Glass House

My world is weirder than your world.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Moved.

Nuts. I've been so busy on the other site, and hassled enough of my friends to look at it and give me opinions, that I totally forgot to mention it here until Jenna reminded me.

It's still not at 100%, but it's close enough that I feel comfortable saying I've moved. Set your bookmarks to:

http://www.invisiblejames.com

Still not thrilled with the URL, but it'll do. At least it's expository. My past few days' worth of posts have been over there -- mostly ranting about Dana -- so read up if you want to. If you click on the archives links you'll get them in forward order, and posting comments there should be easier than posting them here.

So check it out over there and let me know what you think. I'll keep this Blogspot site up for a while, but I really don't plan on updating it. It's just too much of a pain compared to the clean and shiny Wordpress interface.

The fun goes on...

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Administrivia.

Part of the reason things have slowed down around here is because I've been spending time working on the new blog site. I won't hand out the URL just yet, because the design's still in flux and I want it to look goooood before I point anybody there. I have copied all the content over, with some minor changes to satisfy my craving for revision. I've still gotta figure out how to move the comments that are worth moving.

In other news: Check it! I'm Person of the Year! ...All right, probably not me personally. And I did come rather late to the game. Still pretty cool to know that I'm, er, on the tail end of last year's trend.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Morning.

Callie was invisible when we woke up this morning. I've had this happen before. It's not just the sex; it's the sex and then sleeping together for several hours after. She thought it was the coolest thing that's ever happened to her.

("Last night was the coolest thing to happen to me," I said. "Aww, you're sweet," she said. "That was pretty good too. I'd give it a 7." I couldn't find her to throw things at her.)

She had a blast with it. She played naked hide-and-seek all over my apartment. We went upstairs to grab a bite, and she played with floating things around Jenna in the kitchen. Jenna laughed. "Glad you had a good date, Callie," she said.

"Crap. How'd you know it was me?" Callie asked, disappointed.

"You don't smell like James. Also, he stopped showing off some years back."

"Yeah!" I said, juggling some oranges. "This power is a tremendous responsibility. It must never be abused." I tossed an orange where I heard Callie's voice, and we did two-person juggling until she dropped them all. Jenna shook her head and muttered "Their brains have melted together," and retreated to safety.

I made juice from the bruised oranges, and Callie smeared some Nutella on a bagel. And on herself. The bagel was quickly forgotten about, and we ended up downstairs again.

We showered together, which I have to admit looks really cool. Callie griped that she didn't have her camera with her: she does a bit of art photography, and thought this would be a really unique shot. "Next time," I said. She said "Definitely," which lifted my mood even further.

I could still see her shape in the water droplets until she toweled off. (Another difference between myself and secondhand invisibility: things disappear on me quickly, but not on other people.) She started to get dressed, for the novelty of it, and I whistled appreciatively. There's something about the shape of a woman's panties that's an absolute turn-on for me. When she had her black evening dress on again, she bitched at me for not having a mirror so she could look at herself.

"That's what you would do with a mirror,"I said. "What would I do with a mirror?"

"Please your ladyfriends," she said.

"So bring one." That gave her an idea. She took her little compact out of her purse and blew it up to about five feet tall. I had to clear some furniture out of the way for it. She whistled at herself when she saw the little black dress in midair, then turned around.

"How long does this last?"

"I don't know. A few hours," I said. "Longer if we stay close."

From the shift in her posture I could guess at the expression on her face. "How close?"

I smiled. "Close."

"Anything you need to do today?"

"Just you," I said.

The dress and underwear fell to the floor, and I only saw a faint cloud of wet hair.

That was a couple hours ago. She went upstairs for lunch, and I started typing this. Now she's back. She's teasing me. And she's just started--

Happy 2005, everyone.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Circle.

I went to Greta's shindig last night. It wasn't deep in the haunted forest after all; it was in her friend Sandy's backyard. There were six girls there, all under the premise of a sleepover rather than a Wiccan ritual. Mom had to drop her off, of course. I snuck out in the bed of the truck. (It was easier than explaining that I was not going out to spy on the pajama party of a bunch of fourteen-year-old girls. I got my fill of that sort of thing when I was fourteen.)

As an armchair anthropologist, I found the ritual entertaining. This was the girls' third full moon in five months. Sandy was the "high priestess" of their little coven, and spent ten minutes lecturing the other girls on the Dianic tradition, the superiority of the sacred life force of women, and how they were all Goddesses who simply had to awaken themselves. I guess it was old news; half the witches started to look bored, and Greta actually muttered "Starhawk, yadda yadda" under her breath. Sandy didn't notice.

