I Wanted to be Invisible
by Robert Levin
wanted to be invisible. Out of nowhere,
with, I swear, nothing in my history to
predict it, I'd done something people regard
as sick and disgusting and I wanted to disappear.
should say that at first I wasn't so sure
what I'd done was all that awful, and I
certainly didn't concur with the character
judgment implicit in such a definition.
It didn't seem in my case to be fair. I
felt this way because I'd always had an
exceptionally inquisitive mind, a mind that,
forever in search of the deepest truths,
often compelled me to challenge things (the
assumption that boundary lines in nature
are fixed and inviolable for example) that
others never questioned. And that was a
good thing, right? What's more--and who
would argue with this?--when you call your
dog "Maureen" you're clearly asking
for trouble. And not only that, hadn't Larry
Flynt confessed to the SERIAL RAPING OF
CHICKENS without suffering one iota of damage
to his reputation?
I stopped protesting pretty quickly. It
was impossible for me to deflect for long
the look on the face of Maureen's owner
(and my now erstwhile girlfriend) when,
on the evening in question, she came home
and with the stereo at full volume, I didn't
pick up on the fact that Annie was home
until she was suddenly big in the room.
Maureen, I realized afterwards, was aware
of Annie's untimely return before I was.
I saw one of her ears rise and I saw what
I also understood later to be a look of
apprehensiveness on her face as she turned
it towards me. But, and probably because
her countenance was open to several interpretations
at that moment, her heads up went right
any event, I hadn't seen the expression
on Annie's face since my mother caught me
barfing into the family "Important
Documents" chest when I was five. The
horror it conveyed seemed, in its breathtaking
proportions, to have issued from the gods
themselves. No, try as I might I couldn't
deny it. Diddling Maureen had been an egregious
crime that was in no way mitigated by the
fact that it was unpremeditated and, for
in the following months (and along with
a discombobulated Annie's exclamation: "My
God, she's just a puppy!" echoing in
my head) I was seeing similar expressions
everywhere. Were guilt and shame working
their poisons on my psyche or was it true
that no one was liking me anymore? I mean
no one SEEMED to be liking me anymore for
shit. Total strangers I passed on the street
all but recoiled at the sight of me. And
dogs. What was up with dogs? Dogs had always
been as indifferent to me as I was to them.
But now, straining at their leashes, they
growled deep guttural growls when I walked
by. Was it possible that dogs--in ways we've
yet to appreciate--were able to communicate
to one another, and over great distances,
the indignities humans perpetrated on them?
all manner of torment and confusion, I spent
my days scouring my brain in a frantic effort
to uncover the reason for my...well...BESTIAL
could have dispatched me to such a forsaken
the philosopher in me simply chosen a less
than auspicious moment to take the leap
from rumination to hands-on investigation?
I been trying to tell Annie something? Our
relationship not going so well, had I been
saying to her, "See? This is what happens
when you deprive a person of sex."?
it conceivable that--strict dosage instructions
included for a reason--the extra teaspoon
of Nyquil I'd taken for a vicious post-nasal
drip had caused me to lose my species bearings
for a minute?
the fact that Maureen had been bathed that
morning and that her shimmering coat smelled
a lot like Rive Gauche--a fragrance widely
known to be irresistibly seductive--been
at the bottom of it?
nothing I came up with rang true for me.
All I knew for sure was that I'd become,
say it, the definition of "pervert."
I could not have descended to a much lower
depth if I'd done so intentionally.
you can see, I very much needed to get out
of this dreadful situation and the first
exit I thought of was suicide. But while
destroying my body, which was making me
much too noticeable, was certainly an attractive
idea, a large problem that I have with dying
discouraged me from acting on it. I'm not
trying to be funny. Transforming into something
comparable to what Maureen might leave on
a curbside is a prospect that weighs very
heavily on me. In fact, to make it hard
for the gods to find me when my time comes,
I've endeavored even in normal circumstances
to not stand out too much, to be, you know,
as anonymous as possible. (This explains
the "C" average that I've steadfastly
maintained throughout my life.)
if there's any substance to the reincarnation
thing and the immortality it promises, suicide
posed a very serious risk. The gods, everyone
knows, tend to frown on people who take
their own lives, no matter how wretched
their conditions may be. That made it unlikely--especially
after the way I'd comported myself this
time around--that they'd send me back as
anything better than a water bug or dental
on suicide, I contemplated surgically altering
my appearance or moving to another city.
But these choices were cost prohibitive
and the latter would also have involved
a lot of heavy lifting, which I really hate.
I considered going insane. Well within my
budget, what this option offered was the
opportunity to stay alive AND lose my body
(my unrelenting self-consciousness anyway)
at the same time. But to achieve a genuine
psychosis--to, that is, retreat into the
bowels of your brain, live in a world of
your own invention and become completely
oblivious to what's going on outside of
it--isn't so easy.
know because I really tried. Thinking that
I could maybe connect to madness by faking
some emblematic symptoms (and sufficiently
desperate by now to chance still more humiliation)
I ran a serious experiment. It was the middle
of August and wearing a tattered overcoat--and
with a week's growth of beard and my hair
wild--I stood on a street corner and commenced
to babble unintelligibly at various decibel
levels. After a few minutes of that I shouted,
"Fucking motherfuckers, I'm gonna break
your fucking hearts and shove the fucking
bits and pieces up your hungry assholes."
