Saturday, April 11, 2015

Invisible


As visible as air. That’s how I have felt most of my life. Until this moment, sitting in front of the mirror, waiting for them to arrive. I like the way I look wearing this stolen necklace. My eyes reflect the deep green, my skin the gold inlay. I am a woman to be noticed and suddenly I can’t give that up. Vanity has hit me with a destructive ferociousness.

I know I’ll be fired. That’s a given. I’m not sure what else they will do when they come to get the necklace back. I don’t really care anymore. It felt good to be noticed for once, walking through the airport and onto the plane wearing the necklace in full sight.
I’ve been invisible since childhood. At first I blamed and cursed myself for being lazy after seeing the effort other people put into being noticed. But after my attempts at bad perms and misguided fashion went unnoticed, getting some attention just felt like a lost cause.

After awhile being invisible feels like a joke you’re playing on the rest of the world. Eventually, you want somebody to get the punch line. What’s the point being sarcastic, condescending, sly, kind, funny, intelligent, mean, interesting, provocative, weird or kooky if no one reacts to you? Since everyone drank the self-worth Kool-Aid and developed sky-high expectations, ordinary is bad. With tattoos, cosmetic surgery, hair extensions, contacts and affordable designer-fashion no one settles for ordinary anymore. But the magic bubble of self-esteem magic evaded me. I remain forgettable.

I’m not bitter. I cultivated the art of being indistinguishable and as an important tool in my job as a courier. I turned my problem into an asset and made good money. What a relief to give up the exhausting self-pity and start enjoying my lack of distinction. Being invisible became my ticket to freedom. In the business, I have a reputation as someone who gets the job done. I’ve never had a package confiscated by customs. I’m proud of that.

I can see now I shouldn’t have taken this last job with a pick up in Paris and drop off in Amsterdam.  I said yes because I wanted to see the exhibit of Maria Sibylla Merian’s Caterpillar Book on display at the Rembrandt House Museum. Maria was a 17th century painter who at the age of 52 left her comfortable Amsterdam home and sailed to South America in search of bugs. She found beauty in something the rest of the world finds revolting. I admire that. I wonder if she would be amused to see her paintings now on giftwrap paper and greeting cards. 

I have to dress down for this trip, which meant leaving my favourite pair of shoes at home. Shoes are always dangerous. People always remember nice shoes. I had just finished a job smuggling 35 yards of Vicuna yarn out of Paris tucked between silk blouses and suits. The fabric had taken five years to steal due to its rarity and somebody wanted it out of France and into the USA, immediately. I got to wear my $1,500 shoes and $3,000 suit on that trip. Customs didn’t even open my suitcases. 

This trip I was a mousy student with no money or taste. The plane was late to board so I sat watching the unhappy families. Their misery seeped so far into their bones they just couldn’t pretend anymore. I feel more comfortable with them. I don’t trust happy people who have followed game plan of life without any messy problems interfering. Everyone has problems. I would like to go startle them by asking them why they are so miserable. I tried this once on a flight to Rome. A middle-aged man with beautiful hair, wearing a silk shirt with monogrammed cuff links sat down beside me. As he put his leather briefcase under his seat he sighed, a soft, low flutter of his lips. I leaned over ever so slightly and asked him “Why are you unhappy?” If I had been beautiful he would have been intrigued, perhaps even amused. Instead he looked at me with disdain and snapped open his magazine. He spoke briefly with the steward and changed seats after the plane took off.

On this job I sat alone. My instructions were to check into l’Hôtel Hospitel,where another envelope instructed me to go for a stroll. When I returned there was a bag waiting for me with the package inside. I barely made the train because of the taxi being late. Once on board, discovered my book was left at the hotel. I could see the package at the bottom of my bag and sat the entire three-hour train ride with “What’s-inside-Open-it-up-What’s-inside-Open-it-up” going round and round in my head to the rhythm of the clickety-clack of the train. All these years I held my promise to never open any package.

The first and last package I opened was the birthday present I delivered to Cuba during my virgin flight. Marcus approached me five minutes before the flight boarded and I said yes for the thrill of doing some illegal. Halfway through the flight I felt a pang of remorse. What if I was carrying something dangerous that would destroy Western civilization as we knew it? Guilt ridden, I took the package to the bathroom and undid a small corner of the birthday wrapping. Inside was a small ham radio. Somebody wanted to contact the outside world from Cuba. Big deal. I sailed through customs and dropped the parcel off to some Cuban woman. There was a message waiting for me at home. Marcus was a recruiter for the courier agency who only hired unexceptional looking people. He thought I was a good candidate.

I started working full time soon afterwards, delivering packages from one city to another. I detached from their mystery. I knew I was carrying something important enough for someone to pay huge sums for delivery by a person who would then disappear forever no questions asked. Curiousity is a liability in my line of work.

This time, I lasted until half an hour outside the city before I tore open the package. Inside was an emerald necklace. I put it on immediately and stood looking at my reflection in the door. A man with deep blue eyes and thick black hair passed outside my door. He looked at me and nodded. I never made the drop-off point. Instead I bought some dresses and shoes that complimented the necklace.

I stayed one week in Amsterdam and another two in Paris. I wore the necklace the whole time, not even taking it off to bathe. I started writing down all the compliments I received in a little book and spent my evenings reading them over and over. One night, I went back to the hotel room of a strange man. I stroked the necklace while he made love to me and watched us in the mirror over the bed.

I stopped picking up my emails, threw away my cell phone. I knew what the messages being left were telling me. I had signed the contract. I decided to go home when the weather grew cold enough for a coat. I bought a beige sweater to wear overtop the necklace. I felt at peace when I arrived at the house. I tidied up, wrote a few letters, moved my favourite chair in front of the hall mirror and sat down to wait for the company goons to arrive. I

’m feeling sleepy. The pills are working. I move closer to the mirror. I want my last image to be of my beautiful necklace and how unforgettable I look wearing it.