Horizontal Lives

True Tales of the Infamous Courtesan: Persephone N. Hades and her Horizontal Life underground. How she got there, her mis-adventures and her struggle to re-surface.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Invisible or Blind? Take your Pick.

Life can be so trying when you don’t know who you are or how you fit in.
The confusion of living Underground is well defined and easy understood.
It just needs to be reckoned with.
But the upsetting dilemmas the Real World can impose upon the individual psyche are not so well defined.
You’ll be happy to know that after years of wondering what was wrong with me, I finally decided to collect evidence and seek help.

The first incident occurred many years ago while I was attempting to cross Halsted Street in Chicago.
There I am, a budding actress, standing like a turtle, tilted slightly backward carrying a full backpack weighing as much as me, waiting patiently at the crosswalk for the traffic to slow, when I see an opening.
No cars coming. Just a City Bus stopped, allowing passengers on board.

Now here’s the crazy part. Here’s the part where you’ll chide me.
I actually thought—don’t laugh—that since there were no cars coming and the bus was at a full stop, that it would be the perfect time for me to cross.
And so I did.
But I forgot one important thing.
It’s possible I’m invisible.
And so, I confess it was probably my fault.

You see, I was at a pedestrian crosswalk where, although traffic is quite heavy,
the City did not feel it necessary to put in a light.
And right they were.
The People of Chicago are very courteous.
Especially compared to the People of New York.
They were just figuring we’d all look out for one another.
Which we usually did.

First the Bus hit me.
Up into the air. Almost to the top of the Bus. So high I note the Driver’s open-mouthed expression as I fly past.
Then, in slow motion I mark the descent until, Bam!
A van, who in all fairness could not be expected to see a person coming from above,
especially an invisible person,
passes the bus and Bam! Hits me again.
(It was a four-lane road.)

From there, I float in a time-warp, aware I’m going to hit, knowing I’m possibly going to break bones or die but unable to do anything but wait.
Luckily, I crash land on my backpack full of books and scripts.
When I look up, I see dozens of people starring at me.
Strangely enough, the first emotion I feel is acute embarrassment.
As if I’ve tripped while wearing flaunting high-heels.
I rise, finding my balance, apologizing.

"I’m okay. I’m okay." And hurry across the street.

One doorway away from my destination, I’m cornered by the Bus and the Van drivers.
"Are you okay? Do you want me to take you to the Hospital?"

"No. I’m okay."

The Van driver has tears in his eyes. He is a big man. A burly man. A man who doesn’t cry.
I want to touch his face. Soothe him.
I do. I touch his cheek.
"Oh sweetie. Don’t worry. I’m okay. Please don’t be upset."
He looks confused.
I hate when people are sad.

"We’re going to take you to the Hospital."
The Bus driver is insistent.

"I can’t. I don’t have time. I’m late."

They stare at me but don’t let me out from my corner.

"I’m late. I’m late. For a very important date." I sing. (Obviously I was in shock.)

"You need to go to the Hospital." The Van driver takes my arm.

I’ve had it. This is, among other things, very inconvenient.
"I am about to start my first day of rehearsal for my first professional play sponsored by a very illustrious theatre company in Chicago. I will be the youngest member of the cast and I WILL NOT MISS this opportunity!"
They back away.

I make my way to the back row of the darkened theatre, settling myself into a comfy seat.
The reading begins.
The role I play is funny. I am the comic relief.
Whenever I say a line, the other actors scattered throughout the theatre laugh and crane their heads to look back at me appreciatively.

The play is about a boxer named ‘Kid Purple’ because, well, because he has a purple head.

(Robin Williams holds the rights to the play. I can understand why. He would make any character, especially one with a purple head, very sympathetic. But of course, I’m madly in love with Robin Williams and thus cannot be impartial.)

The dialogue, at one point, centers on the topic of ‘Concussions’.
It is then that I realize, hearing the symptoms outlined in the script, that I probably have one.
Headache yes. Blow to the head, yes. Dizziness, yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Hypochondria engulfs me.
By the time the reading ends, I’m convinced I’m dying of a concussion.
But still, I stay seated.
I would rather die here than anywhere else in the world.
I would rather die in the middle of acting than anywhere else.

The lights come on and the director begins to discuss.
Somewhere in the midst of his discussion, he focuses on my character. I answer.
Everyone turns to face me as I speak.
The woman playing the lead is closest to me and as her eyes meet mine, she cries out.
Everyone else stares.
"Are you okay?" I’m asked by I don’t remember who.

The director walks to the back of the Theatre.
"Are you okay?" he asks.

I giggle. "Of course. Why?"

"You’re bleeding."

"Oh. I am? That? It’s nothing."

"Your wrist looks like there’s a grapefruit under it."

He’s right. My wrist is the size of my knee. A big fat knee.

