“Mirror Game”

The boy sitting next to you on the red-eye flight from Denver to Indianapolis can’t see you.

When the flight attendant comes by to take drink orders, the boy has his earbuds in and is writing notes in the margin of a book. He doesn’t hear her and when you try to get his attention, you find you can’t touch him. Your fingertips drift right through his sweater. When he finally looks up at you, he sees a dark reflection of his own face, like he’s looking into the oval plane window.

He doesn’t see you, and this is sexy. Being made absent is a sexy quality. On the phone, your mother tells you that you always want what you can’t have, and you say, Exactly. What’s the point in wanting what you have?

When the boy speaks to the flight attendant, he’s curt. He flicks his finger when he orders a Coke. You watch him fiddle with his watch. You like his fingers, so sure of themselves on the clock dial, although he never looks down at the time. Just buckles and unbuckles the latch.

He’s the type of boy who tweets Foucault puns and though you favorite all of them, he never follows you back. He has a record collection worth more than your savings account. On your first date, he will tell you that he’s not easily impressed and in return, you will raise your eyebrows and smile. They all tell you this.

The truth: you’ve dated this boy before.

On your phone, there are texts from three others just like him. One is losing interest in you. One is losing your interest. One has fallen in love with you and this is always interesting until it’s not.

What do you want with these men? your mother asks you on the phone. Are you collecting them? Is there a magic number you’re trying to reach? Is this a bet? Is there money involved?

Later, she emails you the definition of a sociopath from Wikipedia that she copied and pasted into a Word document. She has highlighted the sections that sound just like you.

The truth: You are a collector of being collected. You think that there is agency in this type of active passivity, but maybe you’re one wave of feminism behind.

The only trouble comes when you begin to materialize, when they start to see you. The trick is in the lighting. Try to stay away from bright 24-hour diners or gentle morning after glows. What you need is alleyway streetlamps and cracks in the door.

You can’t love everyone, said the last boy who thought he saw you.

I just want everyone to love me, you hadn’t said. You hadn’t even thought.

In the airplane bathroom, the boy who doesn’t see you opens the door that you never locked. He smiles at you, and you mimic it back to him like you’re a little kid playing the mirror game.

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Fiction & Culture Essays/Articles (all) Novel Flash Featured Fiction New Fiction The Story Behind the Story Why I Write
Sort by

“Of Mice and Men, America’s Mirror of Fallibilities”

“I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally”
2016-03-01 12:58:41
conwaybellone

18

Novel Flash: Island of a Thousand Mirrors

It is 1948 and the last British ships slip away from the island of Ceylon, laboring and groaning under the weight
2015-02-23 06:03:52
munaweera

18

“A LIttle Turtle”

A woman on a first date is given a gift, just a trinket, but it’s awkward being given a gift on a first date, e
2019-04-22 10:59:47
falika

8

The Story Behind the Story: A Trip to the Museum

A Trip to the Museum was written in response to a prompt given by the writer Lee K. Abbott at the Kenyon Review
2019-04-19 08:21:31
ellenbm

8

“Impossible Love”

The first time he sees her she is plummeting to the ground, a stream of chiffon and chantilly lace. His
2019-03-07 11:38:24
karenschauber

8

“Why I Write; How Can I Not?”

Why do I write? I’ve been hoping you would ask! I believe the first complete book I wrote was called Mirror o
2019-01-25 19:35:32
kthope

8

“Writing and the Unconscious: A Personal Exploration of Process and Content”

If dreams are the royal road to the unconscious mind as proposed by Freud, then what are the stories that we write?
2018-12-28 19:34:37
stephanieh

8

“A Time for Fantasy”

When I was ten, my bedtime stories were Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The prose was far beyond
2018-12-24 10:59:26
abbyale21

8

“Six Beers and a Sandwich

He was a kind man. A surfer, tall and thin. He made the most of every atom. The type of guy who would show up with a
2018-12-07 07:57:11
pettygjk

8

“Somebody Who Knows Somebody”

I spot George at the airport bar in Chicago, waiting for his potato skins to arrive. Our planes on the way to
2018-11-30 07:49:39
charles-rafferty

8

About Maggie Su

Maggie Su's work has appeared in The Journal, Green Mountains Review, New Flash Fiction Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. She currently attends Indiana University's MFA program where she serves as fiction editor for the Indiana Review. Follow her on Twitter @litmagreject.