I had never imagined my life like this. Looking around in an overstuffed storage locker at the odd collection of things that had represented my journey. No, pictures, no accolades, nothing to suggest that I had even existed. At 32 years old, every artifact in my life was a lifeless piece of junk. Just another meaningless entry into the diary of an invisible man.
This was never my intention. There once was a time where many around me would have imagined that I would excel socially, and wind up successful. I was certainly smart enough. It was my internal turmoil that anchored me down to my lot in life. Those people who set their definition of who I was, had based their perception of me on a hand crafted lie. Though I had a strong social game, that's all it ever felt like to me a game. For most of my life I had worn a mask designed to fit in. I don't feel like that's uncommon as children on their way to adulthood, as at one point or another we are all looking for our place in the world. For me however, that practice transcended simple youthful angst. It became a mantra, a survival mechanism. My brilliant mind worked overtime convincing myself that no one would like the real me. And so, my life became a game of charades. Everywhere I went, I was someone else, with a different background. Every version of me was just another character, born from a clever combination of bits of truth, and traits I wish I represented. I would be lying if I said that this practice of self-deception didn't earn me a lot of attention, but as I would soon learn later on, it would never last.
I began clearing my way through the rubble of the ruins of my life, looking for the divorce papers that I had been meant to sign years ago. I don't know why I hadn't signed them yet. We had been separated for five years. She wanted to get married again, so there was a sense of urgency to get this final tie cut. I wasn't emotional about it; it was good riddance as far as I was concerned.
While I was away working, desperately trying to pay the massive bills she incurred, she had done what she always did. Made an impulsive decision to sleep with some random guy she met on Tinder. It wasn't the first time, but this one came with consequences in the form of pregnancy. As if that wasn't bad enough, she then attempted to lie about it for months. When the truth finally came out, she said, and I quote, "Well I know that deep down inside you really love me, and that you'll do the right thing and help me raise this child and treat it like your own." She was wrong on all counts of that. But it's not like I didn't at least consider it. I obviously loved her, but some betrayals are simply too much to sweep under the rug, as was my general nature. Practically I knew it wouldn't be fair to the child. All I would ever be able to see it as is some other's guys fuck trophy. There was no question that I would resent it, and that's no way to raise a child. It wasn't its fault, so to
burden it with my internal lament over its existence just to stay attached to something I loved would be selfish on my part. So, I did the sensible thing, and I walked away. Of course, I couldn't help feeling just a bit jaded that Rebecca managed to find someone to love her again and marry her, that someone like her, who was capable of such great emotional violence and volatile impulses could get a happily ever after, while I lamented in my own torment. But such is the game of life, it does not play fair.
As I dug through yet another layer of junk, I found the suit I had worn to my senior prom hanging on an old coat rack in the far-left corner of the unit. It was covered in a thick layer of dust, as it had remained there for so long that I had forgotten its existence. It was a welcome sight as it brought back warm memories of the girl I should have married. Christin was a beauty. She had pale freckled skin, and dark, curly hair. Her smile and laugh could light up any room. There is no person on this planet who has stopped my heart so completely like she did the first time I saw her. There was this aura about her, when I was with her it felt like she was the only person in the world that actually saw me. I felt complete when I was with her. I suppose all young lovers probably feel that way the first time, but I still feel that same exact way when I speak to her today. Of course, she is married to another man with two beautiful children, but it doesn't change how I feel. My biggest regret was letting her walk away. But I was different then, less at peace with my internal monologue. I was accustomed to washing the bitter taste of my demons out with a double shot of whiskey and whatever else I could get my hands on. She was the first casualty of the constant war inside my mind that I've been cursed with since birth. When I think of her, I often ponder the age-old philosophical question of whether it truly was better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.
