There’s an invisible man in my room watching me. I assume he’s leaning against the wall in the corner, next to the unplugged dehumidifier. Of course, he could be standing right over me, his breath infinitesimally dampening the pages of my library book, The Visible Man. Speaking of which, the invisible man, according to the author Chuck Klosterman, would hate the term invisible as “[p]eople can’t be invisible […] Don’t you know how the human eye works? An invisible person would be totally blind. You realize that, right?” (p.47)
No, I didn’t.
The visible man follows random people in a cloaking suit—not because he’s a pervert, a murderer, or a voyeur. He’s not like that. He just wants to get into what human beings are made of, “the raw ingredients for whatever recipe [they] use to create the public version of [themselves]” (p. 40)
He repeatedly dodges questions about what he learns with his drug-powered stays in hotel rooms, houses, and rooms with strangers. In conversations with his therapist, he comes across as a highly intelligent man, with a vocabulary and holier-than-thou personality that reminds me of Hal Incandenza from David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The one damning quality they share is their state of depression (my diagnosis) and boredom (probably Wallace’s).
He makes me wonder what I look like, flipping page after page of this very readable book. Complete silence apart from Cheryl Waters interviewing an indie band on the TV (he would remark how many people who watch TV don’t really watch TV), the gargling fridge, and perhaps if we listened real close, the vibrations of renovation work a few houses away.
Given his fascination with what makes people happy and whether people can be, I find it funny how, with even the most fascinating pieces of literature that I’ve ever read, my face is as stoic as can be. How often does one really laugh out loud at a book or shed a tear? (And how memorable it is, to think of the last time you saw a man laugh at a book, and what you thought of that episode.) At most, my brows might try to meet at the center, attention squeezing them together.
A shame, perhaps. If only the visible man could see my delight at the classic Klosterman pop culture references, a grin when a character correctly anticipates where my mind was heading, the sweat I shed when a hammer starts getting swung around in the empty air.
In the end, I guess that’s what reading is. You, a book, and the (in)visible man.