Hello. My name is Michael. You don't know me because I've very cleverly gone under the radar. No TV station, production company, casting agent or publisher has ever noticed that I exist. It's so difficult to work in comedy and have absolutely no one notice you but to me it's been effortless. It's easy because I'm invisible.
I can go to parties and not be noticed, go to a bar and never get served because I'm not there. I've had friends tell me about what a good night they had the night before, I should have been there. I was there. When I walk towards automatic doors, they never open. I'm thinking of writing a book about what it's like to be the invisible man. I'm going to call it See-Through Guy.
But there are a few, just a few, people who have noticed that I exist. And I hate one of them.
A few times a week I go to my local greasy spoon in Lewisham and have a hangover breakfast. I work so hard to get a hangover so I deserve a lovely, disgusting meal to treat myself. Then one day I noticed that the cafe had all completely new staff. It was still the same level of care and service (grunts, plate thrown at you) but the faces were new. Still desperately sad looking, but new. Well, not all of the faces were sad. One was joyous. One was a face belonging to the friendliest man in the world. A warm, welcoming smile that said how pleased it was to see you. He was a man who didn't just take your order and serve your food. He cared about you. He cared about how you were, how your day was, how life was treating you. Basically, he was a very good person.
And I hate him.
Every fucking time I go in there he fucking smiles and says hello like a total cunt. "How are you? What have you been up to? How's work?" JUST FUCK OFF. I come into a miserable greasy spoon cafe to be treated like the dying animal I am. If I wanted to hang around someone who actually cared about me I'd....well, I don't know what I'd do but I wouldn't come here. It got to the point where I was scared to go into the cafe. I was actually terrified of kindness. He's going to speak to me and, because I am still vaguely human, I'm going to have to talk back to him. I don't want a conversation. I don't want a friend. I just want to sit in a corner with grease and feel grey. WHAT'S SO WRONG WITH THAT?
But that's the thing about me. I can only take so much. I can only take so much and then I snap. Every single time I went in there he welcomed me, asked about how I was and then hoped I had a good day. Well, he pushed and he pushed and I just couldn't take it any more. I decided that if he was too friendly again that I would NEVER go back. It's harsh, I know, but if he wants me to stay he can wind his smile in and shut the fuck up. Just like everyone else. This is it. I'm going in. But if he so much as asks how I am then my decision is final: I AM NOT COMING BACK.
He took my order and my money and that was it.
No smile. No "How are you?". Nothing.
FUCKING BRILLIANT. Oh, joy. I have my old cafe back. Look, everyone is miserable. EVERYONE! Everyone including him. Oh, I'm so glad he's decided to assimilate. I should have told him resistance is futile in Lewisham. Even the food he threw down in front of me tasted better. I'm going to enjoy coming back here. It's a nice, quiet, dank place for me to go to and be ignored again. I love being The See-Through Guy.
Then another customer walked in and went up to the counter to give his order. "HELLO!", I heard. "How are you? Good to see you, my friend. You look great today. Let me get you something nice. What would you like?"
Aw, no! It was a one-off. I clearly got the cheery cafe worker at a good moment when he couldn't be bothered to be cheery and now he's back to his former upsettingly happy self. Shit. I wanted a Diet Coke to take away with me and now I'm going to have to get it with him being all fucking happy again. I'll go up there and it'll be all "HEY! My friend! Good to see you! How are you today?". Crap. Still, best get it all over with.
I went up to the counter and asked for a Diet Coke. He gave it to me and said "£1.20".
That was it.
No smile. No "How are you?". No nothing.
What have I done? He...he used to love me. He asked about me nearly every day. He kept saying how good it was to see me. He used to tell me how beautiful I looked. Well, not beautiful... but good. But now it felt like he had told me I was beautiful...it felt like he had cared...it feels like he was the only one who did care. He saw me. He saw The See-Through Guy. I just didn't know what I had and now...it's gone.
I've been back to the cafe almost every day since and every day is the same. I walk in, he says nothing, he welcomes everyone but me and then I leave. Why can't he see me?
I decided to walk in with a huge smile on my face. "HELLO!", I'd say. He would turn and look straight through me, sighing and rattling phlegm as he jotted down my order. I'd ask him how he was. He just turned his back and repeated the order to the cook.
The other day, I noticed he had a football calendar. It featured various sport players from the Red Team. I decided to find out the real name of the Red Team and chat to him about them. That's right, I was willing to actually have a conversation about football with this guy. I know it seems extreme but sometimes you just have to really compromise for love. And I was willing to do that. The Red Team's name was Arsenal and even though that name made me giggle, I was going to take this very seriously. For him. I did some research and rehearsed it in my head all the way to the cafe. "So, you like Arsenal, eh? Me too. I think it's brilliant that they're an English Premier League football club based in Holloway. Founded in 1886, eh, mate? Brilliant. And what about that Tottenham Hotspur? That's a rivalry that's long-standing".
I'd definitely done all the work but just as I said "So, you like Arsenal, eh?", he said "Not my calendar" and walked away. HOW CAN I GET HIM TO LOVE ME? Then another customer appeared and the cafe man beamed a huge smile and shook his hand. Sigh...
Just a few days ago, it was sunny. A really hot sunny beautiful day. Not that I enjoyed it. I couldn't because I still couldn't get the cafe man to notice me again. I went to the cafe, as usual, determined for him to see me. I hate being The See-Through Guy.
Nothing. I was ignored completely so I just sat down and ate. Then the Cafe Man walked over to the doorway and just stood in it, soaking up the sun. I ate my food quickly then ran up to buy my takeaway Diet Coke just so I could pass Cafe Man in the doorway and talk to him. HE'S IN A DOORWAY! THERE'S NOWHERE ELSE TO GO! He HAS to talk to me...
I stood right beside him in the doorway and realised that it was now or never. This was my moment. "Lovely day", I said.
"Uuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmm.....", he replied. "I suppose".
WHAT THE FUCK WAS IT WITH THE LONG UUUUUUUMMMMMMM? Did he actually want time to find fault in this sunny day so he could disagree with me? I've got him trapped in a doorway. He has NO CHOICE but to see me but he would actually rather deny that it was a nice day than speak to me? I stormed off, hurt, as I heard him welcome another customer to the cafe. Why does my heart feel so bad?
Just two days ago I went back to the cafe. He was there. His huge smile wasn't. I'm not sure I cared.
I ordered my breakfast and sat in my usual grey corner. The radio was playing something awful from the 80's. I half listened as I ate my breakfast. I started thinking back to when I first saw the Cafe Man. "I'm not denying, we're flying above it all", went the song as I thought about all the times we talked to each other. His huge smile. "Hold my hand, don't let me fall". We used to actually laugh about other customers, together. "You've such amazing grace". And he'd say it was good to see me. "I've never felt this way".
I finished my breakfast but before I could get up to get my usual takeway Diet Coke, one appeared in front of me. The Cafe Man patted me on the back and said "On the house" and then walked away.
I sat there for a moment looking at the drink. I smiled and listened to the bad 80's music.
"oh, ooh, oh, show me heaven...cover me, leave me breathless".
I left the cafe, walking taller. Hey, we're not where we once were but it's a start at a time when all I could see was the end. As I crossed the road a car drove past and skidded. The driver was completely out of control of the car. It then reversed towards me at speed and I thought this is it. I'm actually going to die. The car missed me by a few feet and crashed into a wall. I don't think the driver meant to speed towards me while trying to get control of his car. I just think he didn't see me.
I don't care. It's still great to be The See-Through Guy.