As I worked my way laterally across the back wall of my storage shed, I came across an old dusty box. It was tattered and well worn. My curiosity compelled me to pick it up and perch it on the top of a black faux marble end table from my first solo apartment circa 2008. I opened it up and pulled out an old blue baby blanket, thinly worn with small holes that somehow gave it character. Underneath the blanket sat a pair of baby OshKosh B'gosh overalls. I immediately recognized these from my kindergarten picture day. Back when I had a full head of rusty-red hair, before it turned dark brown (and eventually all fell out.) I couldn't help but smile at the memories. I enjoyed a good childhood for the most part, after my father was out of the picture. My mother worked a lot, often leaving my brother and I in the hands of our grandparents. My grandmother was the typical old school religious granny. She was always there for a warm hug, and every holiday was welcomed in by the smell her baking her patented banana bread, accompanied by the gift of hand-knitted slippers in any color we asked. As we get older, it’s the simple things we miss the most. My grandfather, Raymond, AKA "The King," AKA "The Champ of Seven Cities" AKA several other ridiculous monikers he bestowed upon himself, was truly the glue that held our family together. He loved mischief and winding us up as children. He would often show up at our house unannounced with bags of toys for us to play with. He was funny, and warm, and people naturally gravitated towards him. I think that's where that quality in myself had come from. I didn't realize until I was older just how unhappy he was. This was on full display when at 70 years old he left my grandmother for another woman in a move that shattered my once airtight family. I understand him better now, I think. He just wanted to be happy, and he sacrificed that happiness for the sake of other people his entire life. At 70 he took his shot. I can only hope that when he died, he at least passed on holding a piece of the happiness he sought in his heart.
The aftermath was the beginning of the end for my family. Everyone picked sides, aunts and uncles became distant strangers, and life changed at a rapid pace. My brother went off to college and became a doctor, but not the kind that helps people. Probably for the best, because he's the smartest human I know, but he has the bedside manner of a turnip. He's always prided himself on being the smartest guy in the room, and it makes him unbearable in social situations. Of course, I had seen him probably once in the last 5 years, so he could've changed. My mom grew very sad and distant, as my brother and I both focused on our careers, and somehow forgot about the woman who sacrificed everything for us. I have since rectified that to the best of my ability, but he has remained at arm’s length. All of these events transpired in my mid-20's, and that's when I began to change. I stopped feeling. Even when I tried to connect emotionally with another person, there was a razor-sharp knife hidden in my mind that would sever any hint of emotional connection. It took the form of a little voice that whispered "they don't really like you. They just want something from you. Even if they don't, it won't last. Nothing lasts forever, remember?" So, I untethered myself from humanity, and I just simply existed. I floated around just hoping to float somewhere that would make me feel, but to no avail. I have always been an "all or nothing" with my love type of guy. After years of expending all my love on people and places that always ended up disappointing me, my default setting had turned to "nothing." I stopped being social, I focused on my work, in many ways I gave up on the world. I stopped going on sets, I switched to working remotely, strictly as a writer, and I disappeared from relevance. In every photo that was snapped of me, I saw nothing but the ugly I had become. Crooked teeth, overweight, bald. A far cry from what I used to be. So, I made the photographers delete the pictures, and eventually I stopped taking them at all. The snowball effect had led to self-inflicted isolation. It's ironic that in some sort of twisted self-fulfilling prophecy, the loneliness I endeavored to stave off has ended up consuming me in a living, breathing coffin.
I placed the clothing back in the box and returned it to its concrete home. I located the old leather laptop bag I had been looking for and retrieved the divorce papers. I quickly fished a pen out of my shirt pocket and signed it right there and then. As I took one last look around the storage shed, I caught the reflection of myself in an old standing mirror. I looked haggard, and tired, with grey hairs spouting in all directions off my sea captain like beard. I sighed as a sad realization suddenly dawned on me. Everyone who once knew me, knew me no more. There was nothing in this room that tied any of this to me without direct access to my personal memories. I had become a prisoner of my own mind, and it had driven me into the depths of madness, so far down that no one could see. I knew that one day it would take me under, there was no doubt. And this storage locker would just become a trove a meaningless junk to whomever purchased it. There would be no horcrux here that haunted this room with my essence. On that day I would be wiped from existence in perpetuity, and that was saddening beyond words.
I finished scribbling my winding thoughts on a piece of parchment and placed the paper down on an old wooden chest. One day these ramblings of an unstable mind will be all that remains of my time on this spinning rock. I had done my best, but it was never quite good enough.
-The Invisible Man-
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You have interesting word choices like "horcrux" and "perpetuity". First person narrative isn't easy. I liked how you came back to the divorce papers. Nicely done.
Emotive and thoughtful. Delving into nonfiction in my latest stories as well, thanks for pulling back the veil.
Very well written and engaging story! The introspective view of the main character is very good! And quite sad!
Thank you Sean!