One childhood morning, I woke up and realized that I could be seen and heard, but not felt. I couldn’t touch my alarm clock; I couldn’t touch my sheets. I was just an empty pattern of light. All that was left of me was my awareness.
My mom cried for a week when she found out. She tried to hug me, to stroke my hair, but everything passed through me. Finally she settled for sitting with me at the kitchen table and placing her hand on top of mine, so they existed in space together, like overlapping slides on a projector. My dad didn’t cry. He turned stony faced, and didn’t talk to me much. But sometimes I’d hear noises coming from the locked door to my parents’ room, and I swear that once in a while, my dad would cry for me.
Eventually, life continued. I went back to school. Luckily, I could imagine myself new clothes, so I wasn’t stuck in a set of green flannel pajamas forever. At first most of the kids didn’t notice my problem. But I couldn’t pick up pencils. I couldn’t turn pages. I couldn’t kick the soccer ball in gym class. My teachers gave me special permission to take all my tests orally. When the kids found out what I was, they started throwing paper airplanes through my head in class. I did my best not to react, though, so soon enough, they all left me alone.
I never had a girlfriend in high school or college. Of course not; I was gay. I never told my parents; I never had to. They’d ask if I was seeing anyone, and I’d say, “No, Mom. No, Dad. You both know that I can’t be touched.”
My career was lucrative. Scientists found much joy in poking me with X-rays and MRI scans to confirm over and over again that nothing was there. (I don’t know what they got out of it after the second or third time, but who am I to question scientists?) The United States government enlisted me to serve as an ambassador and negotiator on dangerous diplomatic missions. I could neither hurt anyone nor be hurt, so I was free to call bullshit with minimal repercussions. I became famous, for both my condition and my diplomacy. I retired at 65. Shortly thereafter, my parents died. I hadn’t touched either of them in 53 years.
I lived to be 82 years old. Then, over the span of a few weeks, I began to evaporate. Chunks of me faded like an old painting: an ear, a thumb, my left foot, gone. The world mourned my prolonged death as it happened. I found their mourning unsatisfactory. I couldn’t really love them, and they couldn’t really love me. After all, I couldn’t be touched.
Even now, ever since my mirage vanished, I don’t know if I’m really here.