It's raining as I walk. My hands are full of overfilled grocery bags and I'm precariously balancing an umbrella above me. I listen to the sound of the rain pattering on top of it.
All around me, people are rushing past, their eyes glued to the sidewalk or their phones. My phone is shoved at the bottom of one of the grocery bags, so I can't look at it. I feel it buzzing from time to time.
He's standing directly in my path. I don't notice him until it's too late, and as I try to swerve out of his way, I only succeed in swinging my bags at him, tripping over my own feet and bowling into him.
"I'm so sorry," I say, standing up and trying to pick up my stuff. He doesn't answer. Instead, his eyes widen and he looks shocked and horrified. He slowly backs up.
"Sir? Are you all right?" I ask, grabbing a can of coconut milk that's started to roll down the streets. Still he doesn't answer. He can't seem to hear me.
I put a hand on his shoulder. He jerks away from me, using his hands to shield him.
"Who's there? Who are you?"
His voice trembles slightly, and his greyish eyes dart around the sidewalk. All over the street, people are giving him strange looks.
"Um, can you hear me? Are you okay?" I ask, fumbling in my grocery bag for my phone, just in case he does something violent.
I take a step towards me. He doesn't react. I scream, my voice cutting across the mostly quiet street. Still, he doesn't react. Nobody does, not the mothers hurrying their rosy-cheeked children into cars or the rushed men holding their umbrellas nearly inside out in the wind.
I touch his arm. He lets out a yelp and jumps away. My mouth falls open. I quickly grab the rest of my stuff and rush home, trying to think about what to do.
My roommate looks up in surprise when I open the door.
"Hello?" she asks. She brushes a stray lock of golden hair out of her face and stands up. I dodge out of the way as she walks through the living room towards the door, which is swinging ajar.
"Is anyone there?" she says, poking her head out of the door. She shrugs. I can tell she's unsettled.
"Probably the wind," she says to herself.
I quickly walk into my bedroom, closing the door behind me before realizing what I'm doing. I catch a glimpse of my roommate's mouth hanging open before the door swings shut.
I stand in front of the mirror in my room. I can see myself just fine. My wet hair is plastered to my forehead and there are bags under my eyes, but I look perfectly normal.
Water drips from my soaking clothes onto the floor and I put the bag of groceries on my bed. A moment later, my roommate opens the door, looking around. She notices the groceries on the bed and her eyes widen.
"Okay. I get it, you're some ghost of someone who used to live here. Is that right?"
I don't answer, not sure how to.
"Okay. Well, it's nice of you to do, um, grocery shopping, I guess. But I have, like, a roommate who doesn't really like ghosts and stuff. So if you could please just, like, not do that when she's around if that's okay?"
I nod, then realize she can't see me.
"Okay," I say, then realize she can't hear me. Not sure how to communicate with her, I pick up the groceries. I assume that makes them "disappear". A little smile crinkles the edges of her eyes, and she nods, then leaves the room.
I sit on the bed, putting down the groceries on the bed.
"So," I say to myself. "I'm invisible. And unhearable I guess. But people can touch me."
I sigh, putting my head in my hands, wondering if I could possibly call in sick to work tomorrow. But that wouldn't work because I would call and he wouldn't be able to hear me. Maybe I could work from home and just email and text.
I stand up. The walls feel like they're pressing down on me, choking me. I open the door softly and walk out, hearing a low chuckle from my roommate, who stands up to close the doors after me.
It's still raining outside. A kid is splashing in puddles. A boy is tossing up coins and catching them as he watches his brothers chase each other around. A woman is on her way to work.
All around me, people are living their lives.
The coins slip. One of them rolls towards me. I pick up, intending to give it back, but then realizing I can't. I freeze, not sure what to do. The boy has picked up all the rest of his coins, and is staring at the spot where his coin landed. He starts to walk towards me. I slowly back away, not really aware that the coin is still clenched in my hand, the metal biting into my flesh.
That's how it starts. It only gets worse from there.
I can't really pay for groceries and wait in line because the cashiers can't see me, so why not just take them? I can't buy new clothes and so on, so why not just take them? My life goes on. I steal things, take things, live.
My roommate puts up posters about me, calls the police. They don't find me. She cries. She gives up. She moves on.
I keep stealing, robbing, "borrowing" as I like to call it. It's not like anyone can stop me.
I go grocery shopping every Saturday. My roommate leaves up shopping lists and I supply the things she needs. She still thinks I'm a ghost. I don't mind. In a way, I guess I am.
Today, we need milk, bananas, and bread. I stroll into the store, grabbing the things when nobody's looking so that other people can't see them disappear.
I maneuver around the check-out line and start to walk out.
"Hold on. Don't you have to pay?" someone says.
I turn around, thinking maybe he's talking to somebody else. But his eyes are fixed on me. We make eye-contact. My mouth falls open.
It's me. He's talking to me. He sees me.