I was nine years old, and I wanted to buy a present for my sister's birthday. My mom dropped me off at The Blossom Cottage, a local boutique, and told me she'd be back in ten minutes. We lived in the kind of town where you could drop off your nine-year-old for ten minutes without qualms. Or so she thought.
There were two salesladies in the back of the store when I went in, but no other customers. No one greeted me, although I'm sure there were little bells attached to the door that jingled when I walked through. I went to the stationery section and picked out a package of Suzy's Zoo paper.
I was standing in the center aisle of the store, about to approach the cashier's desk, when the two women started to walk towards the front of the store. They walked by me, and I swear one of them made eye contact with me, and then they turned out the light, completely left the store, pulled the door closed, and one of them locked it. While I stood there gaping at them. It all happened so fast I didn't have time to say, "Hey, wait!" or "Um, I want to buy this Suzy's Zoo stationery for my sister!" or "WTH?"
I stood there in the silent store. I wandered to the back and down all the aisles to make sure that I really, truly was there alone. The store was completely empty. It was creepy and dark. I felt stupid and also very scared.
I went to stand by the front door; I pulled it to make sure it really was locked. My mom pulled up to the curb; she waved at me through the car window. I shrugged. She waved. I gesticulated. She got out of the car. "I'm locked in!" I shouted.
"What do you mean?" she asked. She pulled on the door. "Krista, how did this happen?"
"I don't know!" I said. I felt like crying. Was I going to have to spend the night in The Blossom Cottage? Sleep amongst the pot pourri, the windchimes, the quilted handbags? What about dinner? What if I had to pee? Suddenly I really had to pee.
"Try to go through the back door and come down the alley," Mom instructed.
"But I didn't get to buy this!" I said beseechingly, holding up Jana's present.
"Well you can't buy it if there's nobody there to pay for it!" she said.
I turned around. I sadly put the stationery back where it came from and then I walked cautiously through the store, past the cashier's desk, through a door into a very dark storeroom. I saw a heavy metal door; I said a small prayer, and pushed. Salvation! It opened, and I went into the alley and ran for my life, all the way back to the car.
It remains one of the strangest experience of my life. I swear the saleslady saw me, I swear it. And yet she walked right by me as if I wasn't there, as if my existence didn't even register. Could it be that, for just a moment, I was invisible?
To this day, any time I see a Suzy's Zoo animal, a whimsical duck, a smiling turtle, I shudder a little bit, and remember the day when I simply wasn't there.