When the priestess judged that the moon was high enough, they all put on their cloaks and formed a circle between the candles. Greta had a wool cape she'd bought online from some RenFest site with a good chunk of her allowance. Two of the girls had cheap rain ponchos, and they drew sharp looks from Sandy. Hers was a handsewn purple robe with stars and moons in silver thread. She said something about how their ancestors would have gone skyclad, and one of the girls said "Our ancestors didn't care about assholes with digital cameras." I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.

Sandy drew the circle with her athame -- it looked to me like a letter opener from the Franklin Mint with a Lord of the Rings theme -- while she intoned a welcome to the good spirits and a banishing of the evil ones. I picked sides, and stepped inside the circle while she was doing this. Four of the other girls invoked the quarters and the elements by lighting candles at the corners, reciting lines they were given, and then Sandy and Greta lit the candles in the middle to the Goddess and her Consort. (Greta was the Consort, with an artfully ambiguous gender. I believe, watching as an outsider, that Sandy was actually attempting to put some moves on her. Greta contrived to keep the lit candle between them the entire time.)

The preliminaries done, they got to the business of the ritual. Some of the witches had athames or wands or Tarot decks that needed blessing. These were duly purified with Dasani bottled water and blessed. Some of the girls shared problems with the group that they needed healing or positive energy for, and they got it. I won't repeat those details -- some of it was quite serious, and this was the one part of the evening where I felt rather guilty over invading their privacy. I got over it with the next part.

Sandy -- known throughout the ritual, no kidding, as Lady Starshine -- announced that with the close of the old year and the rebirth of the Goddess, this was the perfect time for divination. They would all appeal to the spirits of the land and air to tell them what to expect in the coming year. She poured the rest of the Dasani into a wooden bowl and spoke some florid incantations. Then they all took turns scrying into the bowl.

I meant what I'd said to Greta before: I may make fun of people, but fundamentally I respect their right to believe what they like. If people want to practice magic, I've got no grounds to tell them they're wrong. I truly wish the stuff I got involved with when I was fourteen had been this innocent. But just the same, Lady Starshine was getting pretty thick, and I was starting to understand why Greta had invited me. Gods help me, I took the bait.

Sandy was going to go last, surely so she could upstage everyone. The first scryer was one of the poncho girls. I've perfected the art of whispering over the years, and as she leaned over the bowl, I said so that only she could hear me, "You will find love this year -- and the strength to be its master." Her eyes went wide, and Sandy asked her what was up.

"I heard a voice!" she said. "A spirit spoke to me! It said -- it told me I would find strength." Sandy was skeptical, but the other girls were awed. Greta was grinning a Cheshire cat grin.

I gave similar platitudes to the other witches. When Greta's turn came up, I whispered, "You are a conniving shrew. No soup for you." She laughed out loud. Then Sandy stepped up to the bowl. By now she was a believer, and she clearly expected some major cosmic revelation. I leaned over, composing something lengthy in my head about humility and the stupidity of Lady Starshine as a name, when a voice stopped me cold.

Something whispered in my ear. It was high-pitched, either a woman or a boy, and very clear. It said, "They have always been watching you. Try to forgive them."

"What was that?" Sandy said. "I can't hear you, spirit!"

"They'll tell you you have no choice," the whisper said. "They're liars. Don't forget."

"Come on! Tell me my future!" the high priestess whined. She sounded about eight.

"Sandy, shut up," I said, not bothering to keep my voice down. "Who are you? Who are they? If you're here to help me, there's no reason to stop now." I listened intently for a while, but apparently the whisper was done.

I looked down at the circle of young women. Their faces were white, except for Greta's, which was red. Sandy seemed to think the questions I just asked were for her; she cleared her throat and said, "We will help if we can, spirit. I am Lady Starshine, and these are my sisters of the Coven of White Light!"

"Yeah, whatever," I said. My knees were shaking a little. I wanted to bolt, to find a place where I could be alone and pace for an hour or two. I picked up Sandy's athame with the pewter dragon on the hilt. She gasped and stepped back at the sight of the floating knife. One of the other girls screamed.

"Spirit," she said quickly, "if we have offended thee-- Oh god it's got my knife--"

I sighed. It was on the tip of my lips to ask what these toys were for; to tell them that I wasn't a spirit, that magic spells were pure stupidity, that if they couldn't rely on what was in them to change the world then there was no point in ever looking outside for it. I could have broken their circle easily with cold truths. But then I looked at Greta, and I bit it back. These were fourteen-year-old girls, and they were having fun. My own life wouldn't be any better off for messing with that.

