“I am putting the money on the counter. The woman should be by with the Dylan tickets soon.” She stopped at the door and looked back at her husband. He was frozen in front of their high definition television eyes focused on the screen. Had he heard her? He hadn’t heard anything she had said about the Internet being down. What was she doing wrong? Why didn’t people see her? Hear her? When had she become invisible? It had been a difficult week. It had begun with the Building and Construction Trades Legislative Conference. Hours and hours of standing in a 10×10 foot booth in front of PowerPoint presentations about fiduciary liability insurance – union liability insurance – our team – employee benefits – insurance company insolvency. She alternated the presentations. She had spent hours preparing them but no one paid them any attention. They were invisible. Just like she was. The men walked by her booth and picked up the candy and pens that were spread out on the table. They were big men – white men. If a Martian landed at the Washington Hilton during the Building and Construction Trades Legislative Conference they would think that all earthlings were white males over 6 feet tall with beer guts and ugly neckties. “What are these for?” they asked pointing at the red white and blue pill holders that were scattered on her table with the candy and the pens and the unread literature. “They are pill cases – or contact lens cases – or hearing aid cases – or they could hold your flyfishing nibs.” She felt like a trinket salesman instead of an insurance agent – and she felt invisible. She forced herself to laughed at the hackneyed jokes about Viagra and showed them how to open the little cases imprinted with “The McLaughlin Company Insurance Since 1929” She was introduced to other vendors – insureds – prospects – many of whom she had met before some several times. None of them remembered her. She felt invisible. The nametag didn’t help. “Brenda Mantz – Exhibitor”. She went over to the button man across the aisle and bought a pin that read “Brenda Mantz supports John Kerry” and pinned it to her shirt and she still felt invisible. She didn’t like the way she was dressed. On Friday they had all agreed to wear the “uniform” – the golf shirt with the company logo and black pants. She was the only one that had remembered to wear the “uniform”. She was logo’ed from head to foot. She felt like a McLaughlin Company action wear doll. She was even carrying a McLaughlin Company umbrella. The others said they hadn’t heard discussion about the uniform. Just like her husband hadn’t heard her mention the lady that was dropping off the Dylan tickets or the fact that the Internet was out. Maybe she really was becoming invisible. She had first experienced invisibility in the Safeway. People would push their carts right in her path like she wasn’t there. When did she become invisible? It often occurred on the subway platform and in the line at the NEA cafeteria. She hadn’t always been invisible. She was sure of that. She remembered in her 20’s and 30’s she had been perfectly visible. She began fading in her 40’s and by 50 irreversible invisibility had set in. Now she was becoming inaudible. Invisible and inaudible. Soon her scent would go and not even her dog would know she was there. The next morning she had to remind her husband to drop her off at the corner of 17th and L Street. He had forgotten she was in the car. She walked up 17th toward her office. Several people bumped into her as though she wasn’t there. She said good morning to Maria who was polishing the brass in the lobby just like she did every morning but Maria acted as though she didn’t hear her. She stepped into the elevator and pushed her floor but the button didn’t light up. She tried again. Nothing. Two of her co-workers got on the elevator. They pushed seven. It lit up and the door closed. They kept talking to each other as though she wasn’t there. It had finally happened. She was totally invisible. She sat down on the floor of the elevator and began to cry. No one noticed. She rode up and down for several hours. No one noticed. She wasn’t there.
The Woman Who Wasn’t There