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Disappearing Act 

Being invisible has its advantages

God, I envy insane people. Take Lary. He spent the entire day recently trying to bolster his theory that cats can't see orange. "Seriously, you put orange stuff in front of them and they ignore it," he says with actual awe in his voice. I try to remind him that his cat Mona ignores everything, not just orange stuff. She even ignores the food I leave for her when Lary disappears for weeks on end. Eventually she disappears, too, which used to make me worry that she'd up and croaked, but I finally figured out she was just faking her own death to get Lary to come back. He would. Then he'd wave orange things in front of her. "Just think," he marvels, "if you wore all orange you could walk the earth invisible to felines." Well, it's good to see him passionate about something again, I guess, though I don't know what the big attraction is about invisibility. I've been invisible before, and it's not always so great. I was at the Macy's sale last Monday, buying a bunch of broken crap for half off, standing in line at the register with the other bovines, when an additional cashier came out of nowhere and announced she would take the next person in line. A guy who was, like, passing by, stepped up and clunked his fucking foot massager or whatever he was buying on the counter and commenced ignoring us like he was a big pussy and we were all painted orange.

The ladies behind me did not stand for that, no. They began clucking at him like a gaggle of agitated mallards, at which point the man took out his cell phone, pretended to talk to someone on the other end until his transaction was over and left. Later I passed him in the linen department. "Stupid whore," he sneered at me, and I had to laugh, because it feels good to finally be noticed.

When I was a kid, though, it was different. In my family, it was all about not being noticed, and I was pretty good at it, mostly because my sister Cheryl was so deft at drawing attention to herself. It was pretty easy to sit on the sidelines in the blissful not-getting-your-ass-beat section and just watch. The view was great, too. Cheryl could throw a tantrum that made it look like her body was possessed by a nest of snakes. She'd thrash and contort on the floor like a bionic epileptic, and my brother had figured out how to instigate the show and let his friends watch through the window. All he had to do to elicit one of her meltdowns was make popcorn and not offer her any, and pretty soon she was twitching and undulating on the floor like a bundle of live wattage.

Today I still think she's insane. But as I said, I envy insane people. She used to call me from Las Vegas drunk at 8 in the morning her time.

In my family, it was all about not being noticed, and I was pretty good at it, mostly because my sister Cheryl was so deft at drawing attention to herself.

She'd been a cocktail waitress at the MGM Grand for years, even through their thong-uniform phase, which was when she weighed 160 pounds. "What are you going to do?" I remember asking her when she told me about the impending new uniform. "I'm gonna stuff my big, beautiful ass in that thong and go to work," she said.

Cheryl doesn't call me up drunk anymore. She doesn't call me at all. She's still mad at me for not flying to Nicaragua with her to check on our family friend Bill, who'd had a heart attack down there last year. Bill has been threatening to die for a decade now, but he's still kicking like a colt. Even that heart attack hardly slowed him down, which is impressive considering third-world medical care. My theory is he just got lonely, having tried to disappear like he always said he would, moving to Costa Rica and then to Nicaragua to open a pensione when his seaside tavern in Quepos went belly up.

But Cheryl wouldn't let him disappear. She kept finding him, and eventually I think Bill acquired a hankering for being found. This last heart attack was probably his way of faking his own death to get Cheryl to come back, which she did for good. She hung up her thong and other cocktail-waitress gear, left Las Vegas and moved to Nica-goddam-ragua. She now runs that pensione, and I hear the locals call her Senorita Nazi, due to her Hitler grip on the place.

I would go there to visit, but let me put it this way: For all the fun it was to watch her antics while growing up, it was equally miserable when my invisibility shield wore off and she focused in on me, fists flying. The last time she beat the crap out of me, I was 21 years old. She broke a potted palm tree over my head. I love my sister, but I don't want to be down there in the heart of darkness alone with her. I hear in Nicaragua there are palm trees every five feet.

"She's a tiger," Lary says affectionately of Cheryl. Lary is aching to go to Nicaragua and surprise her with a visit, but he won't go without me. He has met her, and he knows. Lary, though, loves lunatics.

"She's a tiger," he repeats, "so maybe if you wear orange she won't see you."

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