There was once an invisible man.
No one knew that he was invisible. Not really, for the invisible man kept himself impeccably dressed, and was always active and while the man himself may have been invisible, the clothes were not, and his actions had just as much of an impact on the world as those of a visible man would have had. But no matter what he did, no matter what he did, no one ever realized that he was invisible.
And so it was that the man went about having a normal life. He worked a normal job and had a normal wife and normal children and normal friends. The years went by and the invisible man went grocery shopping and barbequed with the neighbors and went to church and attended school concerts and went out to eat, it never ceased to amaze the man that so many people could look right at him; that they could interact with him on a daily basis; listen to him talk, accept money from his hand and never actually see that there was nobody there at all.
Each person that interacted with saw who they wanted to see. They saw the employee with the stellar reputation. They saw the father who took such good care of his family. They saw the active church member who always volunteered time with the elderly. Even his wife saw only the good husband who always remembered her birthday and anniversary and paid the bills on time. And the man would wonder as they talked to him, as they commended him for a job well done, as they praised his generosity and talent, whether they ever bothered to actually look for him, or if somehow they just projected the image of who they wanted to see on his invisible body. But every time he looked in the mirror, he was forcibly reminded of the fact that where a man should have been there was only the shell of a man; a shell wrapped in nice clothes and defined by the expectations of those around him.
As the years went by the invisible man became restless. When people praised him or criticized him he would laugh outright. Who were they kidding? Who were they talking about? They didn’t know him – nobody did.
Finally, one day when he got home from work he stood in front of his mirror and slowly took of all of his clothes. Piece by piece he let them fall to the floor and he stood there, staring at himself in the mirror, willing himself to become visible. When nothing happened he took a deep breath, turned on his heel and walked out of his house, down the driveway, and never looked back.
The invisible man walked for days. He spoke to no one. Without his clothes and without the expectations of his friends and co-workers, it was as he wasn’t just invisible, but that he didn’t exist. The further he walked the more depressed he became, until finally the invisible man collapsed onto stretch a deserted park bench in a small town during the middle of the night. Wrapping his arms around his chest he sobbed uncontrollably. Who was he? What was he? How come no one could see him? How come he couldn’t see himself.
“You know” said a quiet voice quite near to him. “It can’t be that bad.”
The invisible man startled out of his sobs and looked around him, ashamed that someone had caught him crying.
It took him a moment, but after a while his eyes picked out a young woman sitting on the grass under a tree not more than 20 feet away. She wasn’t looking at him. She was sitting with her knees drawn up to her chest and seemed to be in a deep sort of despair herself.
“Are you ok?” asked the man quietly, drying his tears on the back of his hand.
The girl shrugged, a delicate gesture that spoke volumes. “How about yourself?” she asked quietly, eyes still not meeting his.
“I’ve been better” he said, shrugging himself.
“Want to tell me about it?” she asked.
“Tell you what” said the man, “I’ll tell you about myself if you promise to tell me about yourself in return” he offered.
“You’ve got yourself a deal” said the girl, and she began to talk.
For the next four weeks the invisible man went back to the same park and the same bench every night, and every night the girl was there, and every night they took turns talking about themselves and after a while they moved on from the things that were bothering them to the things that they liked. They began talking about art and books and movies that they had seen and places that they wished to travel to. They talked about beliefs and dreams and shared hopes and discussed possibilities. They began bringing their favorite books to read passages from them to each other and exchange little gifts when the night was through; a pomegranate, a book mark, a small bouquet of wild flowers picked from the fields outside of town.
Before the month was up the man found that he had fallen in love with the sad girl. Except that she wasn’t so very sad any more. She smiled far more than she had, and he found himself entranced with how her face lit up when she smiled, and he was more than a little startled the night when she looked up at him, right into his eyes, and smiled as if he was the most wonderful thing she had ever seen. Except that she couldn’t possibly see him – no one could. He couldn’t even see himself.
He tried to explain it to her that he was invisible, that she was only seeing what she expected to see, and she laughed at him.
“Don’t be silly” she told him, giving him a playful poke in the ribs. “I can see you plain as day. You are handsome and funny and full of life. You have a big heart and are not afraid to be there for other people when they need you. Your laugh is contagious, you are highly intelligent, but most of all – you care. Do you realize what a rare person you are?”
She reached out a hand and traced the outline of his lips with her finger tip. “I see you” she whispered. “I SEE YOU”. And softly she kissed him full on the lips.
In that moment his world collapsed into myriad shards around his feet then reassembled themselves with her at the center of his universe. And a moment later she had taken his hand and held it up in front of his face. “Can you see?” she whispered in his ear, and with amazement he realized that he could see his hand. He jumped to his feet and stumbled to the fountain where the rising sun was casting a thin golden light on the surface of the water.
He looked down and, for the first time in his life, he saw himself looking back,
Collapsing to his knees the man let out a sob of wonder. “What is this?” He asked, holding out his hands in front of him and looking at them from every angle. “How did you do this?
“All you needed” whispered the girl quietly, taking his hand in hers, “all you needed was to be seen.” She kissed him softly on the forehead then added “consider it my gift to you, for saving my life.”
“I didn’t” began the man
“I was planning on drowning myself in the fountain that night” admitted the girl. “And then you came and, well, that was that”.
“It’s like magic” murmured the man, turning his face to the rising sun.
“It’s love” smiled the girl taking his hands and pulling him with her to a standing position. “But you’re right, to be loved unconditionally, to be seen, truly seen for who and what you are, that is true magic” said the girl, smiling, and she began to laugh delightedly, and he found that her laughter was so contagious that he couldn’t help but laugh as well.
And so it was that the visible man and the no longer sad girl stood hand in hand in the sunlight, and greeted their first morning together with love and laughter an they both knew that their worlds would never be the same again.