz across the floor without being stopped by unwelcome suitors. I watch friends struggle with being noticed more than they would like, and I happily slip through life unbothered by a large chunk of the population.
There was a time that I wished for a few extra inches, a little more lift, something to bring me into the eyesight of others. Those days have mostly passed. I have learned to relish the anonymity that invisibility brings. I have come to cherish my place in the periphery.
Bladder of Steel
It became apparent to my parents when I was very, very young that they had birthed a mutant. I was different than most kids in a way that caused many a nervous trip in the car. I could go an extremely long time without having to take a bathroom break.
Now, this may not sound that interesting, but I can assure you that I’m a medical marvel. I’ve not only shocked friends, but doctors as well. You see, I can drink a normal amount of fluid and still drive from Boise, Idaho to Los Angeles, California without stopping to pee.
The practicality of this superpower could be called into question, until you realize that public restrooms are disgusting places, and I rarely have to make the choice to use them. This means that I’m exposed to less filth, fewer moments of shear, confounding puzzlement over how someone managed to urinate on every square inch of a bathroom stall, and less feeling like I need to wash every square inch of my body after stopping at a rest stop along a freeway in the middle of nowhere.
Some people are born with an extra bit of strength, or a tinge more intelligence than the rest of society, but I was born with the ability to travel cleanly and without hindrance. It’s a little thing, to be sure, but it has served me well. Truth be told, if it were possible for it to be stolen, I would fight to the death to keep it!
Not existing is different than being invisible. When you’re invisible, people don’t notice your presence. When you don’t exist, you’re not there to be ignored. I suppose that saying I’m completely nonexistent would be the opposite of factual. It is more that my existence seems to be easily forgotten. Someone can meet me one day, and then have to meet me again the next. This has been known to occur every week for years on end. Basically, I live in a shadow realm.
Anonymity is something that many people seek and cannot find. It is something that I have by default. This gives me the ability to reinvent myself multiple times without it feeling like a disruption in who I actually am. I can be someone else without feeling fake, because the person in front of me doesn’t remember me any other way.
Sometimes meeting the same people over and over again can be frustrating. When I remember their name and in turn see the blank look on their face when they don’t recall me at all, and then I must make the decision whether I pretend to also not recall them, or to say something about how we have been previously acquainted. It is awkward at best, and can cause a slight pause in introductions, but ultimately, it is only a minor disturbance.
It can be strange not knowing how to respond to the realization that I’ve once again ceased to exist to someone, that I’ve been completely wiped from all of their memories. However, I strive to hold onto the positive. It is true that the person in front of me cannot bring to mind that evening we spent laughing with friends in a bar together, but they also cannot recall the drink I knocked over, or the embarrassing, snorty, squeaky laugh I get when I find something truly hilarious. When I’m having an off day, and I’m not feeling particularly chatty, that can all be erased, and I can reintroduce myself as someone who actually knows words.
Ultimately, I find this quirk in my genes to be a triumph of nature. It’s a built in cloaking device that not only hides me from the outside, but also erases any trace of me that could have been left behind in my wake.