"What happened?"

"Nothing. Nothing. I just got hit with a bus and a van. That’s all. (My faces flushes with embarrassment.) I’m okay. Really."

"I think we should get you to a Hospital."

My eyes well up. "Does this mean I’ll lose the part?"

"No. Of course not. But we should get you help."
They want to call an ambulance.

I decide I’ll take the Bus. (Not the one that hit me.)
And so I do.
I take the Bus because I know I will survive and I want to get to the Hospital closest to where I live.
I will have to walk home as I don’t have much money.

Triaged at the Hospital, I calmly study my script, memorize my lines.
A man who looks like an awful lot like a Caterpillar calls me to the desk.
He types my information on a manual typewriter.
"Lane Geller."
"110 West Elizabeth Street"
"Insurance Carrier?"
"None. Can’t afford it."

(All this I say cheerfully and calmly with a huge Mid-Western smile on my face.)

"What are you here for?"

Bam! It hits.
Floodgates burst.

‘I got (hick, snivel, long moan) hit by a buuuussss! (Lucille Ball wail) And a vaaaannnn!"

X-rays. MRI. Bandages. And a cane.
Hobble the mile home from the hospital.
I know this incident was an accident.
It’s very difficult to see an actual person crossing in front of you if the person is as short as me and the bus is as tall as, well, as tall as a bus is.

In any case, the play was a success.
As opposed to ‘real life’, when I’m on the stage, I’m the opposite of invisible.
From that job, I get another. And another.
And another.
Then I’m accepted into the RFDS and head to New York.

One of the first days of school.
I am living on the Upper West Side at the YMCA, near a crazy traffic round-a-bout called ‘Columbus Circle’.

(For those of you who don’t know New York but have seen footage of the traffic patterns of the Champs d’Elysse, imagine it twice as loud on fast forward.)

Now here’s where I have to admit fault. I tried to do something no sane New Yorker would attempt.
When the light turned red, I actually started to cross the street.
Can you imagine? Laugh now. Guffaw. Hit your head in disbelief.
That’s when the cab nearly ran me over.

I had taken two steps into the street when I heard loud blaring horns coming from all directions.
Turning just in time to jump backward onto the curb, the oncoming taxi screeches to a stop, passing the place I had been standing; it’s back end fishtailing forward coming to a halt just before hitting the light pole.

It’s fast. We both react at the same time:
"You Mother-F*cker!" I scream and kick the tire three times with the heel of my boot.

"Fuckin leedle beetch!" the driver yells as he licketey-split, is out of the cab, slamming the door and running toward me.

In the back of the taxi, undisturbed, is a man in a business suit reading, ‘The New York Times’.
(Making certain he’s catching up on all the news in the world around him no doubt.)

(Said simultaneously):
"What dee fuck you tink you dooeen? Don you fuckin keek my car! I fuckin keel you, you leedle beetch!"

"I’ll kick your car if I want. You nearly killed me! What’s the matter with you? Is it more important to beat the light than it is to take care of other people? You asshole!"

"You call mee an asshole?"

"You’re an asshole!"

"You call mee an asshole?"

"I call you and Asshole Supreme!"

He is advancing toward me. I can sense a crowd gathering.

"You call mee an asshole?"

"Supreme! You are. You’re an asshole Supreme!"

He grabs both my wrists and begins shaking me.
I kick blindly at his shins.
The man in the backseat reads his paper.

"You don see mee coming? You stupeed ladee!"

"The light was red! Red means STOP! And even if it was green and you see a person—a PERSON—you should STOP!"

"Fuck you! You stupeed ladee!"

"What? You don’t speak ‘color’? RED is STOP. For a reason!"

"I got a living to make! I’m no bum like you!"

"You have time in your day for a murder? That'd slow ya down, eh?! Stupid man. People’s lives mean nothing to you?"

After a few more twists, turns, kicks, grunts, groans, 'Stupid man, Stupid Ladee’s', a Police Man arrived and ‘broke us up’.
Can you imagine?
‘Broke us up’. Ha! I actually had to be ‘broken up’ from a fight.
My Gosh.

Neither of us got a ticket.

With my heart banging against my chest, I watch the cab race away down Broadway probably on his way to nearly kill somebody else as the man in the back still calmly reads his paper.

See here’s where I made my mistake:
Assuming I’m not actually invisible, I was living under the assumption that in America, especially in places other than New York, Miami, or LA, we translate the light being Green as meaning GO. And the light that’s Red as meaning STOP.
But I was new to New York so I didn’t realize that here, colored lights mean something completely different to everyone depending on what country you hail from.
And there’s where I went wrong.
Hindsight is 20/20. But you can see where I made my mistake.

