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Kulldam

I dunno, I guess so.

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There are five scientifically proven steps one must perform to become invisible, and in an undoubtedly world record-setting feat, by the time I was preparing to enter the seventh grade, I had mastered them all.

1. Keep your hands in your pockets at all times, whether you are stationary or moving, awake or asleep, so as to remain as inconspicuous as possible. At first you may find activities such as waving goodbye to loved ones or laps in the pool to be impossibly difficult, but just remember the old idiom, "With great power, comes great responsibility. Just kiddiní, shit just becomes very easy. Wanna grab a beer?"

2. Absolutely never, under any circumstance, make eye contact with another human being, especially those commonly known as "adults." As I learned early on in my childhood, this can have extraordinarily dire consequences such as inducing conversation, smiles, or worst of all, questions and inquiry. As an aside, it is also advisable to promote the same practice with most animals -- dogs always seem to ask the same question and I hear lions are near impossible to understand, so why bother?

3. Mumble when spoken to, the quieter the better. This is a fine art requiring a delicate, weaving ballet of ever-softer responses to the inevitable "Whatís that?"s and "Pardon me?"s that will pellet you, but persistence will triumph as the would-be inquirer eventually gives up and stalks away, no doubt to reflect on the errors of their ways and to stem the tide of their own jealousy over your masterful conversational prowess.

4. Avoid physical contact, especially in school halls and locker rooms. While being invisible may seem miraculously impossible, it does not make you ethereal, and thus physical interaction is a sure path to attention, which inevitably leads to serious offenses such as being asked to do the dishes. Move swiftly and nimbly between passersby to avoid detection. A suggested training technique: Purchase a dozen inflatable bop bags (preferably Bozo the Clown models to maximize adrenaline levels) and scatter them around the room, dodging between their wobbling, plastic-coated onslaughts as they try to overrun you. Warning: Possible choking hazard.

It was with these skills fully mastered and in effect that I found myself vaguely listening to my dad drone on, my hands sloshing loosely in the depths of my blue jean pockets, my head lilting lazily off kilter toward the floor, as if my neck was auditioning for Josephine & the Limp Monochromatic Noodlevest, and clearly wouldnít be receiving a callback. Unsurprisingly for Washington state, a melancholy drizzle pattered the windows outside. As years of training had taught me, my eyes drifted away from the sullen brown linoleum floor tiles toward the fake-wood microwave cart, and finally to the small, sliding portion of our dining room window that was double-paned and screened, absently noticing the bug-graveyard that homeowners must be contractually obligated to maintain before mortgage papers can be signed (Here lies Vzzvzzzz; June 27 - Mid-Julyish; Beloved daughter, wife, and mother of 764, give or take. You might be missed.)

A brief lull in the deep garble of my fatherís chatter roused my gaze back toward his face, upon the scruffy, dark, Paul Bunyan-esque beard that desperately clung to his mug, as if each fibrous hair were all too aware of the immense drop to the floor some six feet below -- as any mane, mop, tuft, or lock will tell you, a life swept under the refrigerator grate amongst the dust balls and rotting morsels is truly no life worth living.

"Itís a program for advanced students and you can start after Christmas break." My dad continued, his brow showing only the slightest hint of frustration. "Well, what do you think?"

As a master of the invisible arts, it was clear to me by the topic, tone, and intent of this address that my parents wanted me to enroll in this Challenge Program -- which unfortunately and much to the dismay of Future-Me, turned out to be completely unfunded by NASA. Not one to make waves and failing to truly understand the meaning of such a proposition, I certainly couldnít deny them their wishes.

Ever so carefully I think of the words of my long-belated reply, a phrase so commonplace to me that it will, as is always the case, simply ooze out of the front of my head uncontrollably, as if the soaked sponge of my verbalism was left out on the counter too long, and I certainly wasnít about to wring it out with other people around.

It was a chilly December afternoon.

I was 12 years old, preparing to enter the latter half of my 6th grade school year at Shumway Middle School.

And I had been chosen.



