Vanishing Act by Neal J. Suit

The first time a part of you disappeared was a Saturday morning.  You claimed your right hand had vanished. I thought it was some absurd attempt to garner attention. You cried that your hand was still there—you grabbed a pen as proof—but it could not be seen. I assumed it was an optical illusion. I held your invisible hand in the light, traced the contours of your hand, prickling skin that couldn’t be seen.

We went to the doctor. She took pictures, video, and X-rays, asked for consults. She wanted to fly you out to Los Angeles to see a specialist. A specialist in what, you asked. Uncertainties, she said. You told her it wasn’t necessary.

I left for work the next day. I called to inform you I needed to stay late. I had an emergency project. The guys in the corner offices with tailored suits needed me.

When I came home that night your right arm had disappeared. You wore a long sleeve shirt and a glove. I asked you how it felt when a part of you evaporated. You replied that nothing had evaporated, just found its way to a place outside our line of sight.

I had to fly to Tucson for a conference. You told me to go. You were not in any pain. Disappearing was not uncomfortable. You didn’t have to do anything.

After two days, I returned home and found your head perched above the waterline of a bubble bath. When you rose, water and soap rings cascaded down from a formless torso, leaving ripples across the draining bath that appeared to emanate from an empty void. Your head and legs were attached to nothing my eyes could see, a magic trick befitting a Vegas opening act that people would roll their eyes at but be unable to explain.

You asked me how my trip was. Half of your body is gone, I responded. It happens, you said, shrugging shoulders I couldn’t see.

By the next week, your legs and feet joined the invisibility parade. Your head bobbed like a parade float suspended by air and held in place by invisible strings. I worried a gust of air might cause you to drift away, head toward the heavens until the atmospheric pressure ruptured a hole.

At night, you wrapped your invisible limbs around me, draped like the tendrils of a vine reaching for sunlight. I felt your breath on the back of my neck, warm and rhythmic. I made excuses to stay later at work, to attend business dinners and travel to meetings in small conference rooms of large hotels.

When I returned home from a sensitivity training session in Kansas City, I heard your voice at the door, words trickling out from an apparition. Where are you?, I asked. Right in front of you, you responded.

I told friends and family you were traveling, trapsing across continents. I called out before I entered any room to discover if you were there. It became commonplace to witness sheets lifting, coffee cups filling, and faucets turning without any visible hand rising, tilting, or rotating.

One morning you carved I’m still here in lipstick on the mirror. I know, I responded. My voice has also disappeared, you wrote.

After a few months, you stopped writing notes. When I reached out at night, the space where I was accustomed to feeling your form was only empty mattress. I knew you still wandered the house from the clattering of dishes in the kitchen and running water from the bathroom.

I told your family you had been lost trekking through Antarctica. We held a memorial. Over a hundred people turned up. It’s beautiful, you wrote to me on a notecard. All of these people are here for me?, you scribbled. I nodded.

The next year, I started dating a woman from my office named Rachel. We married after six months. She’s beautiful, you etched in the fogged glass of the shower. Does she make you happy?, you wrote. I think so, I replied to the steam enveloping me and disappearing between the shower door cracks.

I never told Rachel much about you, other than to say you vanished after embarking on a great adventure to a far-off place. How sad, Rachel said. I guess everything happens for a reason, she consoled me. We took down the pictures of you, placed them in cardboard boxes that were hidden in attic corners and under beds.

I often forget you are still here. Your existence is now little more than nighttime creaks of wood or a gust of air when a door is opened. Sometimes, late at night, after I hear Rachel’s sleep-exhales, I whisper your name. I wait to feel your touch before I close my eyes.

Biography
Neal Suit is a recovering lawyer in Texas. He has short stories published or forthcoming in Cleaver, X-R-A-Y, New World Writing, Literally Stories, Five on the Fifth, Bandit Fiction, and (mac)ro(mic), among others. He can be reached on Twitter @SuitNeal.

Image: unsplash.com

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