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Carless- Day Nineteen -Waning Invisibility

It sounds silly, I suppose, but Washington DC turns out to be the loneliest place I’ve ever lived. I have spent weeks without running into anyone I know, my most significant social interactions being with grocery clerks and librarians; and those, just small talk. It’s a problem of scale, I think, too many people chasing way too many choices to ever coalesce a center of anything. Everyone zooming around in closed up cars, air conditioners roaring, or walking with their heads plugged into their iPod, iPhone, or Android alternate universes. Distracted drivers, distracted riders, and distracted walkers living deliberately invisible lives.

As a writer, I’m supposed to live a relatively invisible life. I’m observing all the time; collecting material, I tell myself, though this might be an excuse for not belonging. An introvert, definitely not a joiner, barely a face in the crowd.

When we moved here, I was afraid of public anonymity. I watched others wrap themselves in attitudes of invisibility and go about their business as if they were not packed tooth to jowl on a rattling Metro car. No eye contact. No apparent acknowledgement that others were even present, save the occasional “Sorry” or “Excuse me” when violating some equally invisible boundary. It was a dance I didn’t want to learn the steps to.

Now, though, I suppose I walk with equal impunity. I have my own business attracting me and my own alternate realities queued up on my own iPod. Some intractable tractor beam attracts the bulk of my attention, and I can be almost anywhere without being even partially present. I wonder sometimes where I am, where I’ve gone, and where in the Hell I think I’m headed to; but never more than sometimes.

Carlessness complicates maintaining my public invisibility. I suspect that real invisibility requires enough pattern to allow an autopilot to kick in, and carlessness has disrupted my habits enough that I’m feeling more visible.

Nobody else was walking through that sidewalk-less neighborhood I visited today, and some of the neighbors noticed this sweating, grey-haired man heading somewhere. They might have even wondered why I walked with such determination, then stopped in front of that empty colonial, stepped to the backend of the drive, and looked over the empty back yard. Or maybe they concluded that I was a prospective neighbor, prospecting.

I slipped off the street onto a trail through a green sward for my return trip, trying to see what living there might mean, temporarily invisible again. I was awake and present, and also wondering what trance might overtake me should we relocate into this much more visible space.

I showered off the experience when I returned to our now temporary home, a place of waning invisibility, with nothing but the memory of a now invisible car parked in an otherwise empty driveway to remind me how it had become before.

©2012 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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