the man who didn’t know he was invisible

YESTERDAY, the high lonesome highway. The countryside has a certain Prohibition-era flavor to it. The abandoned, splintering houses, lost to time and graffiti. That empty bottle of whiskey tossed carelessly into a desert-like wheat field at some desperate moment in the winter, only to be revealed by the thaw, like some ancient mastodon. Sometimes I wonder about the local indigent people who might shelter in these discarded structures on the outskirts of the town. Maybe they make bonfires at night and play harmonica. What kinds of horrors have these broken walls seen? In India, I once saw a man sleeping curled up in a rug by the side of the road. I imagine it was something like that, only colder and more forlorn. The countryside is blooming though, stubbornly. One can hear birds in the trees, singing. The birds are social. The people not so much. I have done this route many times, down to the lake, past the Baltic German cemetery in the woods. Sometimes I revisit one spot where I went swimming with a particular lady friend, though our peculiar brand of friendship has since been dissolved. Then it’s back out onto those long elevated roads. Other walkers come by, but nobody looks at you. It would seem that this would be the most opportune occasion to exchange some kind of pleasantries, or to acknowledge each other’s existence. Two strangers meet along a lonely highway on a cool but sunny spring day. I don’t expect much, you know. I understand that this is not California, and there will be no “have a great day” wished upon me by some passing jogger. Still, a nod might do. Or some eye contact. There is nothing. Yesterday, a young woman walked right past me. She was within arm’s distance. I looked to her, just to acknowledge that we existed along the same plane of reality. The wind was playing with her straw-colored hair. Her face was pale, as were her eyes. She looked like an extra from one of those Netflix Viking dramas. I wondered what she was thinking about. It must have been very important. Maybe she was wondering about what school she might get into, or how much her cousin Tõnu’s new car cost. “I wonder how much it cost? I wonder, I wonder.” Then it occurred to me that maybe she didn’t see me. Maybe I was invisible. What other explanation could there be? I didn’t know when my invisibility began to manifest itself. Naturally, the girl didn’t say hello. She couldn’t see me.

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