I opened the palm of one of the poncho girls and put the athame in it. "Your circle was weak, Lady Starshine, because you drew it alone," I said. "That allowed your coven to bring their ghosts in with them. If you wish your magic to be greater than the sum of one part, you'll all have to share your talents and your thoughts." I thought a moment, then said, "And be careful what you summon. Be precise. The next thing you call to give you answers, may not be a benevolent as I am."

Sandy had nothing to say for once. To the poncho girl I said, "Will you cut me a doorway, Lady? I would leave this circle, if you would all allow it." Oddly, this didn't seem like a mere courtesy. There's something about ritual, about sacred space, that pulls you into its structures even if you're not a believer. I'd stop short of calling it magic, or saying I was bound by anything, but just the same, I didn't feel comfortable about simply walking across their imaginary line.

The poncho girl opened the circle for me, stammering over the words, and they all bade their farewells to the spirit. Greta actually said "Tell Mom I'll be home--" before she clapped her hand over her mouth. No one seemed to be paying attention, though.


I walked the five miles home, and did my thinking on the way about that whispering voice. If I had to lay down money I'd say it was probably the watcher in the woods. What was it? Still no idea, but another unusual seems most likely -- a telepath, maybe, or some sort of astral projector. Why did he/she speak to me this time, and not before? Maybe for the same reason I spoke in the circle: just to be peevish, and to mess with the head of someone he thought deserved it. If that's the case, then the actual content of the message could be nonsense, just like my own whispers were nonsense.

But I think it's going to stay with me. "They have always been watching you" is a hard line to forget. I'm not going to obsess about it, but I'll keep my eyes open.

I made it home, took the expected crap from my mom about sneaking off -- I ought to act my age, I ought to set a better example for Davy and Greta -- and slept. Today I got up early and did the Greyhound thing back to Atlanta again. It was gratingly uneventful.

New Year's Eve tomorrow night. Date with Callie. I'll try to get it right this time.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Home.

Well, sort of home. I never lived more than a few months in Asheville -- my mother and stepfather moved there when I was seventeen, but I quickly went stir crazy and moved back to Atlanta on my own. My circle in Georgia was at an all-time low -- Nick, of course, and the few friends of Lenore who'd still speak to me -- but I knew no one in North Carolina, and I was feeling too old and jaded to haunt another schoolyard looking for the one or two interesting peers out of six hundred. So I went back and shared Nick's apartment, which turned out to be far more educational.

So this place doesn't speak much to me; but to the rest of my family, Asheville is home. My stepfather, a kind and intelligent man with the rare gift of knowing when not to speak, died four years ago of prostate cancer. No conspiracy there, no mystery. So it's my mother, sixteen-year-old Davy, and fourteen-year-old Greta. We get along fabulously. That I'm a decade older probably helps. They've had an invisible older brother since they were born, and think nothing of it. The distance helps too -- by the time they were old enough to get on each other's nerves, I was long gone.

It's been an easy week. We had the huge turkey feast, I've had my ass kicked by Davy in chess but kicked his ass in Halo 2, and I've caught up on my reading. I'm going through King's Dark Tower series again before I read the seventh book. (It had better be worth it, to suffer through the sixth one a second time.) Greta's going through a Wiccan phase right now, and has invited me to witness a ritual her friends are doing tomorrow night. I pointed out that she missed the solstice by a few days, but she said too many of her friends were out of town, and anyway it was the full moon, so it'd work anyway. Actually, she sort of invited me to be the ritual, to mess with her friends' heads by moving candles around and such, but I told her I don't screw with magic. I don't believe in it, but I'd rather not give it a reason to start believing in me.

Besides, these woods are haunted. Or something. I went walking in the hills yesterday, and the sense of being watched was so strong it was palpable. It got to the point where I'd stop after every couple of footsteps to hear if anything else was crunching leaves. Nothing was, of course. And my breath was the only breath leaving fog in the cold air. I'm not a shy person, but it took me a few minutes to screw up my nerve to say, in a normal speaking voice, "Hello? My name is James. If I'm not alone, who are you?"

Nothing answered to my ears. Nothing answered in my head. But I had the absolute conviction that someone was standing behind me. I had a sharp mental picture of a child, a boy I think, watching me from maybe eight feet away. "Watching" makes no sense at all, but that was the impression that I had. I twisted at the waist, so I wouldn't make any noise turning to look. I saw the leaves rustle a bit, although there was no wind where I was standing, and then the feeling was gone.

