It is always hard to admit a strong desire to be the center of attention. Here it comes: I do have this desire but it is mixed with total dread to screw things up just before this attention is granted to me. If I am in the middle of somebody’s attention, then everything is perfect, at least from my point of view, and falls into place. I seem to feel what people need, again from my point of view, in that moment and I start to bloom. It seems that when I have attention of others, I start paying attention to my well-being as well. Outside of this in-center-state I feel lost.
Recently, a very strange thing happened that made it impossible for me not to screw things up. I became invisible.
“Wait a minute!” I hear you say, “How can you screw things up when you are invisible? You just do whatever you want, dress or undress as you like and nobody sees you!”
Well, my answer to you is: you don’t know what you are talking about! You can’t do anything you want, at least with some types of invisibility, you can’t. I suppose there are many kinds of invisibility. In my case, I was not seen, but people still could hear me.
And my troubles had their origin in the fact that I didn’t know that I was suddenly invisible.
I was on a business travel to an international meeting in Paris of a working group I am member of. On that day, despite my usual habits, I didn’t go for breakfast. Somehow I wasn’t hungry. Instead I had a cookie in my room, brushed my teeth, made myself pretty, as my son says when I’m putting my make up on, collected my laptop bag and purse and headed to the meeting room. There were several people in the room when I entered.
“Good morning!” I greeted cheerfully. Peter, Paolo and Ian looked towards my direction, then to the seat at the other end of the room, where Katherine was sitting deeply immerged into her laptop.
“Why? Hello again, Catarina! I will never grow tired to greet a bootiful woman!” exclaimed our constantly joking Paolo with his wonderfully rolling “r” and exaggerated emphasis of the vowels, so typical to small quirky Italian men, especially when they pronounce colorful compliments.
Katherine looked up from her computer, threw back massive waves of her dark brown hair, elevated her sparkling lids covered with silvery eye-shadows, which ended with long, thick lashes revealing her light blue, almost crystal eyes, and said to no one in particular: “I didn’t say anything”, and turned back to whatever she was doing.
The three men looked at each other quizzically, shrugged almost simultaneously and turned to their screens. They didn’t seem to worry until I have let my laptop bag fall. They jumped in their chairs, looked at the bright purple trolley with such a strange expression on their faces, which made my stomach tighten. My body seemed to start to realize before my brain that something was askew.
I grabbed my bag and something changed in their faces again.
“Wasn’t that Victoria’s bag?” asked Peter, “Where did it go?”
“I also thought, I saw it”, said Ian incredulously.
“And what was that bang sound?” asked Paolo pronouncing this as “bung zaaoonde”.
I tried to go as quietly as possible to a chair at the wall behind me and sat there down to take a deep breath and watch what happens next. I realized that they couldn’t see me. This was confirmed when the others from our group started filling the room. One trolley rolled through my feet before I could pull them aside. Similar thing happened with feet, hands and legs of the others. I didn’t seem to be any kind of barrier to the others. I was horrified: “I am not only invisible, but I am also like air for the others.” How could that be? I was frantically thinking trying to analyze and grasp what was happening. Then half consciously, I pulled my hand off the trolley.
Always alert Paolo exclaimed: “There it is again! The trolley!” Peter and Ian looked up and even Katherine, who was always immersed into her laptop, smart phone or tablet, unless she was presenting something, has shown some interest by revealing her sparkling eyes. I always envied her for these sparkles and was glad that she was hiding them most of the time.
Drawing my own thoughts to my current physical situation and away from my emotions with all my might, I started analyzing the whole thing step-by-step. So, because of some unknown to me reason I was invisible or rather transparent or just air and everything I touched became transparent as well. But this effect was only to the others. I could see everything well.
But these observations didn’t help me to calm down. On the contrary, may panic was rising. I was supposed to give a presentation right after the coffee break. “What shall I do? What can I do? How am I going to become visible to the people around me?” These questions were whirling in my mind like a hamster running in its wheel.
Voices around me, which were trying to find explanation why my bag was there standing at the wall without me being there in the room and without anyone having seen me leaving it there, did not help to distract my attention from the hamster in my head. They only made it run faster.
I decided to go to my hotel room. As I opened the door and walked through the small hallway, something drew my attention. I went back to face the man-tall mirror. There was I in the mirror; I could see myself just fine. But when I was moving away from the mirror and further into the room, my reflection didn’t become partial, as it usually would, but remained standing in its complete shape at the left rim of the mirror. My reflection was trapped. I tried walking there and back in the hallway and saw again and again my reflection walking with me and then stopping at the rim of the mirror which I was passing by.
Overwhelmed by what I just discovered, I set on the floor in from of the mirror, pressed my elbows on my legs and put my chin into my palms. I looked at me in the mirror hoping to find an answer in the eyes of the person sitting and facing me from the other side of the glass covered with silver foil at its back.
