The second time his mom tried to drown him in the bathtub, they had taken her away. Jared had felt sad for her. She was crying and he’d tried to let her know he understood, but they wouldn’t let him talk to her. He remembered she smelled like lemons and she sometimes sang to him, but couldn’t recall her face.
Without a dad he ended in the care of the state. The foster home was nice enough, but didn’t allow pets. Jared loved animals. He’d had a cat, a stray he’d found in the back lot behind the apartment. She liked tuna. He worried who would feed her if he wasn’t there. So he escaped. Multiple times, he found ways to get away – hiding in the pantry to dash out the kitchen door, sneaking into the coat closet, waiting hours under musty rubber raincoats and uncirculated air until he could steal away unnoticed.
But they found him every time behind the old apartment with his cat.
He had a few school friends who liked the way he thought up stories. The first time he followed one home had been by accident. He’d seen her when he was returning from a visit to his cat. He’d tried to get her attention, but she was too far away. He walked behind her until she turned into a tidy brownstone. He noticed she hadn’t needed a key
Later, his pulse drumming in his throat, he slipped inside.. The hall was cool. The dark hardwood floor glossy. He wiped his shoes on the mat. There was a closet with the door ajar. He entered, parted the leather and fur coats and sat on a pair of soft leather booties. It was comfortable. The muffled voices of the family soothed him.
A waft of sautéed onions and browning beef made his mouth water, but he stayed in his hiding place until they went to bed and he could raid the kitchen. He slept in the closet until dawn, then snuck out silently.
He visited other friends after that but this house remained his favorite. He spent long hours in silence in the closet.
That was when he discovered his ability. At first it didn’t seem like a special power. He’d always had a vivid imagination. When his arm seemed transparent in the dim light of the closet, it felt part of his meditation — his intense quiet and solitude manifesting in his gradual dissipation.
Over time and with intense focus and practice,he learned to master it. He could at will slip out of this realm unnoticed. It worked best on foggy days, when he blended in imperceptibly with the haze.
Mrs. Aston was Jared’s English teacher. She had seen his writing talent and reached out for a parent teacher session. The man currently assigned as Jared’s guardian was extremely overworked. It took him two weeks to respond, and when he did, he was a dead end of platitudes.
Mrs. Aston persisted. She made calls, knocked on doors and took no excuses. But when she tried to approach Jared in the hall after class, he always seemed to disappear into the milling crowd. Finally she simply blurted out in class, “Jared, your essay was the finest I’ve ever read. I submitted it to the state competition- and class, ” she paused to catch the students’ attention, “he won! He’ll be traveling with me to Washington DC next month!”
Jared stared hard at his desk. She willed him to look up at her, and somehow, he must have found the courage.
“I spoke to your guardians,” she said, “and after some convincing they agreed it might be best for you to stay with me for a while, to be sure you stay… on schedule.” She smiled, then her eyes widened as she remembered. “Oh, I hope you don’t have allergies!” She blushed. “I have a lot of cats.”
The class hooted and teased at this revelation.
Jared rose from his seat. “Hush you all,” he said. “I…” he turned to Mrs. Aston. “Yes.” he said. “I mean, No… I don’t have allergies.”
Some of the girls looked at Jared as if they’d never seen him before. Mrs Aston could see why.
He was practically pulsing, he was so very present.