I started whistling on the way back to the house. Stupid or not, it does make you feel better. I announced my return, my mom commented that I was home earlier than she'd expected and I might as well unload the dishwasher, and I pounded Davy again on his Xbox.

It does creep me out again a little, writing about it, but I'm not inclined to dwell on it. I'm quite certain I felt something real, but if it didn't want to communicate with me, I see no reason to make it my problem. I've dealt with weirder, and with things that wouldn't go away just by turning around. Curious spirits in the forest may be worth a cold shiver or two, but they're not worth losing sleep over. I'm cool with them. As long as they stay in the forest.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Bus.

Confirmed. Greyhound still not my friend. I caught the early early bus, hoping it would be nearly empty, but no such luck. Only a few empty rows to sneak a seat.

One family had a six-year-old kid who claimed the entire bus as his territory. He bounced around between all the empty seats, and ran smack into me before I could slide down. He recoiled, confused.

This happens occasionally. Kids are usually the easiest to handle. I leaned in close and whispered into his ear, "Don't tell anyone."

Eyes wide: "Are you a ghost?"

This kid was way ahead of me. I went into my dramatic mode. "Yeesss. I am the ghooost of Rolling Ronnie the bus driver, doomed to roll on these highways for eterrrnity."

"Why?"

"Promissse not to telll anyone?"

"Maybe," the kid said. He was fascinated, but not about to close off bragging rights. I was tempted to argue the point, but it didn't really matter.

"I ussed to drive a schoool buss," I whispered. "One morning I picked up the kidss. But I didn't take them to schoool. I droove them to the swimming poool."

"Cool!" the kid said.

"No. Verrry hot. For I had lit a fiiire under the poool. And put in some potaaatoes, some carrrots and some orrrregano." (Was I overdoing it? Yeah. I wad overdoing it.) "I drooove the busss right into the pooool. I jumped out jusst in time, but the kids were made into soooup."

"Why'd you do that?" the kid asked. His voice was as quiet as mine.

"Sooo I could EAT them!"

The kid screamed and ran back to his parents. "Mommy there's a ghost in that chair over there and he says he rode a bus and he used to eat kids in a pool!"

The mother looked around, severely embarrassed, and hushed the child. He tried to explain -- I heard an outburst of "Potatoes!" -- but that clearly wasn't going anywhere.

After that I was able to sleep for most of the trip.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Travel.

I'll likely be scarce the next week or so -- traveling up to
Asheville, North Carolina to spend the solar holiday with my mom and
my half-siblings. The traveling part will be a major pain in the ass.
Greyhound is not my friend. But I like my family, and I'll get to
walk around in the mountains, which'll be nice if it isn't raining or
sub-freezing the entire time. It's worth the trip. I'll try to post
while I'm there, but don't expect daily updates or anything.

To Dana: No, I'm not going to be on IM. You know that. You'll just have to learn to send e-mails that are more than two sentences, or get
comfortable with a damn phone. Who have you seen before? What
is it that you need me to remember?

And although I hope it's unrelated to your problem, do you have any
advice on how I can get this damn song out of my head?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Evil laugh.

Callie e-mailed me yesterday. You might think she'd be annoyed about my blogging on the intimate details of our non-sex life; but if you do, you don't know Callie. She's not the shy type. Here's a choice excerpt from her e-mail:

I talked to Jenna and she helped me understand how insecure you can be. I thought about it Saturday and I think getting you drunk was probably a mistake, it probably caused some performance anxiety for you and that's why you said no. That's understnadable if so. I can forgive you, because you're a romantic and I think that's cute. You will just have to romance the hell out of me next time. (Or I will crush you like a grape! JK.)
And then later:
You're probably going to talk about this in your blog, aren't you. You have my permission, but you have to use the words "performance anxiety." EVIL LAUGH!
By now you understand fully why this woman intrigues me.

(The fact that she could crush me like a grape, or at least make me grape-sized and do finger motions while wildly cackling "I am crushing you!" is entirely incidental.)

Administrivia 2.

It's official: I'm getting the hell out of Blogspot. I've picked up some Web hosting through a helpful minion -- er, I mean intermediary -- and have begun configuring a WordPress blog to replace this one. I'm even looking at skilled professionals for design tips.

Where will it be? Sadly, that's the part I don't know yet. I'd love to get a sensible name like glasshouse.org or glasshouse.net, both of which are taken but parked. I've sent inquiries to both parties, but I have a suspicion that the pittance I'm willing to offer them isn't going to sway them. So I need to think of something else clever. Or maybe you can suggest something. (Anyone have opinions on invisiblejames.com? I hate it, personally.)

