When I Was Invisible

When I Was Invisible

Birmingham, 2016

I’ve been here for hours.

It’s probably not been that long, but it feels like it. It seems like I’ve been sitting on this uncomfortable plastic bench with my head on my knees, my arms curled around myself, the sounds of this police station going on around me for long enough for me to feel like my life is draining away. People come and go, the officers behind the bulletproof glass of the reception desk have conversations that are a touch too far out of range for me to understand or hook myself into. Every time the door opens I am treated to a blast of the noise of the outside world, and it, like everything else, is a reminder that I probably shouldn’t do this.

If I have to wait to speak to someone, then maybe it’s a sign that this is not meant to be. Maybe I need to unfurl myself, stand up, walk out of here. Slip back into the world outside and disappear again – become as faceless and invisible as everyone else out there.

Maybe, because I have to wait – and the second thoughts I didn’t have before I walked in here are now arriving, settling in my mind like roosting pigeons on a roof – I should admit to the absolute stupidity of this. Maybe I should be more brutally realistic with myself about what the repercussions will be, how doing this will touch the lives of everyone I know. Maybe I should stop thinking of justice and start thinking of real life and what honestly happens to people like me.

A voice calls out my name.

Too late to run now, too late to change your mind, I think. Slowly, I raise my head, lower my legs, place my feet on the floor, my gaze seeking out the person who called my name.

I stumble a little when I am upright, but catch myself before I fall, curl my fingers into the palms of my hands, trying to hide the trembling. No escape, no retreat. I have to go through with this now.

‘How can I help you?’ the police officer asks. Plain clothes, some kind of detective, as I requested. He comes closer to me, but not too close. He doesn’t want to get too close to someone like me. Despite his slightly bored, uninterested expression, when he continues to speak, he sounds neutral and polite: ‘The desk officer said you wanted to talk to a detective, but you were reluctant to say exactly what it was about?’

I take a step closer, try to narrow the distance between us, so I can speak without being overheard. There is no one here now except the person behind the desk, but I still want to be careful. Quiet. I can’t do this, I realise. I need to, but I can’t. I can’t open my mouth and say another word.

The detective’s face quickly slides from ‘slightly bored’ and ‘uninterested’ into ‘perturbed’, teetering on the edge of ‘annoyed’. I am wasting his time and he does not like that.

I take a deep breath, inhale to see if I can shake off the second thoughts and recapture the certainty that brought me here. ‘I . . . I . . .’ My voice fails. I really can’t do this.

Unbidden, the sound, the one I first heard less than a week ago, streaks through my head, as sudden and loud and clear as the first time I heard it. It ignites every memory cell in my body with horror and I almost slam my hands over my ears again, try to shut it out.

Determined now, I firm up my fists, I strengthen the way I stand and I look the detective straight in the eye as I say: ‘I . . . I need to report an attempted murder.’


When I Was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson will be published 23rd March, Arrow, £5.99