Invisible Charlotte (ShoStoBloMo #4)
When Charlotte said she was feeling kind of stabby, no one listened. When she said she was tired, no one listened. When she said she wasn’t happy, no one listened. Now that she was standing in front of the bank teller, brandishing a (very nice) butcher knife (her mom bought from QVC last year), she was having a hard time thinking of what she should say, even though everyone was finally listening.
So many eyes were on her as she stood there. They were staring raptly, intently, questioningly – pretty much any adverb you could think of to describe them. As an experiment, Charlotte waved the knife in the air a little bit. She noted which eyes stayed on her, and which eyes followed the knife. She used that difference as a way to separate the bank patrons. Knife watchers on the right side of the store, Charlotte watchers on the left. She made everyone lay down because she always saw bank robbers do that on TV.
She didn’t really want any money. Well, of course she wanted money, but not like this. She knew full well there was no way she could take any money from the bank, escape, and spend it. No way. She just wanted to make sure she wasn’t invisible. That was all. She’d felt invisible for a long time, and it was disconcerting. While she was driving the student driver crapmobile, cars would pull right out in front of her like she had some kind of cloaking device activated. When she stood in the hallway between classes people would walk away while she was in mid-greeting. One time, when she was first in line in the cafeteria, she stood there for a good six or seven minutes while the lunch lady and a teacher chatted, completely ignoring the fact that she was there with a tray full of food waiting to be rung up.
Her mom thought she was crazy. She told Charlotte no one was ignoring her. How could she be invisible? Charlotte had a budding figure and a kitten nose. When her mom said things like that, Charlotte wanted to stab her with the student driver crapmobile’s car keys.
She knew that the bank teller had pushed the emergency Oh Shit You Guys We’re Being Robbed button. But Charlotte didn’t care. She wanted the police to come. She wanted to be on the news. She wanted everyone to talk about her at school the next day. She briefly wondered, totally randomly – if she used the butcher knife to cut her finger if it would even hurt. Maybe feeling numb and feeling invisible were somehow connected. “Duh,” she said softly.
Charlotte jumped. There was a… thing… sitting on the island in the middle of the bank lobby – the place where you fill out deposit slips and grumble about how all the pens are missing. The thing was about the size and shape of a coffee mug. It was brown. It had wings. It was talking.
“I’m wondering, if by uttering the word ‘duh’ you have finally come to the conclusion that what you are doing here is perhaps one of the stupidest things anyone could ever do.”
“Please excuse my speaking,” the thing continued. “It has been a long time since I’ve spoken to anyone this way, and my sentence structure feels awkward and rusty. That is my name, by the way.”
“Awkward and Rusty?” Charlotte sputtered.
“No. Just Rusty. But I am happy that you are not so deranged by your predicament that you have lost your sense of humor.” Charlotte was confused, but the thing kept talking. “I often find that when I instigate a conversation people are rendered mute. I’m sure you can see how this would present a problem.”
Charlotte shook her head dumbly.
“I am here to engage you in dialog, mi amiga. I am here to keep you from doing anything foolish. Well, anything MORE foolish than you’ve already done.”
Charlotte glanced around the room. Of course no one else could see this coffee mug-shaped, winged creature, they were all face down on the floor. But surely they could hear him?
“What are you?” She leaned in closer to get a better look. His nose was black, his face pointy like a fox. His brown color came from a light dusting of fur, and his wings were an antique yellow, thin like they belonged to a dragonfly.
“What should concern you is what you are.”
“What am I?”
“You are a bank robber. A felon. A wanted criminal. A girl who threw it all away. A weak plot for a made-for-TV movie.”
Charlotte considered this. It was all, of course, true. But it was also exhilarating. It was the most exciting description she’d ever heard of herself. She stood a little taller, and for the first time in days felt herself smile.
“Oh you think this is a good thing, do you? This description? You think it will make you popular? Make you loved? Make you visible amongst your peers?”
“I do,” Charlotte said, nodding. “I do think that.” She paused and then smiled widely. “Is this when you do some kind of Gabriel from It’s a Wonderful Life trick and you show me what my life will be like if I follow through with the robbery? You show me all the different outcomes of what could happen to me based on the decisions I make right now?”
“No. I cannot do that.”
“What I can do, though, is offer you three wishes.” Charlotte noticed he had three long claws on each hand. She narrowed her eyes and again looked around the room to see if anyone else was seeing this.
“I can wish for anything I want?” she asked, skeptical.
“Of course,” he answered. “Anything.”
“I attempt to rob a bank with a butcher knife, and while I’m in the middle of committing my crime, I get three wishes?”
“Don’t worry about why. Worry about what you’re going to wish for. There’s a time limit, mi amiga, so you better get to it.”
Charlotte walked around the lobby, looking at the people laying on the floor. Some were wearing business suits. Some wore staid work dresses. Others had on jeans and t-shirts. They all looked like perfectly normal people. Maybe they drove like assholes, or yelled at their kids. Maybe they went to church regularly or slept late every Sunday. Maybe they only ate organic. What would they wish for if they had three wishes, she wondered. Probably most of them would wish for money. Maybe a few would ask for world peace. The guy in the corner with the borg-style cell phone earpiece jammed in his head would probably ask for a sports car or bigger boobs for his girlfriend. But was it fair for her to think that? Maybe he was a very nice man who had children at home. She didn’t know him. She kept walking until she’d made a full circle around the lobby. She stopped in front of the thing.
“I wish for each of these people to get three wishes,” she said. “And I wish to never be invisible. And I wish for my mom to not find out about any of this, even if everyone else does.” She waited for something to happen. Maybe a poof of smoke, or a loud laugh or a spray of sparks. But there was nothing.
Finally, the thing said, “Those are good wishes. I am sorry I can’t grant them.”
“What do you mean?” Charlotte was confused. “I thought you said I get three wishes.”
“I did say that. But only as a way to distract you. If you’ll notice, there are some SWAT personnel coming in through the ceiling tiles. It looks like our situation is rapidly resolving itself.”
“But…” Charlotte now had her hands up, as she had been instructed by the lead SWAT guy, and her knife had just clattered to her feet.
“I mean I am not a mythical creature come to visit you in a bank, mi amiga. I am over here.” She saw an old man wave at her from the left side of the lobby. “I am Rusty. I work in the actuarial department of an insurance firm.”
Charlotte shook her head as if this would cause things to begin making sense.
Rusty, the actuarial, said, “Haven’t you noticed that the mouth on that creature doesn’t move when it speaks?”
A member of the SWAT team pulled Charlotte’s arms roughly behind her and clicked handcuffs around her wrists.
“Didn’t you see the child leave her toy on the table as her mother fled with her when you pulled out your knife? Mi amiga, you are not the invisible one. The world seems to be invisible TO you. This stuffed toy – probably something won for 50 cents in one of those crane games at the grocery store – is not talking to you. The man behind it is.”
The SWAT member pushed Charlotte toward the front door of the bank. The bank customers were now standing, watching everything. The other SWAT members rushed ahead and pushed open the door.
On her way out of the bank, Charlotte passed the old man. He smiled at her. She noted how his silver hair matched his white guayabera.
“Everything is not always how it seems, mi amiga,” he said, showing brilliant white teeth as he spoke. And then, “Getting attention requires paying attention, no?” This time, his mouth did not move at all.