Why can’t anyone hear me?
Okay, get a grip, Michelle. I can hear myself, so there must be some logical explanation besides the rest of the world going deaf all at once.
It all started when I was getting breakfast. Dad was pouring a cup of coffee. His back was to me when I said “Hi” but he didn’t react. Well, it was his first cup of coffee, so I thought he just didn’t want to talk until he was more caffeinated.
Then the same thing happened with Mom as I was sitting at the kitchen table eating my cereal. “Hi, Mom,” I said right after swallowing a mouthful of Cheerios. She didn’t react, so I spoke up, “I said Hi Mom.”
She noticed me as she brought her coffee cup to the table.
“Honey, are you saying something?” Irrationally, I noticed the gray roots in her hair and thought she’ll probably be dyeing it again soon.
I was practically shouting. “Yes, Mom. I said Hi”.
“Michelle, I can see your mouth moving but nothing’s coming out. Are you alright?” She reached over and put her hand on my forehead to see if I had a fever.
“Mom, I feel fine. I can hear myself. Why can’t you hear me?” I stood up and looked down at her.
“Honey, I’m worried. Frank, come in here a minute.” She was calling to my Dad who was in the den on his PC, probably reading the news.
He shuffled into the kitchen. “What’s up.”
Hair wasn’t a problem with him since he didn’t have any, but he looked so tired and frumpy in his worn robe.
“Dad! Can you hear me?”
He was looking right at me and I saw his facial expression go from curiosity to puzzlement.
“What?” He looked down at my Mom and then back up at me. “I can’t hear a word you’re saying, Sweetie.”
I was tempted to wake my brother up, but it’s Saturday and he’s sixteen so he’ll probably sleep until noon.
“I can’t deal with this now. I’ve got to get ready for work.”
I knew I was talking to myself, and I noticed my parents were just standing there looking at me as I took my spoon and bowl to the sink to rinse out before putting them in the dishwasher.
I’d already showered, so I put on a little make up, got dressed, grabbed my purse and was about to head out the door. The next bus downtown was coming in less than ten minutes and if I didn’t catch it, I’d be late for work.
Mom met me at the door. “Maybe you shouldn’t go to work today, Michelle. I think you’re losing your voice because of a cold.”
“I feel fine, Mom. I can talk just fine. You and Dad just can’t hear me.”
I sometimes get frustrated with my parents. I always think to myself that they don’t really listen to me, and now it’s literally true. Come to think of it, I’ve spent most of my life feeling like I wasn’t there.
No one takes what I say seriously. In high school, which I mercifully escaped from last year by graduating, when all the other girls got dates, none of the boys seemed to notice me. Even now at my job, I don’t get much attention from the people I work with.
Work. I’ve got to get moving.
I walked around Mom and got out the front door before I said anything I’d regret, not that they would have heard that either.
Made it to the bus stop with only a couple of minutes to spare. There were two other people waiting but I didn’t recognize them.
I got on the bus after the other two, showed the driver my bus pass, and found a seat towards the back.
As my stop came up, I pulled the cord so the driver would stop, but he didn’t slow down. I pulled again and he still didn’t seem to hear. I opened my mouth to say something, but then someone else rang the bell and he slowed to a stop right where I needed to get off.
I walked the block to where I work, a department store, and used my pass card to get into the employee’s entrance. I walked into the lounge and put my coat and purse in my locker. Sandy and Ken who work in Women’s Clothing and Appliances respectively, were also getting ready to clock in.
I said “Hi” and they ignored me.
“Hey, Sandy. Can you hear me?”
Instead of answering, she turned to Ken. “Have a good one.”
He answered a muffled “You too” as she clocked in.
“Can’t anyone hear me?” I walked right in front of Ken blocking his way to the time clock.
He walked through me like I wasn’t there.
I’ve spent hours trying to get people to see me, to hear me, to touch me. No one can. I’m disappearing from the world and I don’t know why.
No one at the store, not the customers, not Jenny, who I work with in the Children’s Clothing department, not my supervisor Beth, no one can see or hear me. I can walk right through them. No one’s even mentioned that I’m late for work. It’s as if I never existed.
It wasn’t until I went back outside that I noticed the world was getting dimmer. It wasn’t like everything was darker, but like people, buildings, everything was becoming more opaque.
Everyone and everything became more transparent, getting thinner and thinner, until it was all gone. My whole world down to the last crack in the sidewalk, just gone. I started to get dizzy and lost my balance.
Someone grabbed my arm and kept me from falling. “It’s okay, I’ve got you.”
The world was starting to come back into focus a little, but it was a different world, a really different world.
I looked up at him. He was around my age, maybe a little older. He was still holding onto my forearm and for some reason, I didn’t mind.
“Hi, I’m Arturo. I’m your guide.”
He let go of my arm but still stood close to me, smiling at me.
“To your new world, your new life.”
I totally had no idea what he was talking about or even what to say. I caught some movement over his shoulder and saw other people slowly appearing. They all looked ordinary, old, young, men, women, all looking in my direction expectantly.
“You’re like the rest of us, Michelle.”
“How do you know my name?”
“You’ve been unappreciated and unnoticed all your life, like you didn’t quite fit into the life you were born into. We were all like that.”
The world came back into focus all around me. It wasn’t transparent anymore, but I wasn’t downtown. I wasn’t even in a city.
It was like a park but the trees and bushes looked twisted and alien, like a set in some science fiction or fantasy movie.
“Where am I, Arturo?”
“The world we come from. We were meant to be born here, not in the other world, but sometimes a mistake happens.”
I started to panic, but then the anxiety and disorientation just sort of flowed out of me, like water being poured out of a glass.
“I see you’re beginning to adjust. Let me show you around and introduce you to some of the others.”
Arturo introduced me to Kemp, Oly, Shamus, and a bunch of other people, only we’re not exactly people.
We walked casually to the nearest community and he showed me our homes, which are not exactly buildings and not exactly rocks or plants.
I don’t really understand it all, but Arturo told me that every so often, when one of us is supposed to be born here in our world, our life force falls through a breach between our reality and the Earth reality, and we’re born there instead.
Because we don’t belong, we always live sad and lonely lives there. No one quite knows what to do with us. We don’t fit in.
Fortunately, Arturo and the other guides keep searching Earth for those like us, and when they finds one, like Arturo found me, they bring them back through the rift. Only guides can see the rift and manipulate it.
I remember being in high school. There were a few of us who never fit into a clique or group. We were the loners, the oddballs, the rejects, the misfits. Even our own families never understood us.
I hope someday, they can figure out a way to keep us from falling into Earth and being born there. I can tell you that being away from where you belong is so horrible and lonely.
I can’t stop thanking Arturo. He brought me home. I’ve got tons of friends. We’re all so alike and we get along great. I’m getting married to Oly next month on Dan Bunta Eve. Can you believe it?
I wish I could tell the others like me on Earth not to give up hope. I wish I could say that if you’re an oddball, if no one understands you, if people act like they can’t see or hear you, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with you. You’re just in the wrong world.
You have a home, I promise. Just hang in there. We’ll find you. Don’t give up. We’re coming to take you home.
I got the idea for this story from a TV commercial advertising a mobile carrier. Several people talk to the camera and say that no one can hear them and it’s a nightmare, then tell the audience to switch to the carrier they’re promoting. I started wondering what sort of nightmare it would be if everyone around you really couldn’t hear you.