Stay tuned, and for those three or four people on the planet who may have bookmarked this page, get ready to move it in the next week or three.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Grinch 2.

(Still on Friday night. This gets explicit. Kiddies, cover your eyes.)

After "Grinch," Jenna took Jon upstairs to babysit him, and the party degenerated pretty quickly. Everyone had more shots. I'd been doing cinnamon schnapps during the show, but now Callie wanted whiskey, so I joined her in some Black Bush. Dana played some Christmas carols on the Yamaha keyboard, badly, and Lara unveiled a new party trick where she got us all to sing in each other's voices. I do a pretty nice "Silent Night" in Callie's mezzo soprano. People affirmed that I was on key; she rarely is.

Someone had the idea to pull out Dance Dance Revolution, which is hardly fair in this crowd, but we were buzzed enough to make it funny. Somebody got me a pair of Jon's pants out of the laundry room so they could see my legs jumping. Everyone took a turn, although Nick was razzed for doing his on the couch without moving. We also blamed him every time someone screwed up, claiming he had TKed the buttons. (I think he did, at least some of the time.) Callie cheated spectacularly, speeding up her own time so that she could take the hardest level with ease. I must say, watching her do "Butterfly" in a blur was very sexy. She also tried to make the pad bigger, so Dana and Lara could dance on it together, but she was too toasted to maintain it. She doesn't do anything involving space distortion and other people without a lot of concentration.

We laughed, we sang, we geeked. Midnight rolled nigh and no one was close to crashing yet. Nick started flirting with Lara's date, which I thought was pretty crass, but L.D. was really rather casual about it. Not sure if he was bi, or if drinking and watching superpowered people make idiots of themselves for three hours had simply lowered his defenses enough that a homosexual advance was nothing in comparison. Lara seemed pretty amused by it, and I was watching to see what happened next when Callie felt around for me, grabbed me around the waist, and started pulling me toward the basement door. My basement. "Goodnight everyone!" she called. "Merry Christmas!"

I started to say something too, but then everybody was saying goodnight very very fast, and suddenly I was the bottom of my own stairs. Callie had a cheerfully evil grin.

"That wasn't very nice," I said. That sounded pretty weak to me, but I was too drunk to articulate the moral dimensions of the situation.

"I know. I'm being naughty," she said. Which, drunk as she was, articulated her moral dimensions pretty clearly.

She pulled me further on, and found my bed by walking into it. Aubrey had been asleep, and woke up just long enough to sniff around her heels before going back to his sleeping pad. Callie pushed me down onto the bed, and I thought way too hard about this until I heard a zipper being unzipped.

Callie felt around and then paused. "You're wearing two pairs of pants," she said.

"Duh," I said. "Those are Jon's pants from that DDR game." She started laughing, and then we were both laughing uncontrollably, and by the time we recovered there were a lot less pants all the way around.

She took me in her mouth, and the only warping of space and time was the natural kind. It looked strange, but it felt -- ah, hell, it felt terrific, but it wasn't satisfying, because: A.) I was too drunk; and B.) I was distracted by stupid thoughts.

Eventually she caught on that nothing was going on, and she slid up to find my ear and nibble on it. I fondled her idly until she kissed me and said, "Well? Are we or aren't we?"

Again, I couldn't quite hit the words I wanted. "We're too drunk," was as close as I came.

"No shit," she said. "Why do you think I've been trying to get you drunk all night?"

Two days later, I feel like an idiot, but that night I honestly hadn't noticed she'd been doing it. I pursued my chosen course of idiocy: "Callie, you're really really special to me. I haven't been... Haven't had a..."

"A relationship, yeah, I read your fucking blog," she said. "You're special to me too, James. Let's have wild special bunny sex. Now."

"I don't wanna take...advantage..."

She stopped cold. She sat up and looked through me. "Are you serious?"

"Uh... I think so?" Somewhere deep inside my brain, alarm klaxons were going off, trying to put my mouth into emergency shutdown. Too late. "I wanna do it with you, Callie. I really do, but I... I want it to be more, uh... Romance and stuff... I want it to be, like, what we said. Special."

She got off the invisible bed and started picking up her clothes. "Well, shit, James. I gotta admit you're special all right. You're a real piece of work."

