Tuesday, February 08, 2005

One in Eighty

In certain spaces and places I become invisible. It is not a new idea at all. Sometimes people overlook me, or don’t recognize my presence because of my color, my age, my perceived sexuality, a number of reasons. On the flip side there are occasions in which others see me only because of those things. Saturday I was in a room with nearly 80 people and this was one of those occasions in which everyone saw me | but one man. To him I was invisible.

I work for a small nonprofit and several weeks ago I was at an event where I had the opportunity to meet some of our volunteers. A very good looking black man in his late twenties possible early thirties approached a colleague and myself. They had already met and their conversation was familiar. My colleague, a young white woman, turned to me to offer an introduction. He extended his hand, said hello and never looked at me again. For the rest of the night I watched his interaction with other people and paid close attention to his subtle efforts to completely ignore me. Enter a dear friend of mine, Mr. Kane who had come to the event to pick me up so we could head to a poetry event across town.

Mr. Kane tapped me on my shoulder and told me it was time for me to grab my bag so we could make our exit. Mr. Kane noticed where my eyes were wandering, and laughed. According to Mr. Kane the guy I was looking at, the guy who had been ignoring my human presence all night was a guy Mr. Kane had gone to dinner with a month ago with another group of friends. “He’s one of those confused children,” Kane quipped. Ah, there is the rub. This guy was ignoring me because he saw in me something he knew was in himself and he didn’t want to see manifest anywhere else. Gayness. He didn’t want to see it. He didn’t want to be associated with it. He didn’t want to acknowledge it/me.

So on Saturday, when I saw him again it was the same routine. I chuckled to myself. There we were again in a room full of people. Only 79 saw me. Only 79 heard me. And only 1 felt me. He felt my energy that he didn't want to feel so much he couldn’t even look at me.