To claim that the first day of my new school and educational identity had a profound impact or deep meaning to me at the age of 12 would be a vast fabrication, and more to the point, I would be hard pressed to name academic differences. Certainly, as the first class ever at the brand new Discovery Middle School, every room we entered, every activity we partook in, every surface we slithered our grimy appendages across on our way to various activities and classes -- it all contributed to sully the grounds, to suck out any aromatic cleanliness and to snatch any virginal allure the school may have once maintained.

My classmates and I had been selected for one reason or another, almost certainly quite arbitrarily ("Blue eyes? Able to curl your tongue? Awkward to the point of embarrassment? Youíre in!"), yet we were meant to suck on one end of this sterile and shiny-new proverbial Hose of Knowledge and receive our daily allotment of cerebral nourishment. The seeds of early childhood development and intellect were to be sown, cultivated, and ultimately bloom into greater, superior individuals than those poor souls that were left behind.

Such a great deal of time, energy, and resources were dumped into this school, into these programs. Parents were moving their kids away from familiar school environments and apart from the classmates they considered friends to take advantage of these opportunities, yet looking back, I wonder if we were truly gaining a net positive effect. Were we all doomed to a Lord of the Flies-esque education if left to our own devices on the trail of normalcy?

My own experiential evidence certainly suggests very little while amidst these new digs was palpably altered for the better. All the same puzzle pieces were there from before, except someone managed to jumble them up a bit when we werenít looking so it took longer to get everything back in order ("Remember kids: Without the corner pieces youíll probably die lonely and miserable -- oh and youíre still getting a C-").

Brandon, my classmate during a good portion of my formative years, was a slightly machismo, handsome boy with a bit of the dark, brooding angst he would almost certainly use to his advantage with creatures of the female persuasion in high school, and had been moved across town to enter the Challenge Program. He subsequently dropped out of high school his sophomore year due to an unwanted pregnancy. This serves as a poignant testament to the notion that in spite of the trappings of higher education we were receiving, the truly important lessons in life about topics like sexual education were still delivered primarily via dirty magazines, the Internet, and Dadís discovered VHS collection -- or in Brandonís case, from a stork.

Elizabeth was a petite, pretty, popular girl that came to Discovery with straight As, along with a number of her equally trendy friends from elsewhere in the educational cosmos in tow. Unsurprising to anyone, the Challenge Program allowed Liz and her friends to graduate high school some five years later just as petite, pretty, popular (and well-graded) as when they entered.

Lest the anecdotes be concluded without some personal reflection thrown into the mix, I entered Discovery Middle School a shy, quiet, introspective, B-plus student, and left a couple years later, feeling none the wiser for the apparently advanced education I had received, slipping out as invisibly as possible through the nether of the hallways.

I was assigned to read Toni Morrisonís Beloved in Honors English and after attempting and failing to read through the book a few times, my physiological reaction was to throw it across the room against the Clyde Drexler or Nintendo Power posters randomly scattered on my bedroom walls, before it flapped listlessly to finally fall to the ground in a tattered heap. The implication of a split between normal and advanced educational structures suggests this experience shouldíve been altered (for the worst, if thatís even remotely possible!) had I been in my previous, normal school -- my previous, normal classes. When I stopped loving math classes as much as I used to around the 9th grade, am I to deduce that, had I not been Challenged for the last couple years, my love of math would have degraded at an even greater rate?

There was a severe disconnect between what was described by the program, and the actual engagement of student and educational topics. What was the purpose of the Challenge program if not to engage and actually challenge us? More importantly, why go through all this trouble for what essentially boiled down to the same old song and dance routine, with a fresh coat of paint, and a big NEW sticker slapped on the front, only to expect titillation and demand belief from others that "dramatic changes can and do occur within these here walls!"



"Well, what do you think?" he asks.

The final step on the path to invisibility, and the one prior to the always inevitable post-transformation follow-up of foregoing all forms of clothing in public settings, is certainly the most important stage of the process and one which I still involuntarily practice on occasion to this day: The uncertain, non-committal agreement. Disagreement rarely works when trying to remain invisible, so it is often a less lethal salvo to launch words of agreement and batten down the hatches rather than to bust out a full on barrage. Deep down you may remain at peace, confident in your own stance and faith in the strength of your self-convictions, but when it comes time to weather the storm, always remember the final key to unlock your powers of invisibility:

"I dunno. I guess so."
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