The Girl Who Fades
by rachel forbes
I started fading out when I was in the seventh grade. Sitting in biology, I noticed my fingers, which I was tapping impatiently on my desk, suddenly stopped their methodical noise and when I looked down at my hand I saw only its vague outline, enveloped by the wood-grain printed laminate. By the time mister sands was explaining the setting on the microscope I couldnâ€™t see my elbow. I rolled down my sleeves and kept my right hand in my pocket for the rest of the day.
My mom noticed the change at dinner when she asked me to pass the rolls. Afterwards, my non hand whirling around in the dishwater like an impossible bubble, she touched my face and told me it was time to start practicing remaining. I threw what was left of my arms in the air, â€œwhatâ€™s the point, you canâ€™t fix it anywayâ€.
â€œLong sleeves and gloves can only do so muchâ€ my mom lectured in my second week, â€œif you fade out completely, your clothes will go tooâ€. She kept telling me these things as if I hadnâ€™t noticed her sudden disappearance from the audience of my 2nd grade ballet recital, as if I didnâ€™t remember the horrified looks I witnessed on the faces of fellow motorists on the freeway â€“ me laughing in the passenger seat, alone.
â€œMommy, it hurtsâ€, I squeak, squeezing her hand during a particularly bad winter night. She runs her visible fingers through my non hair and kisses my non head, which barely leaves an impression on my pillow. She cannot hear me, but she keeps repeating â€œI know I know I know, I know I know I knowâ€¦â€ into my sheets.
I notice her watching me more carefully as the years steal by. She insists on picking me up from school every day, she has almost been hit by cars more times than she wants to tell me. I promise her Iâ€™ll be careful. â€œIt doesnâ€™t matterâ€ she warns. When my report cards come back with low participation grades I hear her tell my dad, â€œIâ€™m sorry. I hoped she would be differentâ€.
She wants to talk to the dean at Berkeley, but I insist she not mention my fading to anyone. I fly home mostly for Holidays and even when I am there I have no footsteps, no impact, not even a whisper. They fly out for my graduation, but I skip it in favor of sleeping, one last time, with a sophomore boy I know Iâ€™ll never see again. When I meet them for dinner I tell them I had been up there in that empty seat. â€œThat valedictorian was brilliant donâ€™t you think? Such charismaâ€ my father bellows at the entire restaurant hands raised above his head. My mom turns her eyes to the menu.
I call home after every break-up. Sometimes she can hear me and sometimes all she can do is speak, and pause as if my voice is coming through the line. Sometimes all she says is â€œI know I know I knowâ€ and waits for me to hang up.
Iâ€™m gone halfway through dinner with Jeremyâ€™s parents. If it was really important to me I would have found a way to be there.
I fade during sex with Adam; it must be because Iâ€™m not enjoying myself and he canâ€™t deal with that much rejection.
Beckett wants to be with someone whose eyes donâ€™t flicker every time he tells her he loves her. He breaks up with my empty bed as I do yoga in the living room. He grabs a beer out of my fridge before he leaves and I laugh a silent laugh.
James is a bit more obscure. He moves slowly around the house, giving me time to step out of the way. If I fade out while watching TV, he leaves that channel on until I come back. When he reads, he puts his books at such an angle that I can easily read them sitting beside him.
On our wedding day I focus all my energy on remaining. James sneaks into my dressing room and when I tell him heâ€™s not supposed to see me before the ceremony he laughs and kisses my shoulder. I wonder how long it would take for him to notice if I left. I could skip the ceremony; he would probably go on the entire honeymoon by himself, believing I was there with him, my non body in our first class seats, touring le MusÃ©e dâ€™Orsay listening to his thoughts on Toulouse.
â€œI donâ€™t go jogging with you every morningâ€ I tell him, â€œwhen you run back up onto the porch, and you think Iâ€™m with you; I can hear you talking to yourselfâ€.
He shakes his head and runs his fingers down my back. I feel my eyes flicker. And then his lips are pressed to my non ear, â€œYou hear me talking to youâ€.
The Girl Who Fades