CHRISTIAN BARRAGAN

★ ★ ★ ★

FLASH FICTION

Image by Michal Parzuchowski

‘Unnoticed’

I was twenty years old when I finally decided to stop moving. I didn’t choose my spot well; the light from the thirty-year-old blinds beamed right onto my face in a violent discouragement. But I was so resolute in my decision that I didn’t dare move. 

 I never specifically distinguished why everyone treated me differently, but among the dozen or so siblings and cousins living under the same roof, not everyone was given equal attention. As the approximate middle child, many of the tedious household responsibilities and accompanying apathy were dumped onto me. As long as I can remember, everyone acted as if I didn’t exist. They’d stop talking when I entered rooms and gave me blank stares as I walked by them.  Keeping track of everyone became more difficult after the departure of my parents, but this was no excuse for their indifference. Having achieved no progress in winning their approval or recognition, I eventually resigned myself to a life of solitude from a young age as I buried myself in my own thoughts.

But the voices in my head weren’t nearly enough to satisfy my needs. One day, without warning or pre-meditation, I froze in my seat mid-meal at the crowded dinner table and resolved not to move at all until someone gave me the acknowledgment I deserved. I wasn’t going to spend all my time living for everyone else anymore. 

Some minutes passed before one of my siblings sat on my lap, forgetting the seat was inhabited. Her exaggerated gasp drew the attention of everyone in the house, so from that point on, no one could claim they didn’t see me. For a moment I could see some deliberation on their faces and I grew hopeful. Maybe they would realize what drove me to this charade. Yet, after a brief pause, they simply resumed with the rest of their day. 

Over the first few hours, I ignored the sensation of hunger as much as I could. I figured I could sneak into the kitchen when no one was looking. Still, when night came I decided against it. What if they were waiting for me to yield? I move, I lose. So I stayed still. They brought me food that first night and this slight bit of attention almost made me break, but I knew I couldn’t. It only gave me more reason to continue.  Once their day ended, they turned the lights off on me. I missed their previous disregard for the electric bill.

I made my utmost effort to ignore the drowsiness that nearly overtook me later that night. What if one of them came to see me? I needed to be conscious to see their reactions, after all. To know it was time to stop. They needed to see what they’d done to me.

I was dismayed when I realized that a full day had passed without anyone interacting with me. However, I was encouraged to see them finally move me from the chair I was still slouched in. I became less encouraged when they moved me onto a platform above the fireplace, like an expensive family heirloom on display. 

From up there, I heard everyone’s obnoxious, deliberate laughs from the other rooms, with only muffled sounds reaching me. I could see recognition on their faces, they knew what I was doing. They were doing the same thing. We were both trying to prove my place in this house. I wasn’t going to be the first one to break. 

Some of my younger cousins came over to me at one point that first week, a rare occurrence, and waved their hands in front of me before scurrying off. This was the most recognition I received in what I presumed to be the rest of that year. 

The next time my cousins visited the house, they looked bigger. Apparently maturity made me more invisible in their eyes. In all the time I had to think, I wondered how some people could think that solitude brings peace. I didn’t find any peace in my time alone, it only accentuated my circumstances. I wondered why even placed me up there on the platform all that time ago. So I could see them carry on their lives without me? 

And carry on they did. I saw my many cousins and siblings grow up and move out of the house. The loud, unbearable noises and the prodigious gluttony died down as the last remnants left the only home I ever knew. My youngest sibling closed the door on me for the last time after he sold the house. 

As I sit here waiting for the new owners to move in within the next few days, I feel more tempted to break than ever. But I can’t. One of them may yet come back and see that they forgot me. Alternatively, I could try following one of them. I’ve heard all their conversations over the years and I know where they’re going. To track them down would be easy. But I can’t. I can do this longer than they can. 

I won’t be the first to break. 

Christian Barragan is a graduate from California State University Northridge. Raised in Riverside, CA, he aims to become a novelist or editor. He currently reads submissions for Flash Fiction Magazine. His work has appeared in the Raven Review, the Frogmore Papers, and Caustic Frolic, among others.

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