Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Valerie X, and I’m invisible. That’s right, invisible. As in see-through. As in am-I-really-there. And by the way, the answer to that is no, I’m not really there. You see, I’m a figment of someone’s imagination. You know how sometimes all you have to do is believe something strongly enough,
and it comes true? Self-fulfilling prophecy, they call it. Well, I guess that’s what you could call me. A guy who calls himself Bryan Doe fantasized about me so much that one day he came home to find me waiting for him in his apartment. It’s been a fun ride, for me at least.
I told him that day that if he could see me, I’d look like Stacey Dash (that’s who he had in mind when he was daydreaming about me). Well, for those of you who know about Bryan’s website, you all saw how I had teased Bryan, telling him how I’d look like Stacey Dash if I were visible (if you don’t know Bryan’s website, just click on the “HOME” link at the top of the page). Well, I didn’t post it or anything, but lately I’d been telling him that I’d figured out a way to become visible and that one day I would do it and not tell him. He’d think it was Stacey Dash, of course, and make a fool of himself.
I haven’t actually figured out how to make myself visible, but I just wanted to play with his mind. Anyway, one day he was shopping at a department store down in the Bronx, and I was following him (he didn’t know I was there). I saw Stacey Dash enter the store, looking in the same section Bryan was in, and I watched to see what would happen.
Bryan saw her, and of course he was staring. I hate to admit it, but the girl is gorgeous (I’m not one of those women who can’t admit that another woman is attractive. Besides, I’d look like her, and I think I’m gorgeous myself). Bryan stared straight into her pretty eyes, which of course means that when she looked up, he was staring her right in the face.
“Well, hello there, gorgeous,” Bryan said, confident that he was really looking at me. Stacey said a very offhand “Hi” and kept shopping.
Evidently that offended Bryan, because he got just a little arrogant. “After all this time, I can finally see you, and all you have to say is ‘Hi,’ and then you go on like everything is OK?”
Stacey looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look, mister. I don’t know who you are or what kind of game you’re playing, but I’d appreciate it if you’d leave me alone and let me shop.”
If Bryan had been smart, he would have taken the hint and went on his way. But who ever said Bryan was smart? He walked right up to her, until their faces were just inches apart, and said, very quietly, “Look, Valerie. I appreciate a gag just as much as the next guy, but this is too much. After all this time I finally get to see you, and you want to act like you don’t even know me? Why don’t you just drop the act and do what comes naturally?”
“Look, creep,” Stacey yelled, “LEAVE ME ALONE!! SECURITY!! Would somebody please get this guy away from me?!”
By then it had occurred to me that I probably should have stepped in to put a stop to things before Bryan got himself hurt, or into some kind to trouble, but it was just too much fun to watch. It stopped being fun when two huge slabs of beef popped up seemingly out of nowhere to answer Stacey’s call for help.
I could see that these guys weren’t bodyguards, and they didn’t look much like store security, either. At least they weren’t wearing uniforms or anything. While one of them asked Stacey, “Is this guy bothering you, Ms. Dash? You want maybe we should work his sorry @$$ over?”
The other didn’t wait for an answer, he just pounced on poor Bryan like a lion on a mouse. Bryan didn’t even have any time to react, to try to defend himself, or to get away. One moment he was in Stacey’s face, the next he was face down on the floor beneath a good quarter-ton of angry male fandom.
I couldn’t budge the guy off poor Bryan, but I did what I could. When the guy raised his fist into the air to pound poor Bryan, I grabbed it and held it there. Stacey was standing about five feet away, looking terrified at what was unfolding there in front of her. Once she saw the guy’s fist just stop in midair, and the terrified look on his face, she took off screaming.
*Just great,* I thought. *There goes my chance to make him think Stacey is doing this.* Then, making my voice as mean sounding as I could, I whispered in the man-mound’s ear, “You’d better get up off him and leave this second, fella, or you’ll be screamin’ worse than Pretty-Girl, there.”
He jumped up, much faster than I would have thought somebody his size could move, and hightailed it out of the store. Bryan lay there moaning and groaning, looking just like Beetle Bailey from the comics after Sarge had worked him over.
Before I could tell Bryan I was there, or try somehow to get him some help, the store security guards were there. They took one look at Bryan and called 911. Then they stood guard over him, like they were afraid somebody else would beat Bryan even worse, so I never got to tell him that I was there.
