I have reached the age where I am invisible to most people.
I recently roamed the Coney Island boardwalk, after struggling to wash up in a Maimonides Park restroom because my hands could not activate any of its motion-sensitive faucets, happily taking cell phone photos without anyone seeming to notice, or care.
I felt like an NPC, a non-player character in a video game. Everyone else was a participant; I was an observer.
The funny thing is, when I was a boy, I thought invisibility was the world’s greatest superpower. It would allow me complete freedom. I could do whatever I wished without consequence.
I realize now, after all these years, how mistaken that is. Invisibility can be fun sometimes, but on the whole, it is the curse of the marginalized.
The one true superpower is the ability to stop time.
Last week in my hometown in suburban New Jersey, I nursed a serving of shaved ice at a new shop in one of the borough’s strip malls. Of course, none of the young attendants or patrons were paying attention to me.
So I watched, unnoticed, as one of the employees adjusted the satellite radio providing the background music. She stopped at a station playing the opening bars of “Your Song.”
I do not believe, from her reaction, that she had ever heard this song before. Not the original, anyway. It’s more than 50 years old, from another generation and culture. Even the seemingly inimitable voice of Elton John, who recently concluded his farewell tour in real life, was almost unrecognizable in its clarity and immediacy.
The young woman was mesmerized. After another minute, she said aloud to no one: “Wow! This is really good!”
And just like that, Sir Elton’s song had suspended time.
That’s what excellence does. The creators who conjure these moments possess Superman’s power to pause and even reverse the earth’s spin on its axis, keeping us all a little further from death.
That’s the superpower I long to possess.
Walking home that evening, I wandered through the church grounds where our family has its name inscribed on a brick in the pavement by its front entrance — as if that were permanent. The pastor was walking his dog. I waved to him, but he evidently didn’t see me… or he ignored me, assuming I was (as I am in the confessional) just a random trespasser.
I continued through the neighborhood, wondering how it stays so light out so late these days, when I was startled by rustling branches in the tall, landscaped bushes at my back. Something hit the ground with a thud that was substantial enough to feel under my feet.
I turned and saw a deer. It stopped and stared at me. Or through me. It didn’t run away.
I took its photo and turned for home. I knew that at least I could write about it all.