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Dilu Ilunga, Ph.D., heard a knock on his office door, which was ajar in anticipation of an imminent visitor. “Come in!” One of his regular patients entered his office. “Hello, Asana.”

“Hello, Dr. Ilunga.” Asana greeted him with a weary tone. “I came right to your door since I didn’t see your admin out there. I hope that’s okay.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. I was expecting you.”

“Thanks for taking this late appointment.”

“Oh, it’s no bother. So tell me, how was your week?” he asked as he took out his notepad and motioned for Asana to sit on the chaise.

“The week was great until today.”

“And why’s that?”

“I went home to visit family for a few days and must have forgotten in that short span of time how inconsiderate people in this city are. I guess I didn’t quite notice it before but after

leaving this environment then coming back into it, I could tell the huge difference between here and home on the first friggin’ day!”

“What was different about today?”

“Well, when I was on the train going to work, I was in a car that was packed to the brim. At around the second stop, a seat became available when this old guy got up and freed one of the reserved seats. Naturally, I started moving toward it so I could take it. I took my time since there were no other pregnant women or old people in the vicinity. Then out of nowhere some young hipster swooped right in took the seat! He didn’t even look at me after he sat down! What’s worse is that nobody else said anything either! Not one person spoke up in defense of my pregnant ass!”

“I’m sorry that happened to you, Asana. Now, did this sole incident set the emotional tone for your whole day?”

“The tone-setting events didn’t stop there.”

“Oh. What else happened?”

“When I was at work, I took my laptop into the conference room for a little while to get warm because the office is generally always too cold except for the conference room because sunlight beams right into it.”

“Mmhm.”

“Not more than five minutes after I got settled in there, a group of male associates came in to discuss some office party they were tasked to plan. One of them complained to the others that the room was too warm and one of the others told him to turn the thermostat down. Like, hello! Someone’s in here for the distinct purpose of not being cold! None of them even looked in my direction to see if I was ok with them dropping the temperature!”

“I see.” Dr. Ilunga listened patiently to Asana’s complaints but had yet to make any notes of her encounters. “Did anything else happen that contributed to your current mood?” 

“As a matter of fact, yes.”

“Tell me about it.”

“I was having my afternoon coffee in the break room and some co-workers came in. They were chatting about the racial tension that keeps boiling over because of police killing Black citizens. One of them said not only Blacks are being killed by the police but Latinos have the same problem but it’s not talked about as much because the media barely talks about Latino struggles.

“Mmhm.”

“Then another one of them mentioned that Asians haven’t had it perfect either. Then the one who had been silent spoke up and said Asians don’t have it nearly as bad by comparison then they argued briefly. At the conclusion of their little argument they all agreed that Blacks, Latinos, and Asians all have a piece of the burden and need to work together to take on White supremacy. I was standing right there yet no one mentioned Native Americans. I know at least two of them know I’m a Native American. I swear it’s like we don't exist in most people’s minds-- like we weren’t the first ones who got shafted by White supremacy on the land they had that conversation on!”

“Did you say anything to your coworkers as they were talking about every ethnicity but yours?”

“No. I wasn’t in the mood to get into it with them. I just went back to my desk.”

“I see.” Dr. Ilunga closed his notepad and removed his glasses. “Well, I think an important thing--”

“Hold on, Dr. Ilunga. There’s more.”

“Oh, ok. Please continue.” The doctor reopened his notepad and put his glasses back on to posture that he was giving full attention to the matter.

“Well, as I was waiting for the train to come here, some chick comes and stands oddly close to me on the platform and pulls out a cigarette. I looked at her with an obvious I’m-bothered face and I turned slightly to make sure she saw my preggo belly. This asshole didn’t give one damn that I was pregnant! Like all the other assholes before her today, she didn’t even look me in the eye! She took out her lighter and lit her cigarette like I wasn’t even there! And I was there first!”

“And did you say anything to her about it?”

“No, I walked away so I wouldn’t have to breathe in that damned smoke! I was more concerned with my baby’s health than telling her off.”

“I see. Did you have any other experiences today that made you feel people were being inconsiderate to you?”

“Well, those were the obvious ones. Maybe there were more than I didn’t pick up on. Today just made me feel like I mean nothing to people around here. All day people acted like what I wanted didn’t matter, like my presence wasn’t important, or like I don’t deserve to be comfortable.”

“Asana... have you considered that all these events occurred today because nobody can see you?”

