It was the South Carolina State Fair during an October of my youth. The chill of autumn had not arrived yet; we suffered through an afternoon of uncharacteristic heat. Swelting, summer-like temperatures as we navigated throngs of visitors -- old and young, families on an outing, couples on dates, adolescents in various stages of dare-seeking and mischief. My mother wandered the grounds with my sisters; Christi* and I navigated the fair as a ten-year-old fair, cherishing the few hours of independence my mother allowed us, giddy on the high of entering the Haunted House and riding the Tilt-A-Whirl, Ferris Wheel and a rollercoaster free of parental supervision. Christi and I had another fifteen minutes before we needed to meet my mother at the rocket -- a visible landmark to which children were summoned when they got lost or evaded their guardians' attention. Being responsible fifth-graders, our meeting had been prearranged -- intercom not needed -- and our Swatches were in sync. Thirsty from perspiring under a humid, cloudless sky, we quickened our walk to the nearest lemonade stand with shortest line. Christi ordered hers and began sipping. Next in line, I opened my mouth to request the same. The woman taking the orders did not see me and took the order of a person behind me. With that customer in possession of a refreshing beverage, I tried again to order. Again, she did not see me. It wasn't just that was a child and shorter than my peers. I was a phantom -- unseen, unperceived. Totally invisible. Christi -- blonde, with round eyes resembling globes of ocean and no land -- intervened.
"She wanted one, too," Christi said. "Can we get another?"
Now, it was Christi who went the way of Casper. If I could remember a thought in that moment of a numbing freeze, I imagine it would have related to the friendly ghost and the uncanniness that its whiteness and its friendliness matched Christi's finely thin locks. Had Christi all along been an apparitional force? As a fifth-grader, I probably would have thought the word "phantomlike" instead of "apparitional." If I thought anything at all when my nerves deadened my brown body into a wraith, when the ground fell soft or I floated above it. When Christi yanked me out of my trance with an offering of lemonade, suggesting that she can remove the lid for me to drink from the cup if I didn't feel comfortable sipping from her straw.
Christi spoke nervously on the way to meet my mother at the rocket, stunned by the exacting force with which the lady at the lemonade had rendered me invisible, her invisible for acting kindly on my behalf, and me tongue-stuck silent. Christi told my mom what happened; her response I could not hear. My gaze fell upon my pink-painted toenails poking through the openings of my sandals. I wanted only to be in the airconditioned comfort of my mother's pale-blue Cadillac. I wanted only to go home.
*Names have been changed.