My second year at the RFDS.
Everyday, I walk from the YMCA, up 63rd street to Broadway.
A war-zone:

"Hey Baby. Can you give me a smile? If you smile, you’re face’ll be prettier."

"Hey Mommie! You so hot! Tell me mommie! Tell me! If your ‘collar match your cuff’. If you say it do, I will fall down right here and die for you."

"Oooh lady, are those titties for me? Are you generous lady? Will you give me a little taste of those titties?"

(While I’m eating a Snickers Bar) "Watch that sweetie. You eat that, you gonna get fat."

Call me frigid. Call me humorless. Call me whatever. But don’t call to me on the streets.
It’s not flattery and anyone who claims it is, has never been on the receiving end.

One day, my best friend B and I are walking together to school when a man, about 6 foot 5, 220, wearing a dirty tan trench coat and leaning against a building, calls out to B.
I don’t remember exactly what he said but it fit neatly into the category of the above.
I glance at my friend, noticing the little gulp go up and down her esophagus.
Just like it does when it happens to me.
I watch as she blinks once then sets her eyes straight ahead.
Just like I do when it happens to me.
I hear her sigh, then even her breathing out again.
The same way it happens to my body.
When it’s me, I can take it. But when it happens to someone I love, it’s like witnessing a verbal rape.

"Shut up!" I hear myself call to him as we pass.

Suddenly, the man is in front of us.
His massive hands grabbing the collar of my coat yanking me eye level to his face.
"I wasn’t talking to you, you ugly skank. I was talking to your friend. Mind your own business."

In the background, I hear B’s cries: "Leave her alone! Put her down!"

I don’t know what possesses me but clearly something does.
(Maybe utter stupidity?)
"Don’t talk to women like that. What are you? So impotent that’s the only way you can feel any power?"

"I’ll fuckin’ choke you skank!"
And his hands close in around my throat.

"Oh big man! Big man!"
(I never know when to stop kicking that dead dog.)

A circle of women (no men) has formed around us, all screaming and yelling for him to ‘put me down’.

In the moment, eye to eye, breath to breath with him, the world around us dissolved and I heard nothing.
It was only after he dropped me, and I climbed up from the pavement that I realized how I had been rescued.

We arrive at class a bit late and B entertains the group with an embellished tale of what had happened.
All laugh.
I shake for three days.

What was he thinking?
What, may I be so bold as to ask, has happened to the concept of Spiritual Growth and Higher Consciousness?
Learning from Others? Learning to be better than you are?
I should have asked that before or after, but certainly should not have been trying to teach it in the moment.
And Okay, yes.
What was I thinking!

Now I’ve been living in New York for a while.
Graduated from the RFDS.
Initially bitter and feeling forced to have entered my business as an Escort,
I am trapped in a Victim Mentality.
All I want to do is help.
All I want to do is give love and enlightenment through my Art.
Instead, somehow, I am a Call Girl.

Like Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany’s", I find myself at dawn, walking home down Fifth Avenue from my last call in an evening gown, saving on cab fare.
Huddled in a lump on the pavement is a young woman about my age.
She is pretty. Just needs a shower.
Her voice rises to meet me as I pass her.
"Can you spare some money, a dollar?"

Normally, I would have.
But this is my first month on the job.
Instead, what comes out of my mouth is:
"Go sell your pussy. You got one. I got one. You’re just as capable. Go sell it."

Never will I forget the open-mouthed expression on her face as I coldly moved on.

Now, I have been in New York so many years I actually consider myself ‘a New Yorker.’
But there are some things about this city I never seem to get used to.
On a daily basis, to survive, I use the strategy of ‘ignoring’.
But it eats my guts out.

For some reason, either because I look meek or more possibly because I am invisible,
when people walk down the street toward me, if I don’t move out of the way, they will crash right into me.
They will. So I move first.
Thus, my usual route from the subway to my apartment is quite convoluted.
I need to walk a zigzag pattern around everyone, making my two block walk actually 17 miles.
(This, by the way, is a good way to keep the weight off.)

A month ago, I’m leaving the subway and a light bulb goes off. (In my head—not a black out again)
For no good reason whatsoever, I’m in a feverish mood for a scientific experiment.
(Which, by the way, in hindsight, should be curbed at all costs.)
I decide to see whether I am indeed invisible.
And not only that, to see if it is possible to walk a straight line from the subway to my apartment.
It should be possible.
It’s possible late at night when no one is on the street.

So I find a line in the sidewalk, fix my feet upon it and walk.
Straight ahead.
A man heads toward me a few feet in front of me.
Usually I would move to the side allowing him the ‘straight-a-way’, but this time I don’t.
Two feet in front of me.
Now we’re playing ‘chicken’.
One foot.
Ooooh! It’s close. Very close.
He moves.
He side steps but he’s pissed.