Then I babbled some more and then, kicking
and swiping at the air, I snarled, "PILLOWS?
What else you asswipes got in store? The
meerkats shat in your cereal shit? THAT
crapola again? That--ha ha--GRANOLA crapola?"
my face crimson with embarrassment all the
while, my act (with its admittedly lame
material) never stopped being just that
and my self-consciousness was only heightened.
(If I needed confirmation of my failure
to accomplish my objective it was more than
adequately furnished by a woman who remarked
to her companion, "Must be some kind
it was evident that even the fact that I
was doubtless more screwed up than I knew
I was when I realized exactly how screwed
up I was, didn't give me an advantage here.
However odd the angle at which I protruded
from it may have been, I was as mired in
reality as anyone else. I mean, despite
my preoccupation, I still worried a lot
about real world things. I worried about
losing my job. I worried about getting to
the laundry in time to collect my shirts.
I worried that I might have picked up a
dose of heart worm from Maureen. And if
that wasn't enough, I couldn't stop caring
about what people thought. It was possible,
in fact, that I'd come to care more about
what people thought than Louis Harris and
George Gallup put together.
I could do no more than envy the real thing--those
guys who've established permanent residence
in a fissure between their cerebellums and
their medulla oblongata. Yes, I know THEIR
weird and terrible utterances can be, in
their obvious authenticity, very scary and
lead you to conclude that even in the worst
of times only a schmuck would want to take
refuge in the kinds of worlds they inhabit.
But long before my interest in the subject
would become personal I discovered that
if you were willing to pay close attention
you could sometimes pick up indications
that where they live is not without a recreational
dimension. On one occasion I was actually
able to make out, in the background of a
nasty mix of epithets, cacophonous outbursts
and sundry other emissions, the strains
of a tinkling piano and the clinking of
glass and ice cubes--persuasive evidence,
you'll agree, of a party in progress.
wanted to find that party guy and see if
I could get him to show me the ropes. But
I knew that I had as much chance of prying
instructions out of him as I did of getting
the name of his caterer.
what did I do?
standing as I was on the corner of "Terror
Street and Agony Way" (as the poet
described it), what I did then was what's
left for you to do in this circumstance.
resolved to--what else?--redeem myself.
mean what choice did I have at this point
but to try to get the gods to FORGIVE me?
I certainly recognized that the level of
depravity to which I'd sunk made redemption
a tall order. The gods would hardly respond
to a less than stellar effort. But after
thinking long and hard about it, I finally
came up with something I thought was near
to perfect in its symmetry. Something that
they'd just have to applaud.
the help of donations I opened an animal
what you're thinking. Okay? I never went
into the kennels. I functioned--it's the
truth--in a strictly administrative capacity.
it turned out that I was nothing short of
brilliant in this role. Under my supervision
the shelter quickly became a huge success,
and, sure enough--it could not have worked
out better--with each rescue and adoption
of a mangy dog or one-eyed cat my Maureen
burden grew lighter until, just like that,
it was gone.
that monstrous problem behind me I felt,
as you can imagine, something like great.
But this wasn't the only reason for my high
spirits. No. They derived as well from an
even bigger reward that my act of redemption
yielded. In the delirium that develops from
the knowledge that you're successfully making
amends with the gods--from the certainty
that you're pleasing them and earning their
approval--you get to feel that you're atoning
not only for the crime at hand but also--they
become one and the same--for WHATEVER YOU
DID TO WARRANT THE DEATH SENTENCE YOU WERE
HANDED AT BIRTH! In turn you can feel that
your atonement actually makes you eligible
to SURVIVE YOUR DEATH--that it's your TICKET
you'll have to concede, is some spectacular
shit and it occurred to me one night that
it was right here that the answer to the
question that had been eating at me might
I maybe set the whole thing up? Was it possible
that my problem with mortality was even
more serious than I realized and that (ingeniously
exploiting the simultaneity of a bitch in
heat and a simple, random hardon) I'd deliberately
committed an appalling but ABSOLVABLE crime
in order to fashion an opportunity to experience
my ULTIMATE redemption?
it possible, that is, that I'd FUCKED A
DOG TO GET INTO HEAVEN?
should note that I flashed on that after
an evening of heavy drinking with a bunch
of veterinarians. It came to me while I
was crawling on my hands and knees up three
flights of stairs, just moments before I
puked on my welcome mat.)
I don't want to leave the impression that
I was entirely free of issues. Although
my guilt and shame had evaporated there
was still something pertaining to Maureen
that bothered me a little. Whenever I thought
of her, I would find myself wondering how
she'd, you know, rated me. If, you know,
she wanted to see me again.
male ego aside, I felt in all other ways
terrific. And, indeed, when I was interviewed
on Animal Planet on the occasion of my shelter's
first anniversary, I was fully at ease with
being visible, more at ease with it than
I'd ever been before.
Wanted to be Invisible
© 2006 by Robert Levin