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.