The EMT’s got there and took Bryan to Jacobi Hospital. The cops that came to the store with the ambulance left their car doors open when they went into the store (NYC cops are getting sloppy; you’d think after the Diallo mess they’d tighten up their act), so I had no problem getting to the hospital, though when we reached the hospital I had to climb into the front seat and then out the front passenger door window to get out of the car.
Again, they stood guard over Bryan at the hospital, so it wasn’t until he was given a room for overnight observation that I could even let him know that I was there.
As soon as the nurse left the room, I walked over to the bed. I absentmindedly brushed against his foot when I approached the bed.
“Val?” he mumbled. “Is that you?”
“It’s me, Bryan. How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been run over by a freight train.”
“I wish I could have stepped in sooner to pull that guy off you,” I said, “but I couldn’t get to him any earlier.”
“That was you?” he whispered.
“Yeah. Didn’t you– that’s right, he had you face down. You couldn’t see anything.”
“I heard a voice threatening the guy,” he whispered again, “but I wasn’t really paying any attention. I didn’t recognize your voice.”
“Uh, well,” I started, a little embarrassed, “you were busy getting beat up at the time. And it’s all my fault.”
“What do you mean?” he said.
“You thought Stacey was me, so that means all this is my fault. I’m gonna make it up to you somehow,” I said.
“You don’t have to make up anything,” he said. The nurses must have heard him talking, because one of them peeked into the room.
“You all right in here, Mr. Doe?” she said.
“Yeah, I’m OK,” he said.
“Just checking,” she said. “A couple of the nurses thought they heard you talking.”
“Maybe I was,” he said. “I got roughed up pretty bad. But I’ll be OK, I guess.”
She must have been satisfied with that answer, because she left and went on her way. I was pretty sure of how I could make it up to him, and it wouldn’t get done with me there in the hospital. I kissed Bryan good-bye (I didn’t realize how tender skin can be after you’ve been beaten up) and went on with my plan.
I walked back to Bryan’s to see if I could find out online what Stacey Dash’s New York contact address was. I thought it might be some kind of FI solidarity thing if I went in TFI mode so I could experience what Kim and Nikki go through. Then I realized that would be silly; where would I go to look for invisible shoes, anyway? So I took them off and carried them.
Two minutes of bare feet on cold, wet concrete made me change my mind quick. Besides, in New York they don’t have plain ice on the sides of the road. Salt, sand, oil, and jus
t plain dirt combines with ice to make this hard, barely translucent black stuff that doesn’t melt until the temperature hits 50 and stays there for a week.
I put on the shoes I was carrying and made my way by subway back to Bryan’s (good thing for me it wasn’t rush hour). I checked with the fan club site and of course got an LA address. I knew I could do better; Stacey Dash is a Bronx girl, after all.
I finally found a local Bronx address after some online searching, so I made my way back to the #2 subway and rode to the 180th Street stop, near where the Bronx River Parkway crosses over it, thinking this would be so much easier if I could switch back and forth between invisible and visible.
I got off the train and walked to the buildings near the intersection of 180th Street and Boston Road, just south of the zoo. I wandered around, basically, until I found the address I had been given. I figured it must have been a relative’s address; I didn’t want to think she would still live here.
Once I knew where the building was, I went into a few stores, looking for one with one of those old-fashioned phone booths, the kind with the closing door. I found one (in use of course), and waited until it was empty. The fool who was using it closed the squeaky door behind him when he left, so I had to open the door V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y, so as not to attract anyone’s attention.
Once I got the thing open, I dialed the number I had seen on the Web. As luck (?) would have it, Stacey herself answered the phone.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hello, Ms. Dash,” I replied, somewhat nervously. I was kind of at a loss as to what to say next, so she was the next to speak.
“Hello? Is anybody there?” she said.
“Yes, I’m here. Sorry… Uh, Ms. Dash, this is about the young man you saw get beat up in that department store. That was actually my fault. I look something like you, and he must have thought you were me. I know I’m asking a lot here, but would it be possible that maybe you could visit him in the hospital? I
thought maybe it might make him feel a bit better.”
“He thought I was you?” she repeated, disbelief evident in her voice.
“Yeah. We’ve become kind of close but without him ever, uh, actually seeing me. I told him I’d look something like you, so I guess when he saw you, he just assumed…” I trailed off.
There was silence on the other end while she let my words sink in. Finally she said, “OK, I guess I could do that. Where can we meet?”
“Meet?” I didn’t expect her to want to meet me anywhere else but at home.
“Yeah, a meeting place. Somewhere public, like maybe the 180th Street subway station?”
