In a small town, there aren't many places you can go. There's the strip mall with the three nail salons and the generic A&P. And there's always the woods outside of the rock quarry where typical teenagers go to blow their minds with drugs.
I personally choose the diner. It's slow and lethargic and trapped in the nineties. You can stick yourself to a vinyl booth for hours by just ordering coffee.
And that's what I do. Peer into my coffee and become invisible.
Being invisible means some sacrifices of course. You can't really have a life outside of school. You can skimp through your Algebra and Chemistry, but not excel so much as to attract attention. You have to slip by the radar.
Maybe smoke in the school parking lot every now and then, just to get through the rest of the day. But never talk to the other junkies and only stare at your shoes.
Being invisible at home is easy, when everyone else isn't in their heads. My mother shuffles in her slippers from one room to another, her hair constantly a nest, her eyes constantly blank. She can walk in circles all day while my stepfather bites nails in his little cubicle to get little money from his little boss.
The diner, no one looks for you. I can order food when I want and sit there as long as I like. I usually get a seat by the greenhouse windows, and that's always Rosie's section. Basically, she couldn't give a shit about anyone's life, so she won't be bothering me anytime soon.
There, I am perfectly invisible.
Something's wrong. Rosie isn't around. I suspected an extended cigarette break but it's been awhile.
I decided to rearrange the sugar packets of my table when a shadow blocked some of my fluorescent light.
It’s a boy, somewhat gawky. A floppy haircut with brown strands sticking to his forehead. He has incredibly blue eyes, but his nose keeps twitching. He smiles.
“Can I take your order?”
Uneasy, I drum my fingers against the paper placemat and look past him. Rosie’s back, sitting on a bar stool at the counter, talking to one of the fry cooks.
I hear his feet shifting, and next thing he does is sit across from me, putting his waiter notepad next to the ketchup.
“How about,” he says, carefully, drawing his smile wider, “a deluxe burger with all the trimmings?”
This is strange. Awkward silence lulls and I offer a, “Sure. Why not.”
He smiles and disappears to the kitchen.
How uncomfortable. Someone saw me. How strange.
I think it's easier to go unnoticed. You don't have to deal with human emotion other than your own, and you can put yourself down only so far. Then all you have to go is up, and you're back on your feet without any help. It's logical to keep to yourself, really. You're protected. Invisible.
The boy comes back with a platter of a slightly greasy cheeseburger. It's not all that picturesque but he placed the French fries in an artistic border. Atop the lopsided bun, a toothpick flag was askew. The bright green cellophane had a Sharpie marker smile scrawled atop. I don't know where he got the time for this.
"I hope you don't mind, but I put extra effort into it. It's a masterpiece, really." He's grinning idiotically.
I rotate the plate for inspection. "Don't be so cocky."
His smile softens, and he sits down again, sticking his short order pencil behind his ear. "I like your voice."
I don't answer. How does one answer?
"We have the same English class, third period. I sit to your left and you draw in your notebook the whole period. I've never heard you talk the whole semester."
I feel like a deer in headlights. Caught completely off guard.
He continues, “And I’m with you in the art room for seventh period, but I think you’re too involved with your project. I really like how it’s coming out, by the way.”
Frustrated, I clear my throat. “I feel stalked.”
He laughs, easily. Chuckling, “No, I just happened to notice you.”
I pick at my food, dismembering the flag. He noticed me.
“You didn’t think you were invisible, did you?”