Beep, beep, beep...
The store clerk approaches the scanner for the third time in ten minutes, this time with company.
"What is wrong with this thing," he mumbles to himself, waving his hand over the machine. It's not beeping; it seems to stop when he approaches, like it's trying to hide its glitching from him.
"And you say it's been doing this over and over?"
"Yeah. Not all at once, like, sporadically. But I've watched it from down the aisle. It beeps and something comes up on the screen. Probably some random item."
"Weird. Alright, I'll phone in to head office, and see what's wrong with it."
There's nothing wrong with it.
There's something wrong with me.
I check my phone for the total of my groceries, and count out the exact change with taxes included and everything, and leaving a quarter extra just in case I rounded wrong. The groceries are already in my bag. I leave the money at the service desk and wait. It's a little busy, and people are coming and going through the door. I don't want to get anyone in trouble. My tail wants to twitch, but I still it, just in case I whack someone passing me and they get confused.
"Hey, where'd this money come from?" I hear from the desk.
I feel bad about that. Not only is their till count going to be off but their shrink is going to be higher than they think it is. I've tried self-checkouts; they just think that's broken, too, and interrupt the transaction before it's done.
Finally, there's a gap, and I walk through.
The alarm sounds.
I keep walking.
They notice the alarm instead of me.
The subway isn't that crowded at this time of the night. That's useful for me, because I can't get people to move for me and I'm too polite to push past them. I check my phone. It's kind of late.
I get off at my stop and walk. There's nobody at the stop. The bus isn't going to stop for me anyway. It's not that far, at least, maybe ten or fifteen minutes.
I swerve around a group of drunk men who wouldn't have gotten out of the way for me regardless, make my way to my building, and buzz myself in, and get in the elevator.
I look at my own reflection in the mirrored walls of the elevator, sighing. I glance up at the cameras. Part of me wonders whether the security people actually see me.
The elevator shudders to a stop at my floor, and I head to my apartment.
The groceries go away first, like always, and then I fill the kettle for tea. I let out a heavy sigh. Another mission accomplished. At least now, I don't have to worry about food for another few days. I go to my computer and check my messages, and see which of my friends are online, and send one a greeting.
It's not that I'm poor. I'm actually quite comfortable on a modest amount of funding from doing the odd jobs of the internet: commissioned art, selling things on etsy, working as a trained listener for tips. I even tried being a cam girl once. That didn't go well.
It's not even that I'm invisible. If that were the case I could bundle up and just act like I'm a burn victim or that I'm really cold. I'd get looks, but, I think at this point I can handle looks.
It's that since I was a child, I've been unnoticed.
I was bullied, heavily, in elementary school. Snow leopards are rare here and snow leopards of Indian descent moreso. They made fun of my clothing and my lunches, my name, said I smelled weird.
And one day, a group of them decided to tell me to go back to my own country. That's how they said it. Go back to your own country. Never mind I was born here; I am perpetually foreign.
When I told them this was my country, they accused me of stealing it, and then beat me.
I have never liked attention. Not when it was this mostly this kind of attention. Even at home, I sometimes felt very misunderstood. I was brilliant as a child but had minor executive function problems, and so my work ethic suffered. I could do the work; I simply /didn't/ do the work, because I couldn't plan it out and didn't have the mental tenacity to push through it. And I was always told, you're so smart, we have the tests to prove it. Why can't you just do the work?
I didn't know then that smart was not hard-working. So I simply thought there was something wrong with me.
And when that was coupled with the treatment I was receiving at school... well, it may not surprise anyone that when they were kicking and punching me, I wished very hard in that moment never to be noticed again.
And I wasn't.
The group of kids dispersed, asking theirselves where I went. Oh, I hurt. I was badly bruised, though thankfully, nothing was broken.
But I couldn't get anyone to tend to my bruises. In fact, I was marked absent. They called my parents, who of course didn't know where I was.
All while I was yelling at the teacher, hey, hey, I'm here, I'm here!
My parents came to school immediately -- it was just up the street. They thought I had been abducted.
It was only when I stole some paper and a big red pen and wrote 'I AM STILL HERE' and left it on the principal's desk that it got their attention.
I wrote that I thought I was invisible or something, that I didn't know what happened, but I was right here in the room with them and they couldn't see me or hear me. They thought it was a trick, somehow; but then they asked me questions, like my favourite food (samosa) or my favourite show (Transformers) or where we lived and what my room looked like, and eventually, they were convinced.
And from that point on, I became the invisible kid.
It was only later that I understood that I wasn't invisible -- I was unnoticed. I could walk through a space and nobody would realize I was there. If I really concentrated hard, I could make people do a double-take towards me. But that's about all. It was never enough to meaningfully recognize my existence.
But since it seems not to work in text, my life is chiefly online. I'm still writing little notes for people to find, they just happen to be electronic now.
The kettle whistles, and I go back into the kitchen. While I make my tea, I hear the ding of my instant messenger client from across the apartment.
I sit down at my computer with the cup.
'oh hey sorry for the delay i didnt see you messaged me lol'
'Don't worry about it.'