Obviously I couldn’t do that, and it was just as obvious that I couldn’t explain that over the phone. But I tried anyway. “Ms. Dash, I was kind of hoping that we could meet where you are now. If we met in a public place… well, you might miss me.”
“I might ‘miss’ you?” she said. “Didn’t you just say you told your friend you looked like me? How could I miss you?”
“Um…” I was at a loss for words. I could never tell her the real reason over the phone and expect her to believe it. “It’s kind of hard to explain it over the phone,” I said quickly. “Could we meet where you are now? Believe me, it would be much easier to explain face-to-face.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” she said. “I mean, I don’t even know you. How do I know this isn’t some kind of scam?”
“You could call Jacobi Hospital and ask if a Bryan Doe is a patient there,” I said.
“Do you have the number?” she said warily.
“No I don’t, and even if I did, I’d prefer that you looked it up yourself so you’d see I’m for real,” I said. “But really, it would be so much simpler if we just met face to face somewhere out of public view–”
I didn’t get to say another word.
“Look,” she said, clearly angry. “I’m sorry about your friend, I really am. But I don’t know what you’re really up to. If we can’t meet in a public place, then we can’t meet.” Then she hung up.
I wasn’t looking forward to having to scare her, but it seemed that was the way she wanted it.
I quickly opened the phone booth door, forgetting about the squeak until it reminded me. The cashier and store manager looked right at the phone booth, which meant I’d have to wait until they were distracted before I could leave the store.
I stepped softly out of the phone booth and waited by the door. While the manager tried to figure out what had happened, two customers entered the store. One was very belligerent, giving me the distraction I needed. No one would ever notice that the door lingered open a few seconds after the loud customer had let go of it.
I walked out of the store, around the corner, and into Stacey’s building. According to the name listing by the mailboxes, the Dashes were in a second floor apartment. I wasn’t sure which was the right one, since none of the doors had apartment numbers on them. After a few minutes, though, I could hear voices getting louder behind one of the doors. When the door opened, a young Hispanic woman emerged laughing. Right behind her was Stacey, saying, “And she actually wanted me to let her come *here* and meet with me! How do I know she’s not a stalker or something?”
“It’s that face, Stacey,” the other woman said. “You got that little-girl face, and those eyes. People think they know you.”
“Yeah, well, if she tries something, she’ll get to know me a lot better, know-what-I-mean?”
“So you’re not gonna go see the guy?” the other woman asked.
“I would have, at first, if the girl had just agreed to meet me somewhere public. But now, I don’t know. I just get the feeling that she’s not telling me something.”
The other woman looked at her watch. “Omigod! Look at the time! I gotta go. But Stacey, take care of yourself, and let me know what happens, OK?”
“OK, Rosa,” she said. “I will.” As the other woman went down the stairs, Stacey looked out the hall window, I guess looking for me. I took my chance and slipped through the open apartment door and into the living room, where I waited for Ms. Dash to return.
I heard the door close and after a couple of seconds Stacey’s face lit up her living room. While I tried to figure out how to let her know I was here, she said out loud, “She must think I’m some kinda fool.”
I saw my chance and I grabbed it. “You’re not a fool,” I said.
She looked around, clearly frightened. “Who said that!?”
Time for a mind game. “I did, Stacey,” I said. “Or should I say, ‘You did?'” By this time my face was just inches away from hers.
“Who are you?” she repeated, clearly confused. “Where are you?”
“Basically, I’m you,” I answered. “I’m where you are.”
“OK, so I’m cracking up,” she said. Her tone of voice suggested she was playing along with a joke, but the expression on her face was serious. “So what do I want with myself, then?”
I thought that was pretty funny, but I had to choke back the laugh so I wouldn’t give myself away. “You owe that guy in the hospital a visit, don’t you?”
“I don’t owe anybody anything,” she said. “Except myself. I gotta get myself to a therapist. They always told me this acting stuff would mess with my head.”
“You’re not crazy, Stacey,” I said. “You’re just fighting your conscience, that’s all. You heard what happened. That guy in the hospital got beat up because he thought you were somebody else.”
“But that wasn’t my doing,” she protested. “Those big crazy guys did that. I didn’t ask them to. They just did.”
“But you could have stopped them, couldn’t you? Or maybe you could have done something for the guy in the store? Instead you just ran off and left him for somebody else to find.”
She sighed, looking off into space. “I could have done something for him, I suppose,” she allowed. “But when that
guy’s fist just hung there in space, and he looked at it all helpless, I thought he was flippin’ out or something. I didn’t want to wait around and find out.”
