Wednesday, September 5, 2012

the secret of invisibility

Once, I had a superpower

a story by sarah danforth

You might think its better to be able to fly, better to be able to leap tall building with a single...but let me tell you how I saved my life by becoming invisible.

Thirteen years, ago, in the largest city in the Amazon, and we were fresh back from a jungle expedition.  Raul and Guido, our guides, had take me out for dinner and dancing with their wives, children, cousins.  A big happy group of peruvians and we were dancing at a nightclub.

The military came, the Peruvian military, and some men were watching all the girls dancing on the floor.  And the details are hard to remember now--its the achilles heel to invisibility, that stories become a fog, sharp moments dull to protect--but our group was approached by some soldiers who said they were having a private party that they would like me to attend.  This was not an invitation.

And so I remember getting into the jeep, and Raul and Guido standing there, and their wives getting the children home, away.  And I remember the wind blowing my hair in the black black night as the jeep took us away from the city, out into the jungle, to the military compound.

And it must have been an officer's house, because it was a house, not a big army tent like the multitudes of tents around it.  I remember going inside the house with the soldiers, and the few other women.  They were prostitutes, I have always assumed by their makeup/clothes, and we entered the large living room together.  There were a few couches, and I saw the alcohol, and the cocaine, and all the men in uniform, and the few other women, and I realized how much I wanted to survive this without being raped, without being raped to shreds and left to die. And so my wanting to live became my superpower, and I became invisible.

How, you ask?  And I wish I knew, but I am here alive and unscathed, at least from that night, and it is because I willed myself invisible.  No one could see me, I decided, and I waited against a wall for awhile, and I went into the kitchen, and I waited.  Waited in my cloak of invisibility because that night could have been the end but I wasn't going to let it be.

And I want you to know, that this is the truth and this is what I survived.  It wasn't just the invisibility that saved me, of course--Raul ended up showing up on his motorbike and knocked on that back door, and we crept through that military compound pushing his bike until we were probably a half mile away before he would get it started. Turn on the light, speed away, back to the hostel with my sleeping friend.

What became my superpower was a will to live combined with dumb luck that transformed me into not being seen, which equaled escape.  Invisibility doesn't always work like that.  It will not magically appear for shoplifting from the yuppie food store, as my record can attest to.  And i have wanted to live through many things that have still tore me up and scarred me.

I have been thinking about that night lately because I have been remembering that feeling of wanting to live. It was the most powerful and potent I have ever felt, and I wish it didn't take a house full of soldiers to make me choose life so clearly.  Was invisibility the superpower?  Or was it the hope for tomorrow?  The wanting to just keep going that saved me from all the sketchy situations I have ever been in?

I want it back.  Not the fear, not the invisibility. I want the desire for a future back.  I want to want it so bad that the magic happens.