About Me - Обо мне
It’s a Tuesday morning in February, and I get up as
usual, and I stumble into the bathroom to take a
shower in the dark. Which is my school-day
method because it’s sort of like an extra ten minutes of
It’s after the shower. That’s when it happens.
It’s when I turn on the bathroom light and wipe the
fog off the mirror to comb my hair. It’s what I see in the
mirror. It’s what I don’t see.
I look a second time, and then rub at the mirror again.
I’m not there.
That’s what I’m saying.
I’m. Not. There.
I feel kind of dizzy, so I make my way back to bed because
if I’m dreaming, bed is the place, right? And I wait
to wake up. But I don’t because I already am.
I feel my heart pounding in my chest. My breath
comes fast and my mouth is dry. I lift my head off the
pillow and see my shape on the bed. It’s right there,
under the covers. Then I pull off the electric blanket and
So I go back to the bathroom, to the big mirror. And
I’m still not there.
The mirror is the mirror, and it is on the wall, and I am not there in front of it. I think I am—
I mean, I see the mirror, I see my towel wave through
the air, I see the shower curtain jump when I punch at
it. But I don’t see me.
So I panic, and I wrap the towel around my waist, and
I go to tell my mom and dad.
Which is not like me. I don’t tell them much. I mean,
they’re okay in small doses, and they can be useful.
Them knowing what I’m up to usually makes them less
But they are smart, I give them that much, and this
looks like a problem where smarts might count, so I’m
headed for the kitchen. I know they’ll both be there, because
this is a work day, a school day, and on such a day
in the Phillips house, eggs and toast hit the heat at
I go down the hall to the stairs, and I stop. I’m scared
of the stairs. Normally, I have good eye-hand coordination.
I don’t dork out, don’t drop my tray in the cafeteria,
trip on the stairs, nothing like that. But there’s a
problem this morning: no hands, no arms, no legs, no
feet. I feel them, but I can’t see them. I hang on to the
banister and feel my way down like a three-year-old.
Then I’m in the kitchen doorway, my feet cold on the
tile floor. Dad scrambles the eggs, Mom reads the paper.
And I say, “Guys! I can’t see myself!”
They glance at the door to the dining room, and Dad
says, “Well, come on in here and let’s see what’s the
And I say, “But that’s what’s the matter—I am in here!
I can’t see myself! You can’t see me. I can’t be seen—
like, I’m invisible!”
Mom looks at Dad, and she smiles that “Kids!” kind
of smile that I hate, then looks back to her paper. She
turns on her Voice of Authority: “Stop messing around
now, Bobby. You’ve only got twenty minutes before your
bus. Disconnect the microphone or the walkie-talkie or
whatever it is you’re playing with, come hang up this
wet towel, and then get in here and eat. Now.”
Meet Professor Mom, also known as the Director. Her
motto is, When in doubt, give an order. She’s used to
the timid little freshmen in her literature classes at the
University of Chicago. She expects “young people” to
jump when she barks at them.
I’ve been accused. I’m “messing around,” goofing off.
Again. So I pull out my chair, sit on it, grab my orange
juice, glug it down, and thump the glass onto the place
And now I’ve got their attention. Completely.
Dad stops stirring eggs and stares at my empty glass.
Mom leans so far forward that she spills her own juice,
and it drips into her lap. She doesn’t notice.
Dad says, “This is a trick, right? Do something else.”
So I pick up my spoon, lick it, and hang it on my
nose—a pretty good trick even when your nose looks
like it’s there. The spoon hangs in midair.
“Bobby?” Mom’s voice is squeaky. “Bobby, stop this.”
“I’m not doing anything, Mom. It’s just happening.”
The spoon drops and jangles on the floor. It’s a ceramic floor in an old Victorian kitchen in Chicago in
February, and I’m sitting on an oak chair wearing a damp
towel. I’m freezing.
Dad turns off the heat under the eggs.
Have you ever had the science of exactly what happens
during the process of making scrambled eggs explained
to you, in great detail? I have. About ten times.
Dad stands there with the wooden spoon in one hand,
frying pan in the other. The look on his face says,
Perplexed Physicist at Work. I’m expecting a theory any
second. And Dad delivers.
He says, “Since we can’t all be dreaming this . . . we
must be looking at some kind of visible light anomaly.
I’ve read the research on this kind of thing—I mean, the
research on the mathematical theories—but this . . . this
is a phenomenon, an event!”
Such a useful observation. The guy can’t help being
Joe Physics. It’s what he does. He works at FermiLab.
That’s one of those places where they smash atoms and
then take pictures of the bits. Life is one big science experiment
Dad’s been waving the spoon around as he talks. Egg
boogers are all over the place. Mom tries to talk again,
but all we get is more squeaks. I’m starting to wonder
when the smarts are going to kick in.
Dad gets it back under control almost right away. He
mops up Mom’s juice, serves up three plates, and sits
down. Dad and I start to eat, but instantly he stops
chewing. Dad watches as I float forkloads of rubbery
eggs up to my mouth. So does Mom. And I’m watching too. It’s a good show: Bobby and His Disappearing
Breakfast, now appearing on the Big Screen of Life in
the Kitchen of the Weird.
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