I’m in the Room is the droll, witty story about Allen Johnson, a mostly invisible young man from a mostly invisible family in a mostly invisible town. It isn’t that these people and places are incapable of being seen; it’s only that no one seems to notice them. Allen is determined to break through that fog. As a result, Allen spends a good part of his life trying to become visible, buying into the notion that it is important for each of us to make our mark, to shine forth on the stage of life, to change the world in some very discernable way.
In his youth, Allen Johnson engages in the fantasies that all boys do, certain that fame and glory await him on the playing fields of sports. His daydreams are grandiose and impossible, but that doesn’t matter. He believes, as all boys do, that such achievements are his destiny. He is certain he will redefine all sports records before he is twelve. He will, of course, be the most visible person around. His quite unremarkable skill set in sports, unfortunately, prevents his strategy from succeeding, frustrating poor Allen.
As an adolescent, Allen’s dreams of prominence take on an entirely different focus. Instead of conquering hero dreams, he now dreams of being seen by pretty girls and by the “in crowd” in his high school that he sees as both wonderfully visible and perfectly happy. He cannot fathom why he is so awkward and gangly, while those kids who sit at the “cool table” seem so self-confident. Allen is unaware that they are, for the most part, just as insecure and uncomfortable as he and all other teens are. It would not matter if he did know, for his continuing imperceptibility is a consternation to him.
Failing in his attempts to garner the attention of the most popular girl in school, or, for that matter, of pretty much anyone in his school, Allen decides the best method for becoming visible is to become a college student, first at the community college, then at the university, certain that his erudition, average though it may be, and his choice of adopting a Bohemian lifestyle will allow him to stand out from the hordes of other above average, carefully non-conformist young people attending college. Unfortunately, still no one sees Allen Johnson. Despite living in the Halcyon days of being a college student, Allen continues to be unfulfilled and vexed.
When Allen is in his mid-twenties, he discovers one day that he has become the very antithesis of what he hoped to be. He works in a non-descript cubicle, lives in a tiny house in a subdivision of identical tiny houses near a small, invisible city in the Midwest, and has a wife and child whom he struggles to find time to see. In a final attempt to break out, Allen decides he must disrupt the pattern and return to college to distinguish himself as a master’s student and a teaching assistant, determined to use the bright light of the academic life to shine forth. This is the point at which Allen Johnson must ultimately devolve in order to emerge as the man who has it all: happiness.
I’m in the Room has a light touch of philosophy, although the reader will certainly not need any background in the field to enjoy the read. The narrative is a trail of choices juxtaposed against reality, until our protagonist is ready to find fulfillment. At 56,000 words, it is a fun book with just the right touch of substance to it.