As simple as that. She just disappeared. One minute she was doing her job, as clear and present as I am right now, the next she was sort of flowing in and out of focus like a hologram that was playing up or where the battery is running down – and then she just disappeared. Sometimes the passage from full body to nothing was almost instant, sometimes it seemed to take some time.
No-one seemed to notice. The fact that there were now only two barmaids wasn’t even noted. Punters who might have been chatting her up a few minutes before were now happily talking to the other barmaids or to others who had come to the bar. Not one person seemed to have taken in that a person had just disappeared before their very eyes, and this doesn’t happen just once, but a number of times each night and some nights more than others. Because she’d suddenly reappear on camera a bit further away maybe twenty minutes later – appearing just after it seemed like one of the other barmaids was talking to no-one, into nothingness – and there she was, responding, and then she’d be serving again, then wait a while and it happened again, and so forth.
And it happened every night, every film, and it was only ever her, and no-one even saw it at all.
I found myself wondering if, when she reappears, she has spoken first, has forced someone to acknowledge her and so be seen again, but as the film is silent, I can’t know. I can hardly read invisible lips, after all.
I actually can’t read visible lips either. I’m not that clever in that sort of way. But that’s by the by really.
I started to study her expressions and her situations prior to her disappearing acts. There seemed to be two types I could note, rarely together. In some she looked tired or wary or displeased, and this was always when someone was trying to engage her in discussion or when the crowd has reached greater proportions near the bar. Many might be looking at her, and one by one they look away, as though something else had suddenly whispered in their collective ears. Then she was gone – whoosh – quick as a flash, sometimes so fast there’s no real wavering to be spoken of at all. At others it was like everyone decided not to see her, as though for a moment or two the attention more naturally turned to other things, the bar was less crowded, the other girls more appealing, and then she wavered, as though the energy has been reduced, until she was gone.
On occasion it seemed that those around her before she disappeared looked a bit stricken, confused, even slightly ill. It seemed to pass quickly, but I’ve played a few scenes back a number of times, and it looks a bit like vertigo. One guy actually swayed in his seat and almost toppled over, but this somehow re-positioned him enough to laugh into the face of another of the barmaids, as though he had just done something rather clever rather than looking like a typical alcoholic fool. Ah, the bravado of liquored up idiots!!
It occurred to me that the thing in common is that before she is “gone” she withdraws – deliberately or by accident – from the attention of everyone else, and when she returns it may be because she has somehow demanded the attention back to her. As though she needs eyes on her and thoughts towards her to even have a physical existence. But also, perhaps that she doesn’t like that attention at all. It’s the strangest thing. And no-one notices, it seems as natural as day. But there is a price, of sorts, she always ends up alone. No film ever shows her pick up, and the later scenes as the club shuts down see her bidding farewell to her workmates, ever alone.
I wonder if she minds that.
She seemed very lovely, a little lost. It seemed a great shame.
I wondered if she knew what happens. I wondered if she had any idea. Perhaps she just thought she’s always alone because no-one is attracted to her. I freeze framed on her form and touched the monitor. It’s not that, I thought, it would never be that.
Or maybe she did know and she did it deliberately. But then, if you had that power, if you were that clever, then you’d be happier I suspect. She always looked quite sad. Someone playing a complicated trick on the rest of us wouldn’t look like that.
It interested me also that if the key to her physical “being” is attention, that the camera eye was insufficient. It ceased to see or record her also – it had no intelligence, no awareness behind the physical apparatus of sight. But it recorded everything, and therefore it displayed her secret.
If she even knew she had a secret.
This was the most fascinating thing I’d ever seen. Far more than I would ever have imagined this project could provide. Of course I had to know more.
Of course I had to know her.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2015, All Rights Reserved