No-one else noticed it; the change in him, that something was happening. He was always quiet, reserved someone said, and kept himself to himself.
He was good at his job, reliable and diligent. The window above his desk looked out across the roof of the adjoining warehouse and he worked with his back toward the rest of the office. We did talk to him a little, receiving and passing on work-related information but we had long since stopped trying to involve him in our conversations. We didn’t ask him if he had seen a particular TV show or if he liked this or that, or what he was doing at the weekend. He had made it clear that he didn’t wish to share and so yes, we let him be and for the most part we forgot he was even there.
But one day, looking up from my computer, I noticed him sitting and staring through the window above his desk. At the roof of the warehouse, or the sky – I’m not sure which, possibly both.
It struck me that I hadn’t seen him like this before; simply sitting and staring into space and lost in thought. He was usually so focused and full of purpose, intent on this or that task. And I realised that the man we knew, or more accurately the man they had stopped noticing, who sat hunched over his computer screen and worked hard – that wasn’t who he really was. It was a mask, a disguise and now he was letting it slip, letting down his guard because no-one, he thought, was watching, no-one was looking at him.
To make oneself invisible is quite a feat and to all intents and purposes this is what he had achieved. Everyone else at the office was ignoring him, and unseen he moved amongst us but I was watching and I watched closely, intrigued and a little anxious as to how he would use his invisibility, about what he might do.
He started turning in to work a little later each day, leaving a little earlier and, intermittently, throughout the course of the day he abandoned his desk. Just for twenty minutes or so and I supposed that he was visiting the cafeteria or stepping outside for a breath of fresh air.
Albeit in isolation, he was acting more like us – bored and disengaged he didn’t want to be there. I was disappointed but also concerned. There was something about him, something desperate. It was plain to see, well at least I could see it. I wondered if he was ready at last to interact with us, if all he craved was simply a little camaraderie and I did think about approaching him but I didn’t. I put it off and put it off until one day I realised he was away from his desk much more often than not. He wasn’t just popping out for a coffee and his behaviour no longer resembled our own, that desperate something had now taken a hold.
He rarely came to the office and only for the briefest of periods and when he did he just sat and stared into space or through the window above his desk, at the warehouse roof. The others hadn’t noticed him when he was there and they hadn’t yet realised that for the most part he wasn’t. But his invisibility wouldn’t save him and I wondered would he still be around when the alarm began to sound.