Conversation With an Invisible Man by Jandy Nelson


When I meet Max, I want to follow him around. So do the trees.

I also want to kiss him, but feel too old and buggy. I’m aware of his intoxicating velocity.
Him dancing without music. Life flattering him. How he doesn’t anticipate calamity.

If a rope dropped down from the sky, he wouldn’t hesitate to climb it.



To hope like this. It’s so simple. When I breathe in, everything rushes to me.

Then my exhale blasts it all away.

To hope like this is jumping and staying up. You can read all you want because none of
the books on the shelves have endings. I’m in love with an invisible man named Max,
who likes numbers, words like infinity, women that walk out of walls, tree trunks, time.

To hope like this is pressing your cheek right up against the sky.

(I’m not going to talk about the baby yet.)

It’s the rainy season, the world outside swims green. When I go for a walk, Max stands
on my head with an umbrella. I wish he would put on some clothes but he’s too ecstatic
to think about colors or fabrics. About buttoning up.



Peek under her skirt, such a long history of birds busting out of bodies, of secret but
operatic mercies. Go quiet, go lucky. Don’t try to swim through a sea of stones. Darkness
is so unbecoming in a woman.

You believe when the stars fall out of the sky, they will tumble into her open arms. Years
burn up before your eyes, she wants—you want—to be a dare-devil. Pick up a river in
your arms and take it to her. Those thoughts that eagle their way in, disappointment like
falling out of your own sorry story, hold your breath for a good long time.

Sadness is a house within the house where the peachlike scent of a baby engulfs her.
Sadness is a sleeping woman inside her body who does not dream.

She’d like to rob a bank, eat several thousand green grapes, sink a ship, strip on a very
crowded street corner. She’d like to ________and _______ even ________. She prefers
men who burst into flames at the sight of her.

Don’t make lists. Don’t count change. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t look for meaning
where there’s none.

A girl was supposed to climb out of the sky.



A great gale comes and blows us all away. These things happen. I don’t mind, I like
drifting through the air with Max, it’s hypnotic, dreamy, makes me think upside down,
makes me think it’s all true, that it’s all made of light.

Max rode his motorcycle through my marriage.

There’s no glass in the window frames now, the gusts sweep in and out, stirring the
husband and wife around like dry leaves. Not having a baby is like a morning with no
birds. No song. No matter, Max sits at the table as usual covered in violets, covered in a
kind of religion. Accustom yourself, he says, to the rich scent of sorrow, to its bounty.

Wherever I go, Max follows. He waits, I wait too. We grow tall and silent as trees.



Every time Max goes to the grocery store, he comes back with empty bags. Desire is a
flight pattern, is the velocity of the body, such an unpredictable natural disaster. I like
him so, want to wrap my legs around his whole world.

All that astonishing beauty there in the deepest dark like a night-blooming tree.

It’s probably too late, even if the rain stops, the kissing stops, even if the stopping stops,
so much gets washed or wished away so quickly. Max is hungry, but I can’t make dinner
without ingredients, can I?

Men are so sweaty and lively, how they don’t come to their senses. If Max weren’t
invisible, he and I could make a go of it, live high in the treetops with the baby.

I hear doors swinging open in the night. Who knew a marriage could get so crowded?



Close your eyes. Make a wish. Distract yourself from the blizzard in the bedroom, the
town at the bottom of the sea where you once lived, the burst of first kisses. Go to sleep.
There are no stars out tonight.

We can’t make a baby out of leaky opinions and grace. When I shut my eyes, I see two
people having sex, melting together like burning candles, the kind of devouring that
sucks the air out of a room.

Eventually the husband and wife will get fed up and begin to shift, to hum, to trip you
when you pass, to outwit you. Eventually it will stop raining. Shhh. I don’t want to hurt
Max’s feelings, but I’m growing a little tired of invisible men, and their invisible ways.
Open your eyes. The air tastes lemony, salted, a wave of early spring, of pleasure. Toss
the rest like bad luck.

Be amazed at the glory-bomb of days.



Waiting has put an old woman in me.

The husband and wife sleep through movies, don’t seem to care how things play out.
Disappointment is a private derangement, like a lake in the house. I go from room to
room, extending my arms, kissing the air. I pull characters out of books, make them
lunch. Pregnant for two years, yet I do not show.

I find the wooded part of the bedroom, fall asleep on the spongy forest floor. Months
pass. The logic of the city has been undermined by constant torrential rain, everything
rushes into everything else, people too, and all their interloping luck.

If I stare at the door long enough, someone will come from the other side and kick it



When the trees bloom early, it portends change. Gosh, I feel an overwhelming need to
apologize. I’m ashamed of my vanity. I know I embarrass you too. It’s okay to judge.

Bells are ringing in faraway towns. I want to be brave and immoral—I mean, immortal. I
want to follow desire without question, to question without desire. If I could, I would
gobble up the whole continent.

I wish I could tell you a reasonable story, but I have no sense of plot. It’s better to be
musical, whimsical, ecstatic like Max. He jumps on top of my head!

He forgives everything and is hardly ever humorless. He let’s the word life fill his mouth.

Less is not more. How stupid.



But how did the old woman get out? She steals through the house looking at photographs,
trying on coats, leafing through boxes of hope-bitten letters. I creep after her trying to
coerce her back into my body. There’s a life I meant to live.

I hide my mess, my migrations. I. Stay. Put. I am consumed with weather, daylight,
sorting through clover patches. I like to breathe, to imagine, to flame-throw. I catch Max
packing his invisible things into boxes. He’s threatening to move out. So am I.

I want a baby.

How I cherish the mystery of invisibility, flesh and blood are overrated, presence is,
sense is, consistency is. Max throws buckets of light at me and my ugly cockroachy

His biography begins: Born into a family of mesmerists, he quickly learns to disappear, to
fly, to make something out of nothing. Because he works in miracles, he heavily spices
all dishes, makes snap decisions, tells you stories while you’re sound asleep, stops time.

Hope is so much more blind than love.



It has finally stopped raining! I float up into the cobalt bowl of sky. Max sweeps by
strewing violets over the city. River, he cries, is the most beautiful word. It is! I am a
tumble of joy. All the luck stashed away in a Thursday, in a marriage, in a man who sings
as he chops onions for the soup. No need to pretend you weren’t dancing—anyone
walking by could see in the window.

Today someone in my same kind of car drove by me and I thought: There I am!

Stories don’t end. People don’t end. Nothing ends.

Every single breath we take has been deep inside someone else’s body—that’s just plain
beautiful. One minute, you are unpacking groceries, and the next you’re stepping into my
arms. Step into my arms. Isn’t it a love story after all?

When Max rises into the air, grab his foot—up, up you go.



Whoopsie daisy. Ring around the rosie. Down will come baby.

Death is not articulate.

Who’s that throwing pebbles at the window? Okay, it’s time. No more lollygagging dillydallying
dipsy-doodling, no more perseverating, no more tight-roping. Sink your hands in
the rich wet earth, run into life, slam into it if you must. You must.


Jandy Nelson’s the author of the YA novel The Sky Is Everywhere (Penguin, 2010), translated into fifteen languages, and the forthcoming I’ll Give You the Sun (Penguin, 2014). She has a poetry MFA from Brown University, has had poems in American Letters & Commentary, Five Fingers Review and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.