"Oh. Um, I'm sorry?" She said nothing, just kept getting dressed. "You can stay, you know. I want you to." (In my defense, Callie, I was a lot more drunk than you probably thought I was, and I think at least part of my bullshit was simply fear about performance. Not that I'm not a damn idiot.)

She didn't actually go anywhere, of course. She found Jenna, and crashed in the media room upstairs. Most of the others were also sleeping somewhere in the house -- if Dana decided someone wasn't in any shape to drive, they didn't drive.

Nick came down a few minutes later, during my fifteenth mental replay of the conversation. "Saw your California girl storming through," he said. "Everything all right?"

I told him about it.

"James, I say this as your best friend," he said, "and not just because you're a fucking idiot. Are you sure you're not gay?"

"Fuck you," I said.

"That'd be proof," he said.

I waited for more insight, but really he'd just come down to crash on my couch.

Merry Grinchmas.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Grinch.

Man. Hung over this morning. I almost never get drunk -- partly because it's a little dangerous, largely because it's never that much fun. Being buzzed is a pretty good feeling; by the time you're drunk you can't even tell. But last night was the circle's Grinchmas shindig, and being stupid is kind of a tradition.

It was at our place, the House of J. Hosting duties fell largely to me, because Jon's mind was occupied by his four-year-old self and Jenna only allowed him to come down and play for a little while. So he was up in the media room, playing video games, and she had to spend more time supervising him than socializing with us. Kind of a shame, since this might have been the last Grinchmas where she could let loose. Except for drinking.

Hey, did I mention Jenna's pregnant? About six months now. Some time back there was a betting pool about how weird the baby was going to be. It ended when Jenna put ten bucks on "Baby's going to kick all of your asses to the curb if you don't shut up." She didn't want us jinxing anything.

So I got to be the door-greeter and drink-getter for the evening. The same crowd as last week showed except for O.J., who backed out on the excuse that he had to attend a party at his wife's boss or somesuch. Perhaps for the best. Also, Lara brought a guy. She doesn't think he's unusual, but she cleared it with us in e-mail and swore he was cool. Cool he might have been, but he seemed too nervous most of the evening to tell. We ran through the standard "Tell anyone and we'll find creative ways to make you miserable" litany, but I don't think we had to worry about him. The ones we've got to worry about are the ones who are fascinated, not spooked. If he shows up a second time I'll give him a name other than Lara's Date.

When Callie came in she had a wreath of mistletoe that she put firmly on my head. She gave me a pretty phenomenal kiss, which was just fine, but of course everybody else wouldn't stop doing it while the mistletoe stayed visible. Mostly on the cheek, but not always. Nick, of course, wouldn't pass this up. Little kid Jon wanted to do it because everybody else was doing it. The only person who didn't try to kiss me was Lara's date. Maybe that's why I'm inclined to like him.

There was way too much food. Nobody had time to cook a turkey, but Jenna made a few of her famous tomato pies, and there was stuffing and cranberry sauce and everybody brought a dessert. Even I made something. Sugar cookies. Yeah, I know, please hold your applause. Callie did a Yuletide log thing that was a work of art.

The order of events gets a little switched around on Grinchmas: it's eating, then business, then entertainment. Everyone wanted the business discussion to be brief. I gave my report on the rat bastard. Dana asked how many other people were in the seats watching.

"I don't know," I said. "Twenty, maybe thirty at a time. I think they were all waiting on other cases. Why?"

"Did anyone look familiar?" she asked.

"No. What's this about, Dana? Have you seen someone hanging around?"

But she said she hadn't. She wanted to change the subject. Most of us didn't, and I even offered to let her look into my memory to see if she recognized anyone, but she wouldn't. "I just had a second of deja vu. Like I knew about this from somewhere else. Probably 'cause I already read about it in your blog," she said. Uh huh.

Nobody had anything new. None of us wanted anything new, because we were all going out of town or otherwise had plans for the holidays. Well, except for the Santa Mission. I'll talk about that later.

Business done, we started up the party. First, as always, we pulled out "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The animated classic, not the recent Jim Carrey disease. This is a drinking game: everybody gets their favorite martini, liqueur, single malt Scotch, whatever, and you take a drink on every instance of the word "Who." Every instance. There are a few other mandated drinking points as well. If you finish your drink, we pause while you get a new one. Everyone must finish their drink on "Stink. Stank. Stunk." and get a new one as well.

You can get pretty drunk in half an hour, it turns out.

Normally we shut off the tape just prior to the last couple of minutes, when the Grinch gives the presents back, "To keep it satisfying." But what with Jon being mentally four years old, we couldn't bring ourselves to traumatize him, so we watched all the way through the sappy ending. He had Kool-Aid, of course, while he was watching with us. Jenna had the safe kind of eggnog.