My reflection didn’t talk to me, only moving its lips when I talked. It was just behaving as any other reflection would do. But then something else struck me. The sunlight flooding through the large window in my room didn’t reveal any shadow on the floor beside me that I should have been throwing. Everything else in the room did, but I didn’t throw a shadow at the floor and walls around me. As soon as I touched something, its shadow disappeared as well. The engineer in me thought: “That makes sense, since I am air, and everything I touch is air, then there cannot be any shadow from me or from the things I touch. Air does not throw shadows.” And then at the next moment it occurred to me that the whole thing happening was absolutely irrational, awful, wholly incredible, unthinkable and any attempt to find some logic in it seemed to be a totally crazy undertaking.
But something was forming thoughts of action in my head. There were clear instructions coming from my inner survival machine. I tried to resist it and pull myself down into a depression thinking that there is no way out of this, but then I had to laugh out loud realizing that air cannot be depressed and can get almost anywhere.
This is what I did in a very confident manner, which surprised me. I took the mirror out of its holding. It proved to be not as heavy as I feared. On my watch I saw that the coffee-break had just started. I carried the mirror carefully and slowly out of my room, to and with elevator down to the second floor where the meeting was taking place and further to the meeting room.
Although knowing that I was air in its direct sense to my colleagues, I moved carefully with my load between the group members scattered in the large hallway as a bunch of grapes torn and scattered in pieces on a large platter. I didn’t want to take chances this to fail. I had to and I wanted to make my presentation.
After entering the room, I saw that our chairman, Pierre, was at his laptop. He was alone in the meeting room. I approached him carrying the mirror and started talking to him fast: “Pierre, it’s me, Victoria. You don’t see me because I became invisible this morning. I don’t know how this happened, but it did”.
Pierre, being of my age and having curly brown hair that made him look much younger, looked curiously around him: “Victoria. Is it you really? We were trying to find you but had no luck.”
“Yes, and I hope that there is a possibility to make me at least partially visible.” At this, I’ve put the mirror to stand at the wall behind Pierre and stepped aside. I could see myself and I hoped…
“There you are!” exclaimed Pierre pointing at the mirror with his index finger as a little child.
“So, you can see me?”
“Yes, I do! Wow, what kind of trick is that?”
“Pierre, are you talking to yourself?” asked Paolo entering the room. “Was the discussion this morning so heavy that you gone bananas?” Paolo was laughing at his own joke until he saw my reflection. “Wouw, what is that?”
“Paolo, please call all to come back into the room. It’s time to start and I will explain the situation to all at once.” As Paolo left the room, Pierre turned to my reflection and said: “Victoria, let’s go to the front of the room. I will carry the mirror for you.”
“No, stop!” I was starting to panic again. “I don’t want the mirror to break and since it becomes invisible or rather like air as me when I touch it, then it is safer when I carry it myself”.
I carried the mirror to the front of the meeting room. As my working group colleagues were filling in I waited with making myself visible until all were settled and Pierre explained my situation as much as he could. As soon as he finished, I’ve lent the mirror against the front wall at an angle that made it face both me and the room and stepped aside.
“Wow! Oh my God! What the f…! Mierda! Mon dieu! Wahnsinn!” and many other exclamations followed.
“I probably should make my presentation like this”, I mumbled.
“Or maybe not”, a thought shoot in my head. “Go!” shouted a voice within me. I started to move away from the mirror, but it stopped me: “Not there! To the mirror! Jump!”
And as if an invisible hand picked me up by my collar, which I don’t remember having on that day, I dropped myself into the mirror. I fell with all my weight into the standing silvery glass. The mirror shattered in small pieces as I landed hard on the floor hitting first the wall really hard.
Katherine reached me with an amazing and graceful spring. I never thought she can be so fast. Paolo, Pierre and the others hurried to help me up and asked me whether I was badly injured. But all I could say was: “You can see me! You can see me!” and happy tears were running down my face.
“Yes, honey, we can see you”, Katherine was stroking me gently with an amazingly warm glimmer in her eyes that made them shimmer like cloudless sky on a sunny day. She was taking carefully the splitters out of my skin with her free hand. From that moment I knew that I would never be able to envy this wonderful person again, but only admire and want to know her better.
Later, I was checked, my injures washed and bandaged by the hotel doctor. The hotel administration refused me to pay them for the broken mirror, after twenty people reported eagerly witnessing what happened. I don’t really think they believed us, but they also were in doubt that twenty people could go nuts in the same moment. And in order to burry this story as far as possible, they asked as to forget it as though it was possible to make it disappear together with the glass splitters that were sucked in by the vacuum cleaner.
I asked the hotel administration to wait with hanging another large mirror in my room until after I left.
And from this day I avoid man’s high mirrors, but I also know that against common belief, breaking a mirror can as well mean great luck.