In Exits, Daryl Seitchik takes a fairly obvious, well-worn bit of symbolism and manages to make the readers’ familiarity with it into one of the work’s strengths. After a traumatic day Claire turns invisible, finding herself slipped into a phantom world, with her corporeal existence fading away, and what’s left of her consciousness, though unseen, striving to be part of a world that still exists whether she’s actually in it or not.
Prior to her transformation, Claire is trapped in a job she hates and one that sounds specially-designed to drive anyone mad — store clerk in a mirror shop. She fantasizes about her own funeral and after that, turns invisible during a scary chase with some weird guy on the street harassing her. It could be read as a dream come true for Claire, but it plunges her into a netherworld that forces her to witness life without allowing her to act on her desires now that she’s no longer allowed to live like a normal person.
But did she ever live like a normal person? Or a happy person? Is happiness even normal?
Claire isn’t totally cut off from physical interaction. She can still eat and drink, and she can still manipulate physical objects for the purposes of practical jokes. But these aren’t enough to make her situation feel like anything other than a purgatory. They aren’t really engagement with the world in the sense that you or I experience it. What’s heartbreaking about this, for Claire and for any other characters who disappear, is that it slowly sinks in that this way of living isn’t that much different from their psychological state before going invisible. Disengaged and ineffectual, this is more like the next logical step in their personal, emotional evolution. They lived apart from the world in plain sight, now even more so.
Moving past something might be the central message of Seitchik’s story, and the idea that even as a healthy endeavor it might not look like we expect it and it might have its own set of issues. Claire moves past the corporeal being that she feels is the center of her problems, but pushing that aside to another state doesn’t really solve anything for her, and reality becomes the result of whatever you make of it.