(To be continued. Lunchtime and analgesic hunt.)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Justice.

Shifted my work schedule around yesterday and spent most of the day at the Fulton County criminal court. Now you might think that just getting to places in the city would be a pain for me. I look at it as an adventure. Let me break this down for you, so you can see what an average day out is like.

First, I dress for the occasion. What I wear is only important in that it can't make any noise. No jeans, no nylon windbreakers. It's been cold the last couple of days, so we're looking at sweatpants and a microfleece pullover. I know I'm going to miss lunch, so I pack a sandwich in a zip-loc bag, grab a banana and a juice box, and I put them into the the pullover's pockets. (See yesterday's rant.)

Then I ride my bike to the nearest Gwinnett County Transit station. Yes, being an invisible man on an invisible bike is dangerous. But I stay far on the left side of the road, against traffic, and when possible I try to ride during congested hours when things are slow. A few times I've had to dive off my bike and hit the dirt, but I've never been hit. I've got one particular spot in the bushes where I leave my bike and helmet -- it would suck to forget where they were.

The Gwinnett bus isn't crowded. It never is. I creep on board before the driver enters and stand near the back, and at the designated time the bus lurches off and we ride to the MARTA subway station. MARTA's the half-assed Atlanta attempt at public transit. It's clean, safe, and barely goes anywhere, which is why all the neighboring counties have had to develop their own half-assed systems. But I use it all the time. If the station looks too crowded, I hang around and wait until I won't have to elbow my way onto a train. Sometimes this can take a half hour or more. Yesterday I was lucky -- I'd already missed rush hour, and got onto a half-filled train.

(My least comfortable moments, BTW, are when a train fills up after I'm already on it. It's not terribly risky -- the geometry of the luggage niche is such that there's basically always a few inches to stand in -- but it's extremely tight, and when that happens there are so many people grabbing the handrails that I can't move my hands or arms.)

Eventually the train stopped at Georgia State University, and I got off and walked the few blocks to the courthouse on Pryor Street. Total time for the bus and train were an hour and twenty minutes. That may not seem long, but consider: if you were doing this, you'd probably bring a book or a Game Boy or something to keep yourself entertained. Guess what.

After I got to the court it was a simple matter of walking through the metal detectors (dead simple, I wasn't carrying anything metal) and waiting in the appropriate courtroom for four hours. Luckily the place had wooden seats, so I could sit in them without making an impression. Otherwise I'd sit on the floor. When I got bored and hungry, I took a walk outside and ate my lunch on the sidewalk, where the traffic noise would mask any eating noise, then I came back in.

And, by now, you're all seething at me for not telling you why I was there. I'm not being coy; I figured you'd find everything above more interesting. It was an arraignment hearing.

Imagine, unknown reader, that you were possessed with the miraculous power to make people happy. Or sad, or any other damn thing you wanted them to be. Most of us can do this anyway, but imagine that you could do it by taking the emotions of an experience away from a person, the visceral feel of that experience, and dumping it into an object. Then the next person who touches that object gets it discharged into them, like a capacitor.

What would you do with an ability like that? I could see a lot of possibilities for therapy. For helping people get rid of old trauma, or bringing two people closer together, or hell, just for evening out some of the unfair allocations of joy and pain in the world on a local level.

This rat bastard was using it to sell drugs.

How we found out about this guy, and what we did to him to get him where he is, is old news. My mission yesterday was just to monitor. To make sure said rat bastard actually was going to go to trial; and if not, to send an alarm to the circle and follow him out of the arraignment until Dana and Nick could get together and catch up with me.

No need for an alarm. If the rat bastard pulled anything funny, I didn't see it, and it looks like the ten kilograms of substance he was caught with was plenty to get him sent to the next level. (The true nit-picker may point out that the substance he was on trial for was not the substance he was actually pushing; nor was he its owner for very long. Not that I would know anything about that.)

So he went back to jail, and I wandered downtown for a little while and then went home. Turned out to be an unnecessary trip, with nothing for me to do. I couldn't be happier about it.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Annoyance #1

Eating. I've only eaten out a few times in my life; it's generally only possible at a big mass gathering where a bit of floating food can get lost in the chaos. So I eat at home. People bring me things frequently, and I've got a dropoff arrangement with the pizza guy, the Chinese takeout guy, and the wings place guy. But if there was one aspect of a normal social life I'd wish for, it would be to go to a restaurant with a friend or a girlfriend, order a meal, and have a conversation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Physics.

