She's not there


Presumably well-meaning people, taking note of my chronic datelessness, have been known to ask me "Well, just what are you looking for in a partner?" Usually, I toss off some flip remark and change the subject. Of late, one of the favored responses has been "Actually, I'm looking for someone invisible, which, as you can imagine, is not an easy task."

Inevitably, they give me a look that epitomizes blankness, and I chime in helpfully, "Well, at least I'm not going after someone on the basis of looks." The trick here is to make the response sound spur-of-the-moment, which is not an easy task either, in view of the fact that I've been thinking along these lines for almost all of my life.

I started reading early, and had finished H. G. Wells' classic story The Invisible Man before age eight. But by then, I'd already been exposed to the concept, by way of a British TV series about a scientist, accidentally rendered transparent, who decides to make the best of the situation by becoming a spy. (One week, the show was preempted for a local sports event or something, and the guy doing the voiceover deadpanned, "Because of the following special program, The Invisible Man will not be seen tonight," which propelled me into paroxysms of laughter and still evokes a snort or two as I type this.) While Wells generally gets the present-day credit for the concept, it actually goes back quite a bit further. As one of three (later, five) children living in close quarters and therefore having no place to hide from the world, I was drawn to the idea of disappearance, even if it was, like Wells' poor soul Griffin's, permanent.

Somewhere around the third grade, I got it into my head that those odd creatures called "girls" (pronounced GUR-uls, for no linguistic reason I could fathom) were somehow possessed of strange, mysterious powers which they would not, or could not, reveal to us lesser guys. How else could they manipulate us so easily? Obviously, I hadn't discovered hormones yet, but I managed to get through school with my delusions (and my state of untouchedness, alas) intact.

And here, just into the 21st century, with my love life basically in the same state it was in when I was in high school (except for the greater threat of carpal tunnel syndrome today), sandwiched among the usual musings about various office workers, certain Playboy Playmates, and the like, I occasionally still find myself fantasizing