A Visible Darkness


Eddie knew he was invisible. He’d known it forever. He had seen himself disappear day after day, year after year.

They could all see him when he was young, back when he was a target. The ones who called him Fat Albert or Donkey Kong when he walked to the bus stop. The ones who would hold out their arms and puff up their cheeks and waddle. He’d hang his head, roll up his already thick shoulders and say nothing. He heard the words. He knew the grins in their faces, marked the golden chains around their necks, recognized all the logos, all the shoes.

They thought he was an idiot, too dumb to know who did what to who. Too stupid to know who was the owner and who was owned. But Eddie watched everything and everybody. He kept his head down, but his eyes were always cutting, this way and that. No one saw what he saw, every day and especially at night.

It was at night when Eddie first started to become invisible. Since he was twelve or thirteen he’d been roaming the night streets, and he’d always known every alley cut-through, every neighborhood fence, every streetlight shadow. Before long he knew without thinking about it; the timing on the traffic light at Twenty-fourth and Sunrise, when the last spray of summer sun came cutting through the empty lot of the rundown shopping center, when the streetlights flickered on and when the Blue Goose Beer Saloon closed and they brought out the last plastic barrel of garbage and leftovers.

In the dark Eddie knew where the dogs were kept and which ones he could feed raw meat scraps through the chain link and talk sweet and low to until they hummed and growled their own low throat noise back to him. Eddie’s skin was darker than most of the others, and that’s why he thought he could stand there, late at night in the shadows of a ficus tree or Bartrum’s Junkyard fence, and stare into the bluish glow of someone’s living room and never be noticed. When he was young, he did get caught. Old Man Jackson or Ms. Stone would come outside and yell from their porch, “Boy, get your self outta there and get on home. You ain’t got no bidness out here now.” And he would. Just walk away with no response. Just hunch up his shoulders and go.

When he quit school Eddie started hanging in the streets in the daytime. At fifteen he’d already grown into a big, thick man’s body. He wore the same dark T-shirt and dungarees nearly every day. His “workin’ ” clothes he called them. He walked everywhere he went. He never rode the bus. His mother never owned a car.

At some point he got hold of an abandoned shopping cart, sun flashing off chromed-up wire mesh, plastic handle name of Winn- Dixie. He would fill it with whatever pleased him: scrap metal and aluminum cans for profit, blankets and old coats for warmth, whiskey and wine bottles for company. He would push his cart through the alleys and streets and keep it next to him on the benches when he sat and everyone else got up and moved away.

Eddie would watch them all. People on their way to work. Mothers on their way to the clinic, kids in tow. Girls giggling and whispering secrets to each other. But soon, year after year, they stopped watching him. In time, Eddie became less than a neighborhood blemish. In time, he was a simple fact of life, a shuffling nothing.

Since they could not see him,