“Well, that’s pretty much what I’m trying to tell you, Dr. Ilunga. I feel invisible. It’s like nobody sees Asana. Nobody sees Asana, the pregnant person who might need to sit down because she’s carrying extra weight or wants to breathe clean air so her baby isn’t born with defects. Nobody sees Asana, the woman who doesn’t want to turn into an icicle in the office just because men want to be comfortable. Nobody sees Asana, the Native American who should be included in ALL conversations about racial tension in the United States!”

“Asana...” He closed his notepad and took his glasses off once again. “I’m gathering that you aren’t aware of your current physical condition.”

“What are you talking about, Dr. Ilunga?”

“Please take out your phone and look at the screen.” he requested.

“What? What does my phone have to do with anything?”

“Please humor me.”

She took her phone out of her purse and looked at the screen as instructed.

“Tell me what you see.”

“I see the date and time… and the pic of my cute little puppy as my wallpaper.”

“Turn the screen off and look at the screen while it's dark.”

“Ok.” responds skeptically.

Now what do you see?”

“Nothing, Dr. Ilunga. All I see is my phone and the reflection of your chaise. I don’t understand what you’re try--”--the look of epiphany washed over Asana’s face--“Ooooooh.”

“I’m trying to get you to see that you’re physically invisible right now.”

“Oh my god.” She looked at her phone’s screen which lacked her reflection and felt foolish for harboring the accumulated bitterness of the day’s multiple offenses. “I was in such a rush this morning I forgot to retract my bioshield after walking past the construction crew on my way to the metro station. I feel like such an idiot now.”

 

“Well, don’t beat yourself up. This type of thing is common with people who have recently-developed superhuman abilities. The good thing here is that we’ve more than likely identified the source of the problem and already know the solution.”

“Yeah, looks like it. I suppose this was the easiest session you’ve ever had in all your years of counseling, huh?”

“Well, I’m not sure about the easiest but it definitely ranks high on the list.”

They both chuckled at the silliness of the situation. “Just remember to deactivate your shield tomorrow and I’m sure the world will look a lot better to you.”

“Sure thing, Dr. Ilunga.”

Asana went home shortly thereafter. However, the next day after she left work, Asana barged into Dr. Ilunga’s office, walking right past the administrative assistant, and exclaimed “Nothing changed!”

“Asana!?” Dr. Ilunga was caught off-guard by the sudden barge-in.

Dr. Ilunga’s administrative assistant, Eric, hurried into his office in pursuit of Asana. “I’m sorry, Dr. Ilunga! She just stormed right past me!”

“That’s alright, Eric. Everything’s fine. You can go back to your desk.”

“Are you sure, Sir?”

“Yes, I’m sure. You can leave-- and close the door behind you.” Dr. Ilunga queried Asana as her eyes remained fixed on him. “What on earth is the matter!?”

“Nothing was different today!”

“Please try to calm down and explain to me what you mean.”

She took a few deep breaths and elaborated on what she was trying to communicate. “I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was take an inhibitor to make sure I didn’t accidentally leave my biodshield up at any point in the day.”

“Ok.”

“Nothing changed, Dr. Ilunga!”

“What do you mean exactly?”

“People! How they treated me! Nothing was different from yesterday!” Asana threw her purse on the chaise and started pacing back and forth as she vented her frustration. “The selfish people on the train who won’t let me sit! The men at work who are dead-set on turning the women in the office into icebergs! The people at work who never think to include my people when they start pontificating about race issues. The smokers who refuse to not light up around me!” She stopped pacing and made eye contact with Dr. Ilunga. See, stuff like this is why I don’t feel comfortable telling anybody that I’m a little bi-polar. They would act like my condition doesn’t really exist just because I don’t start going crazy at random moments.” She continued pacing.

“Your hesitation is quite understandable, Asana,” he said while slowly placing his letter opener in his desk drawer.”

“It was the second day in a row and the scenarios were almost identical, Dr. Ilunga! All different people but the same behavior! Nothing! Changed! UGH!” She walked to the window and stared out toward the sky. Her demeanor changed from heightened irritation to somber contemplation. “Dr. Ilunga, am I ever going to get the chance to not be the ignored asterisk?”

 

“Oh dear.” He sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin. “Well, this session is definitely going to be further down on the ‘easiest session’ list.”

THE END

I'm a new science fiction writer. Don Sokoro is my pen name. I recently self-published   Swyped Out: A Novelette.

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