“So you *do* owe him something,” I repeated, hoping that I was at last getting somewhere.
She heaved another sigh. “I guess I do,” she said. “I guess I do.” She took a jacket from the hall closet but she left the apartment before she put it on. Standing outside the apartment door, she said, “Is there something else… I need to tell myself? Or am I cracking up, like I thought?”
“No, you’re *not* cracking up, Stacey,” I repeated. “And now you can see, like I told you on the phone, that I’m not a stalker.”
She screamed and ran back into the apartment and locked the door. I silently cursed myself for not waiting until she had gotten to the hospital to let her know about me. I knocked on the door and was still knocking when the peephole clicked open. You don’t have to guess what she saw, or didn’t see. She screamed again and ran from the door.
I kept knocking but she wouldn’t answer. I tried calling her again from the phone booth (the door had been oiled). She answered, and even managed to stay on the line after she recognized my (“her”) voice.
“What do you want from me?” she said, in a wavering voice.
“All I want is for you to visit my friend in the hospital,” I said.
“Who are you, really?” she said, sounding a bit more composed. “*What* are you?” Then, catching herself, she continued, “I’m sorry, that didn’t come out right. I meant, what happened to you? Why can’t I see you?”
“That’s a long story, and I don’t know how long I can stay in this phone booth to tell it,” I said. “But I was in the store when that guy attacked Bryan. I had no idea that things would turn out like that, or I would have interrupted him while he was bugging you. Like I told you before, I told him that I would look like you if I were visible, but as you found out, I’m not. So I guess I’m asking you to see him so I won’t feel so guilty about what happened.”
“But you still didn’t tell–” she started. I knew where she was going, or trying to go, so I cut her off.
“Look,” I said. “All I can say right now is, I mean a lot to him, and he means a lot to me, and right now it would mean a lot to us both if you would visit him. If you don’t want to, I’ll understand. Either way, I won’t bother you anymore.” It was obvious that I had miscalculated by “exposing” myself to her too soon, and it began to seem like Bryan wouldn’t get his visit.
I was feeling kind of dejected, and with nowhere else to go, I went to Jacobi and waited in Bryan’s room. What I was waiting for, I don’t know. I felt too guilty over what had happened to let him know I was there, and yet I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere else.
Imagine my surprise when, a couple of hours later, Stacey Dash walked into Bryan’s hospital room!
I won’t violate Bryan’s privacy by going into detail about what happened in the hospital room. I did let them both know I was there after a few minutes. It didn’t seem like I was interrupting or hindering anything, but still I wanted to let Bryan have some privacy, so I left for a while.
When I came back into the room, Stacey jumped a bit. I guess most people would jump seeing the door to a hospital room swing open by itself. Then she caught herself and smiled.
“So, you’re a figment of his imagination come to life?” she said, sounding unsure of whether she should believe it.
“That’s me,” I said. “And I guess he must have really liked you, because–”
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” she said, smiling. “You’d look like me.”
“You sound like
you don’t believe,” I said.
“Well…” she trailed off.
“Then, see for yourself,” I said, and “blinked on.” (I had to find some other way to say it besides “became visible.”) I was wearing a plain white t-shirt and tight blue jeans. Stacey’s eyebrows jumped halfway up her forehead as she looked at her own invisible figure standing ten feet away from her, undetectable if not for the clothes I was wearing.
“Well?” I said. “Whaddaya think?”
She blinked fast a few times and said, “I think if somebody’s imagination can do that, he is probably a very lucky man, and maybe dangerous too. Still, I’m flattered. I get a lot of complements, but never anything like this.”
“I didn’t exactly *make* it happen, at least not consciously,” Bryan said. “I was daydreaming about an invisible you, and when I got home, she was there.”
“Still, you could have been thinking about anyone, and you chose me. And then you got beat up over me. I have to make it up to you somehow, don’t I?” she said, with a gleam in her eye.
Well, Stacey wound up giving Bryan season passes to the Mets and Yankees for the 2000 season, and she got him a walk-on role on “Clueless.” She even wanted to sneak me onto Clueless, in a dream sequence or something. Bryan was all for it, of course, but I had to turn her down. After all, I felt guilty enough as it was, getting Bryan beat up and all, I would have been really miserable if I’d gotten a TV appearance out of it. Not that anyone would have known about it, really. I mean, Stacey would have to have gotten billing for the scene. After all, I don’t exist. I’m not real. Right, Bryan?