My husband has long told me stories of the times he felt invisible.
Being a truck driver on the road, there were many a time that he braved weather, fatigue or loneliness as he and his truck winded down the roads across our country. When, at the end of his day, he looked forward to parking that big, beast of a truck and stepping out to stretching his bones. Dusting off the days thoughts and worries to join others in a simple meal. Usually this would occur at a diner or cafe. The type of place that always had hot coffee on hand and smelled of onion rings. With the wind at his back he would pull the door open and anticipate some form of a human connection. Sinking into a vinyl booth, and seeking a belonging, even if that means just to be handed a menu. Listening to the conversations around him, the clinking of glasses or plates. These things reassured him to know that he was not just a milk-weed seed floating aimlessly in the air, that he was an active part of something larger than that. He was still a part of community.
There were times that he would tell me that sitting in his booth no one would notice him there. No one would approach him and offer a menu, or noticed that he turned his coffee cup upward. Because they just did not see him. He did have a quiet way of carrying himself and was not the type of person who carried himself in such a manner that announced his arrival into a space. He was also very patient. So, he would sit there and wonder when he would be noticed or addressed. After enough time had passed, a familiar thought came into his mind, "Am I invisible?" This was the type of thought that crept into his mind often enough that when it did, it never surprised him. It was something he became used to and accepted.
On the day we met, it was at a neighbor child's birthday party. I was very close with the family and the birthday parties were a cherished tradition. There, on that warm day, the mother of the birthday girl was handing out homemade lollipops. Made with flavors of cinnamon and strawberry. The kind of suckers that were thick and hard and stuck to your teeth. Happy Birthday was sung and presents were opened and then the cake was being sliced. Big, fluffy slices of cake.
I was by the pool with my youngest child, who was a year-and-a-half old. My child had been through three open-heart surgeries by this age and he was wearing oxygen. With his little hand firmly in mine, I was crouched down by the edge of the pool, encouraging him to touch the blue water.
I felt someone staring at me. This was not unusual, as it was common that people stared- out of curiousness that such a young child was on oxygen. Often because of the stares, I wished that we were invisible. When I looked up and across the pool, I noticed a handsome man sitting in the corner. No one was speaking to him and I had not noticed him before. So, my little boy and I walked over to the cake station and grabbed three slices. One for my boy, one for me and one for that man.
We then walked over to the man and I said, "Would you like some cake?" and the man said "Sure!" With a big smile on his face.
The man eventually became my husband. He often speaks of that day and says it was one of those moments that he felt invisible until "a little girl" (as he often calls me) handed him a slice of cake.
I look back at that day as one of the luckiest days of my life... the day I saw him.