When life gives me lemons, they often come in sacks, fresh from the farm, filling my house with the sharp smell of citrus and the promise of pickle. There is no metaphor to that sentence. When life gives me lemons, it also gives me the task of squeezing them into bottles that will eventually become lemonade (sometimes salted, sometimes sweetened, sometimes both and sometimes soda). That sentence is also meant literally.
It was on one such day, while I was busy looking for something innovative to do with a few of three hundred lemons in the house (lemon curd pie) that I got a paper cut. The culprit was a very beautiful recipe book, glossy paper with artful photographs, written by one very pretty chef who also has her own television show. It was only when I began to cut the lemons that the paper cut very suddenly started to sting. I ran my finger under a tap and then looked in nearly every drawer in the house for a band-aid.
I was desperately looking for something to put on my lemon-stung paper cut when a remarkable thing happened. I suppose a better word for it is ‘strange’, but that would assume a certain lucidity to my universe, which may not necessarily always be the case. It lasted all of a moment, but I cannot be too sure of this either, for the same reason. Lucidity is not my forte. But in that lemon-stung paper-cut moment, I realized, visibility isn’t, either.
Of course, by ‘visibility’ in this context, I don’t mean my own. My own ability to see is slightly suspect. I have used devices to correct my vision since I was six years old. I was informed, at the age of twenty-two, at the peak of my own voracity and conviction, that the green quotient of what I see is not entirely complete. In other words, some shades of what you see as green, I often see as yellow or blue and so on. So it was as early as the age of twenty-two that I began to question reality as merely a version. A perspective, so to speak.
This lemon-stung paper cut afternoon, in that most critical sense, was a masterstroke.
It was the day I turned invisible.
Invisible, actually, is the dramatic way to put it. I did that merely to have you read this more attentively. I am not the most compelling of storytellers, so often I stoop to tricks like that to make you want to listen to the rest of what I have to say. I tend to wander much when I write, and this can be most distracting for someone who is trying to put her finger on what ought to be a story of some sort. To summarize what happened thus far: I had a paper cut on my finger, which I inadvertently squeezed some lemon juice on; I was looking for a band-aid when I disappeared.
I could see, of course. And I could hear. I tested my voice, and that worked too. Light seemed to not be passing through anything else that was solid, but light seemed to be passing through me. Perhaps it wasn’t passing through my face – That was one aspect of me that I couldn’t see for myself. (Would that not have been a sight! A headless human being with a bleeding, lemon-stung finger. Not one I would have liked to see, to be honest.) But I couldn’t see my hands, and I couldn’t see my clothes, and I tried to look to see where my stomach ought to have been, and I couldn’t see that either.
I blinked a couple of times. I took off my spectacles (if I may pun here, it would have been quite a spectacle if you could have seen it!). I put them back on. I still couldn’t see myself at all! So in a final act of desperation, I pretended to be wearing ruby slippers (I was quite invisible, so it wasn’t hard to do), I clicked my heels together, closed my eyes tight and with all the conviction I could muster, I said “There’s no place like home” three times.
That didn’t work either.
With nothing I could do, and a stinging paper cut to tend to, I put that finger in my mouth to suck on the wound till it stopped hurting. I could do this regardless of the fact that I could see neither my mouth nor my finger. (This is possible through a sense called ‘proprioception’, in the interest of lucidity, one I was not lacking at the time). Eventually, the stinging subsided and I colored.
I say ‘colored’ because I assume that is what happened. If I were to be dramatic again, I would simply say “I appeared”. Quite like Houdini at the end of his disappearing act. Or at the beginning or his appearing act. And unless it has happened again while I was sleeping (in which case, I could tell a story about how I may have simply slipped into a dream), I have never turned invisible since that day. It has been thirty years since.
Obviously I have consulted several doctors about this phenomenon, who have all referred me to different psychologists around the world. None of them have helped me explain either to them or to myself this phenomenon. With nothing but respect for their belief and conviction in their science, I spent years trying to find an explanation within these realms. My conviction in science and fact eventually crumbled away, giving way to my foray into philosophy and consequently spirituality.
Eventually, my conviction itself crumbled away, and my hold on what you may understand as reality culminated at the single focal point of that one lemon-stung paper cut afternoon. I found my visible bodily self anything but explanatory. I don’t mean this in some out-of-body experience sort of way, as many have claimed to have experienced (without, of course, questioning their own lucidity in the most existential sort of way). It is exactly this: That I now assume that everything around me has had or will have or is having its invisible moment.
And only one thought gives me something to float on: Sacks of lemons, fresh from the farm. The smell of citrus, the promise of pickle. Tasks. Squeezing lemonade. Making preserve. Sweet. Salty. Both. Neither.
When life gives me lemons, I often have no choice but to make lemonade.