Why is he pissed? Is it so awful to be courteous? Do we even have to ‘win’, to ‘get over’ while simply strolling down the street?
(Okay. No one ‘strolls’ in New York. ‘Races’.)
Do we have to win even while racing down the street?
I mean, when we die, won’t we want to look back and think,
"I was a nice person. I cared for other people."?
Will we feel better if we look back and say to ourselves,
"I beat a lot of red lights. I’m so powerful I made people move out of my way on the street"?
Truly, I don’t get it.

Three large female teens, overfed on McBurgers and McGhetto-Attitude are coming my way.
My feet stay on my line.
They take up most of the sidewalk.
Closer. Closer.
They’re not going to move.
They’re not.
I swerve at the last second catching my shoulder on the girl on the end.
We bump.
Purposely, I bash my elbow extra hard against her as we pass.
To make my point.
"Watch it bitch." She snarls, her stance ready for a rumble.

Pause/Time out.

She says, ‘watch it bitch’, right?
Know what comes out of my mouth?
Here’s the part where you really get to laugh and laugh.

She says, "watch it bitch’ and I say,
"You’re always gonna be who you are and that’s punishment enough."

Oh I’m piece of work I am.

The last piece of evidence is the constant battle I wage with inanimate objects.
I have engaged in some form of warfare with almost every piece of furniture in my home.
Most of these tussles leave me bruised in places odd enough to garner strange, pitying looks from women in the locker room at the gym.

The fiercest sparring was the duel against my red velvet sofa that tackled me as I came in late one night, bashing my foot, dropping me like a sack, loud enough to awaken my already disturbed landlord and breaking my toe.

What is wrong with me?

In an effort to find out, I go to my weekly B12 shot appointment with my Leprechaun Doc, determined to confess (he is an ex-Priest, remember) and find a cure.

"So how’re ya feelin’?"

"Well, I got a call from my playwright friend who knew I was coming here today. He offered to come with me to learn how to give me the shot."

"Very generous of him. I notice he's not here."

"I told him there were too many people shooting me up my butt and that I wanted to limit it to just the Leprechauns. He understood."

The Doctor is laughing. I think I must be an unusual patient for him.

As I’m bent over with my pants down taking a big needle up my bum, he asks what else is ‘troublin’ me’.
(I adore his Leprechaun accent.)
I tell him that I’m either invisible or disposable or just plain nutty. And I go on to explain all the things I just told you about.

"Well now, let’s just say that perhaps you may be a bit sensitive. Like the Princess and the Pea."
"Okay. Perhaps. But I live in New York City and not in a Fairy Tale."
"And luckily, we’ve got a pill for that."

He gives me a prescription for a miracle pill that will take ‘the lumps out of the mattress’, so to speak.
And also a referral to a specialist.

Firmly I insist that I will not see any other doctor but him.
He is firmer and insists harder that indeed he feels this specialist can help me.
I read the name and make the call.

Turns out to be an Eye Doctor.
Turns out I’m just plain old blind.
Which explains A LOT.

I leave the office with a pair of ugly wire rims hanging off my nose feeling a tad ugly.
But oh my god! The world has detail.
Trees have leaves. Not just green wavy things.
Signs have words and letters. Not just blurs of white and black.
People have faces.
And the most ‘oh my god’, men are looking at me. Nicely. Sweetly. Even with my glasses on.

I call a client friend and tell him of the miracle.
"Men are so weird." I say. "They even look at me with these ugly old glasses on."

"It’s the Librarian fantasy. Something to undress. Or maybe—"

"Maybe what?"

"Maybe they always looked at you like that. You just couldn’t see them before."

Huh. Interesting point.

Now I’m frightened to go home and look at myself in the mirror.
Blind, I looked pretty good.
Now that I can see, who knows what I’ll look like?

But I’m taking the Effexor and wearing my glasses and feeling much better.
Finally I know who I am:
I’m Mr. Magoo.

I wish I would’ve known this years ago.


At 10:57 AM, Blogger Zefrog said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Zefrog said...

Very funny post. I enjoyed that. I also wanted to say that I have the same problem as you. I am invisible too. And since I already wear glass I know I really am. I am 6.1 and therefore not that easy to miss, you would think. I am always looking around me at people when in public (I love watching people , and checking out the talents of course) but I very seldom see anyone looking back at me.

I also have the problem of people constantly walking into me in the street. But I think I have more or less managed to crack that one. I think people don't bother to move because I am too aware of them. As I said I am always looking at people and my theory is that they somehow sense that I have seen/noticed them coming my way and that they therefore won't have to step aside because I am going to do it.

To prove this theory, I tried to pretend to look down or the other way when someone is coming straight at me and, guess what, they usual do step aside and let me walk straight on. Perhaps you should try this next time you walk down your street. Let us know if it works.


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