how to become invisible


It’s half nine on a Monday night and I’m sitting in someone else’s bed, big light on, fan blasting, playing Red (Taylor’s Version) on full blast. I don’t know these neighbours and there’s nobody else in the house to annoy, so I can do these things — and I do.

I had a conversation with a friend recently. I told her that I’d found a YouTuber who makes the same video over and over again, and I couldn’t stop watching them. Wasn’t bored of the formula at all. The videos, made by Allison in Tokyo, are all about how she lives alone in Japan. The videos are usually weekly vlogs, combining clips over the days. It’s a calm style. We see the things she buys from the supermarket, the new outfits she picked up while she was out in the city. Every so often there’s mention of a date. Lots of trains, rain, a friend thrown into the footage every now and again. Mostly the days happen alone. Including the karaoke.

In so many of these totally casual, slow videos, she pops the camera down in the corner of a small booth and starts belting out an anime intro to no one but herself (and the camera). Those moments present her like the happiest person on the plant. It’s really, really infectious. She has spoken at times about how well Tokyo is set up for single people and it makes me jealous. But jealous in like, a silly way, or a motivational way even.

That was the conversation I had with my friend. I told her about how I had watched this girl do karaoke on her own one hundred times, and how it reminded me that I needed to do karaoke on my own again. Not karaoke specifically, I don’t have the lungs for singing. But I recognise the mad elation of doing things on your own — I have that same strand in my DNA. I once went to Hong Kong on my own for a week. I have been to Paris and Belgium on my own as well. I’ve been on trains and planes to meet people on the other end, but I’ve always specifically enjoyed the journey because I feel… very free.

I think my karaoke is going to new places on my own, being in new places on my own. My own food, my own schedule. A lack of self consciousness. No need to open my mouth. No need to react. Not knowing what is down that street over there, and then going to have a look so that I do know. Spending as much time as I like on a random bench with headphones on. Not knowing who anyone is. Feeling calm and invisible.

I think I forgot I loved doing any of that because of the past year and a half (and the pandemic-time before that). Getting a chronic illness that was undiagnosed for a year and left me housebound meant there was nowhere new I could go. Having a chronic illness that was only diagnosed 7 months ago is still very much limiting where I can run away to because now that I actually know what’s wrong with me, I know I can’t be independent. I’m pissed. I want to go back to Hong Kong.

So, it’s half nine on a Monday night and I am having the time of my life in someone else’s bed because one of the neighbours needed a housesitter. My time to shine. I cannot figure out how to make the shower not be boiling hot, and I have failed to find chocolate in the cupboards. And I’m enjoying myself anyway. It is not Hong Kong but it’s new and it is only a 4 minute walk from this temporary home to my real one. Singing Taylor Swift to neighbours who don’t know me will have to be enough for now.