I'm aware that it makes no sense. Believe me, I'm very aware. Until now I've given up mentioning it online, even in communities of other unusual people, because no one buys it. I can be IM'ing with someone who claims to be pyrokinetic, or to have gills and be typing from a giant aquarium tank, and if I tell them I'm invisible they say "Pshaw, right." You really have to not see me in person for it to sink in.

The deal is this: I don't reflect or refract light at all. I can be heard, touched, smelled, and tasted (if you know me well enough), but I can't be seen. Brian, a former Friday circler who was a hardcore science geek, once showed up with a thermal night vision scope from somewhere and established that I do show up in the infrared spectrum. Go me. He seemed very relieved by this: "If you didn't even register on thermal-IR, then you wouldn't be generating heat, and I'd start to wonder if you actually existed."

So do I go naked all the time? No. Not even in Atlanta. But I can't do the Claude Rains thing either. Clothes that I'm wearing also turn invisible after several minutes. It's not a piecemeal thing; they're opaque, and then they fade out over a few seconds. If someone dusts me with powder or airbrushes me, it looks freaky for a minute or two and then it vanishes too. Hair or nail clippings will come off invisible and then appear after several days. This is how I know I'm a blonde.

It gets weirder. If I get a new shirt, wear it for a day, and take it off, it'll generally be visible a few hours later. But more frequently or deeply I interact with something, the longer it stays invisible. I don't know why, but it seems to have something to do with how much association I have with the thing. That's why my bed and several of my couches and chairs are invisible, and why I have one visible couch for guests that I hardly ever sit in. I have an invisible bicycle which I ride when I need to get someplace nearby. (I'll never drive, of course.)

The vanishing effect only happens when there's physical contact. My computer keyboard and mouse are invisible, but my monitor is visible since I never touch it. Otherwise I'd be screwed out of the Internet, and my life would be bleak and desolate. I'm extremely careful with my dog Aubrey: I play fetch or tug with him all the time, but I never pet him more than a few seconds at a time. I've accidentally vanished him a few times, and it lasts for days. There's nothing that adds chaos to a place like an invisible corgi tripping you up.

People? I'll talk about that later. Suffice to say that I can't just shake your hand and make you invisible. Even if it's a long handshake.

There's more, but I have other writing to get done. Tomorrow I get to go to court. Hopefully it'll be the only day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Origin.

Sooner or later someone is going to ask, so I might as well get it done with. Here's how the invisibility thing goes, as much as I understand it myself.

As I mentioned already, I was born invisible. This was in 1978 at a university hospital in Virginia. What it must have looked like I don't know -- I have a vivid imagination, but I try not to imagine this particular scene too vividly. I am told (this is all from my mother) that it freaked the nurses out something fierce, and that it was about a minute before anyone found me. The fluids were invisible too.

Once the doctor figured it out, he was remarkably fast on the uptake. He felt around for the cord and snipped it very carefully. He wiped me off, took my heartbeat, weighed me, did everything himself. Then he declared a false labor, told the nurses my mother was to be discharged immediately, and helped get the two of us out to the car. There was no documentation that a child was born. I assume he managed to talk the nurses into secrecy; anyway, if anybody talked about it, my mother never heard.

The doctor -- let's call him Dr. Erstens -- came by our house several times in my first few months. He got me a birth certificate, looked after my mom, and eventually referred us to another doctor, Dr. Zweitens. (I know. I'm not even trying.) I remember Dr. Z as a youngish black man with a big smile. He wasn't a pediatrician, but he gave me checkups every year, and he was the one who fixed me up when I got injured, which was a lot when I was a small kid.

He also gave my mother some very specific advice about dealing with the child services agencies and the schools. Where he got this information I have no idea; all he'd tell my mother is "this makes sense, this is what I would do." But the obvious implication to me is that I wasn't the only strange child in Virginia -- and probably not the first one that Dr. Erstens delivered. If it happened so often that some doctors knew what to do, and had procedures for making end runs around the government -- that boggles my mind.

I know the obvious question, too: Where was Dear Old Dad during all this? Honestly, I wish I knew. I know my father's name, and I know he was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. That's about all I know. My mom won't give me the details -- we've argued at length about it -- but the impression I get was that they had an argument shortly after my birth, which he missed due to some assignment. I think she kicked him out. Maybe he wanted to sell me to science, I don't know. Or maybe he thought she'd cheated, since he was visible but the baby wasn't. I can think of a number of theories. None of them really matter.