Write On!

Eyes Are Poor Listeners

In Responses on February 2, 2012 at 5:15 pm

by Jen Gregory

It all caught me off guard. I mean when you suddenly can’t see your own hand in front of your face you aren’t thinking, “Oh, yay! I’m invisible!” No. You’re flipping out, cursing and trying to figure out if you can dial a number on your phone in order to get some help. You don’t dial a number though, because everyone thinks you are loco enough and you don’t want to go to the funny farm, not that day anyhow, so you start experimenting.
I grabbed things first. The handle of the broom slipped right through my hand, I grabbed onto the back of a seat and fell down because I fell right through it. I found that I was not only invisible but I could pass through things and things could pass through me. Not only could no one see me, but they wouldn’t be able to feel me! Oddly I could still hear myself, but since I’m at work and no one else is here I have no idea if anyone else can hear me.

I’m a cleaning lady. I clean the local theatre here as one of my gigs. It’s real pretty with gold paint and high, high ceilings. I’m alone in here most of the time. I walk around pretending I’m a rich white woman sitting in the fancy box listening and watching. I cross my legs just so and practice clapping soft and elegant; mostly I pretend to turn to my very wealthy and handsome husband and smile at him because I know all he cares about is the “after show” if you know what I mean.

That’s what I normally do, but I never go up on the stage. It’s forbidden. That stage is holy to these artsy gringos. Today I am thinking, “What the heck Lupe? Vamos. No one will know.”

I go through the stage door, literally, miga! I walked around, back behind the giant cloth curtains. I’ve never been on a stage period, much less one like this. Even though I am invisible I’m real nervous like. My stomach drops to my knees. I just came up here to goof around but truth is I’ve been invisible my whole life, center stage isn’t where I am used to being. My mama ignored me and left me with my Abuela. There were no men and by age thirteen I had my first boyfriend, my first addiction and my first baby. The boy split, acted like he hadn’t ever seen me before that day when I went up to him and say, “I’m gonna have your baby. What are we gonna do?”

I told my abuela and she beat my behind that night but next day we went and found a place where I could fill out some papers and give the baby up to a better home. She was a pretty baby, lots of black hair and a big wide squishy nose. The day I delivered her the nurse let me hold her for five minutes. She was gone after that. My mother and abuela came and got me but they didn’t talk to me.
It changed me but not in a good way. Nobody seemed to see me, nobody seemed to notice I was there so I walked around knowing there wasn’t a thing I could do to make somebody happy, especially not myself.

I’m forty-two now. I’ve got five kids, their three daddy’s and four grandchildren thanks to my two oldest sons who don’t seem to be able to keep to themeselves. Somewhere out there is my first baby girl, so I could even have a great grandchild I don’t know about.
Jail time turned me around. I liked the babies and the men but I sure didn’t like prison. The guards and some of the… there is no nice word for some of those women, it was bad. Jesus found me there and I keep holding onto Him.

When you get out of prison there isn’t a big line of people ready to hire you. You take what you can get and you do your best to keep your nose clean. It isn’t too hard to stay legal, it’s really hard to stay “good” though. My life wouldn’t get me arrested but it’s a freakin mess. The man I’m seeing is in prison and left me two little children to care for. My second oldest boy is in a gang. The oldest one is either doing or dealing drugs, maybe both. I live on welfare but I work my butt off. I’m tired and raggedy feeling. I just don’t get it. So I pray a lot and I go back to the prison and teach a Bible study every week. That feels the best, helping my ladies out, giving them some hope.

I’m a nobody. I see it in the bank teller’s face, the checker’s face at the store when I pull out my food stamps, my kids’ faces and my boyfriend’s when I visit him in jail. They don’t see me and as I stand on this stage I’m figuring something out. I don’t see me. I’m standing here free to do anything I want, anything! I’m totally invisible but I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t know what I want to do at all!

The stage, it’s big, the wooden floors are dirty and beat up. It’s real pale, like a giant sandpaper slug crawled around over night. The curtains are musty. Pretty as it looks from the seats it’s kind of run down from up here. Gradually I walk a little closer to the center. It’s dark up here, only the sconces in the auditorium are dimly lit. If I weren’t invisible I’m still not sure you could see me.

I like to sing. So I do, just real, real quiet. My voice shoots around that stage like a fast car with no brakes. I’m a little scared but I’m starting to hear that, “Who gives a crap!” voice in my ear. I look down but I can’t even see my own feet, this whatever it is, is making me feel brave. I pick a song my abuala sang to me years ago in Spanish.

Yo soy Vicentillo. Que vengo a cantar.

I sing louder and louder, the sounds bouncing off the gilded molding, sliding along the walls like roller derby girls.

Y al niño que llora, Hacerlo callar.

I’m singing and singing so I don’t hear the footsteps, I don’t hear anything but I see the stage lights come on, I feel their heat instantly. I don’t stop singing though. I see several people out in the aisle, tiny little ants.

Y al niño que llora, Hacerlo callar.

They can’t see me but they can hear me, I know that now. They can’t stop listening. They are obsessed with finding the source of this sound.

“Ojo que no ven, corazón que no siente”, abuela used to tell me. Whatever the eyes don’t see the heart doesn’t feel. That’s wrong today. It is my invisibility forcing them to hear me. I will keep singing just to feel their eyes on me, the heat of the lights striking my face like a bold sun, I will sing because I see myself now. Comprende. Comprende.

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