THE SLIDE

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CHAPTER ONE

I am invisible.

My name is Rosie, and I'm invisible. Not the kind of invisible I wished to be when I was small, and not the kind of invisible in super hero movies. Sometimes people see me. But they don't want to.

Today, the woman who pulled me from the street just before Detroit's number eleven city bus hit me must have been tuned in to people like me. There are a lot of us.

The man with the worn brown leather briefcase looks through me each day as he passes; except on weekends, when he must be home, in his nice house with his pretty wife and maybe his kids. Maybe a baby daughter, like mine.

He is just one. There are streams of them, sidewalk traffic in clusters and sometimes alone, hurrying, distracted, stressed. The children see me. They look right at me, right into me. Until the mamas and dads pull them a little closer with a tug, an admonishment. "Don't stare. Keep up."

The other Rosie was like them. How easily and quickly I slipped from that side to this. Bundling my Jess closer to my breast, my feet carrying me in a wide berth around the homeless man I passed each day in my own hurry. Flitting thoughts, unwanted, of the man's hand shooting out from his dirty pile of blankets to grab me, try to stop me. I read his sign each day against my will. Was he really a veteran? Rob said it was a ploy, a gimmick to gain sympathy. I didn't know. It seemed unfathomable to me, that someone might lie about service to our country. And even more so, that a veteran should have to suffer further, as cold and hungry as that man looked.

I saw him once, really saw him, the person underneath the layers of clothing and years and neglect, though I didn't mean to. On Tuesdays I always ran late. Rob stayed at the office on Monday nights. For some reason, those were the longest days for him. It always threw me off, not having him there to help in our mad rush out the door to work. I can blame him for that. Maybe there's no blame to assign him for the rest of it, but for that, for that small thing each week, I can blame him. So on Tuesdays I ran late. That Tuesday, I slipped on the ice in my rush. The diaper bag slid down my arm, Jess squealed as I squeezed her, struggling to stay upright, and I saw the man throw his arms up in the air, too far away to help me but reacting just the same. I saw his face, his gaze touching on mine and then the top of Jess's head. It was an ordinary face, just the face of a man, not some monster or hoodlum or criminal, and I saw fear in his eyes for me, that I might fall.

I didn't fall then. I grappled and regained my footing. Jess wailed at the insult of being clutched too tightly. The man sank back into his nest, eyes off me. I didn't fall, it would be two more years before I fell, and by then nobody would be able to stop me, to reach me. Not my husband, not Jess, and not that man. That man was gone by then. Maybe he died.

When I was the other Rosie, I never once imagined I could become this. My life was good. How we place so much importance on that word: good. Rob is a good man, I married a good man. I'd secured a good teaching job. We found a nice house in a good neighborhood. Jess was enrolled in a good daycare attached to my school. On Sundays, my brother and his family came for dinner, and Rob cooked steaks or chicken on the grill, even in the winter. I remember Rob and Matt standing on the patio in the snow, their breath leaving puffs of white smoke in the cold air. The damp of the crisp white snow stained the leather of Rob's shoes dark. They never wore coats. The warmth of our kitchen was only three steps away.

Matt's voice was still in my ears, after I fell. She can't come back from this. A whisper, insidious, not meant for me to hear. I was already becoming invisible then. But I wasn't quite, yet. They thought I wasn't there, they looked through me, in the same way I used to look through that man.

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