I LOST myself.
I never used to lose things. Keys, wallet, mobile, laptop. I always knew where they were.
Then one morning I looked in the mirror and I wasn't there. I can't say it was entirely unexpected. There had been signs.
My family's goodbyes as I left for work each morning had become increasingly perfunctory until finally they had discontinued.
I returned in the evenings to a silent chorus of kids and wifely indifference. Even the dog ignored me.
Colleagues ceased missing me at the meetings I avoided for reasons of boredom.
My boss stopped giving me trivial tasks to prove his boss-hood. Taxi drivers didn't see me. I could get on and off public transport without tapping my Opal card. Friends stopped calling.
Colleagues ceased missing me at the meetings I avoided for reasons of boredom. My boss stopped giving me trivial tasks to prove his boss-hood. Taxi drivers didn't see me. I could get on and off public transport without tapping my Opal card. Friends stopped calling.
I had disappeared into myself. I felt life had sucked me invisible. Now, I'm a practical man. I work with statistics. I enjoy solving problems. I can build and fix things. Yet I didn't have a clue how to fix myself.
I took to walking alone in the evenings in order to better ponder this quandary. I reasoned that shadowy solitude would suit an invisible man.
I rambled aimlessly, night after night, in the street-lit dark of Merewether. I was so indiscernible that my wife didn't even suggest I take the dog with me.
Promenading around my suburb, however, provided no bright ideas.
Until one evening my feet led me to the precincts of a local club.
The car-park was full and I halted in amazement at what looked like an explosion of flowers erupting from the vehicles. They were women of all ages. Each one wearing clothes of bright, bright colours.
Then I saw the men. They looked very real. Their clothes weren't quite as colourful as the women's but still they were crazy-wild ensembles – at least from my grey besuited perspective.
Shirts and pants didn't match. Some wore jaunty hats, others Leonard Cohen-cool fedoras.
They all looked as if they'd dressed themselves during some happy spasm of exhilaration. And almost all of them, male and female, carried small instrument cases.
They all wore smiles and the radiance of them hooked me. I followed them into the club, mystified.
Fifteen minutes later I understood.
They were players in ukulele orchestras and I had stumbled across an Aladdin's cave of dazzle.
The room was packed but I found a seat, closed my gaping mouth and discovered myself in the glorious rhythm and sway, the hue-flushed transcendence of the uke and those who play it.
The audience, many of whom turned out to be players, had the same joyous flow about them as the performers on stage. This was a gathering of people so visible, so alive they vibrated.
I felt that vibration tingling around me and I gave myself up to the music and the vivid richness of colour and the earthy swaying solid humanity around me.
My neighbours spoke to me. We shared excited joyful chatter and smiled and smiled.
Orchestra after orchestra played and I realised I was as visible, as real as everyone around me. I travelled a long way that evening and the magic of the uke was my destination.
After the show and clutching a program containing contact details of all the ukestras in Newcastle, I walked home the long way. I didn't drag my feet this time. In the shadier parts of the street I played air-uke.
I just about danced my way to King Edward Park. Then I thought of the Obelisk and the whole city laid out around it – seemed exactly the right place to make my announcement.
I strode up the stairs from Wolfe Street and stood high, looking out towards the star-speckled sea. For the first time I noticed there was a full moon. The world was brimming with the alchemy of shadows and light.
I knew the answer to my riddle.
Hands on hips and full-breathed I shouted into the world: “I am alive ... I am here … and ... I am … Uke Man!
When I finally arrived back home I was whistling.
My family were strewn in various languid poses across the living room. The television was on but no-one was watching. Each human head was bowed into a device. The dog was asleep.
As my whistling had caused no reaction, I stood centre-room and burst into song. A few bars of Shimmy Like My Sister Kate. That made them sit up and see me. It was all uphill from there.
They asked me questions, I answered them. Transpired that we all had felt invisible.
I grabbed my wife in a dancing twirl and said, “We're headin' for Ukedom, baby, and we're takin' the kids along for the ride.”
And we did.
And we still do.