Jul/Aug 2018  •   Fiction

How can you tell if someone likes you?

by Michael Kaplan

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream

Andrew was reading popular posts from the forum site, Quora, on his phone. He was one of the site's 100,000,000 unique monthly visitors, a statistic he'd once read on Quora.

"How can you tell if someone likes you through eye contact?" Andrew read. The top response, which had 36.9k views so far, was written on Feb 12th. Today was February 12th. Andrew was pleased to see the question. Just a moment ago he'd wondered if the man leaning against a pole across the subway car liked him or not.

"If somebody likes you, they will stare at you when you are not looking and then look away when you look at them," Michelle Yon had written.

Oh, thought Andrew. This was exactly what he needed. He looked down at the metal ground beyond his phone. He waited about two minutes, though it felt longer. He looked up, and the man was looking at him but quickly looked away.

Michelle was right.

Or at least, if Michelle was right, then this man liked him. Andrew hoped so. The man was cute.

Grabbing pole after pole, he made his way across the car. The man was also operating his phone, typing with a single index finger.

"I noticed you were looking at me and then looked away when I looked at you," Andrew said. The man was strong. He could have pinned him against the subway doors, which was a fantasy of Andrew's. A fantasy of many people's, Andrew knew, from Quora.

"Yes," the man said. "I stared at you until you looked and then looked away to indicate I like you. I'm glad you understood."

"Of course I understood," Andrew said. "It's the 21st century."

They stared directly into each other's eyes for a moment without blinking. Andrew enjoyed this.

"What do you say when you meet someone?" Andrew asked.

"When you meet someone, you first of all introduce yourself to them. Introduction can include greetings followed by your name and reason to meet. Then you move on to topics like general background, family, job, etc. If the meeting is sudden, then we try moving on to safer topics like recent news, etc."

"My name is Andrew," Andrew replied. "I am meeting you because I noticed you looking at me and then you looked away. I grew up here in the city. I was an only child and often wondered what it would be like to have brothers. A number of my most prominent sexual fantasies involve siblings or brothers, and I believe this is the primary reason why. My mother was a banker, and my father was a father."

"Say no more," the man said. They looked into each other's eyes again. The express train hadn't stopped for a very long time.

"What should I do in social situations when it becomes quiet?" Andrew asked.

"I know the answer to your question," the man said, "but I think I should first inform you my stop is coming soon. This is, after all, a subway."

"True," Andrew replied.

"I am informing you because I like you, as you know, and the city is large."

"You are asking if there is another time and place we could see each other," Andrew said.

"Yes," the man replied. "Exactly." He handed Andrew his phone. "If you ingest this before we stop, I can use an application to locate you at all times. If I am seeking an encounter of any sort, I will find you. We will spend time speaking and looking into each other's eyes. This will make us happy."

"Yes," Andrew said, taking the rectangular phone from the man's large hands. He examined its width. He put it to his lips.

"While you ingest it, I will tell you about myself. My name is Jeremiah. I am meeting you because I noticed you looking at me earlier, and when I looked over, you looked away. I understood this to mean you liked me. Four minutes later, I did the same to you, and you approached me because you understood it to mean I liked you."

Andrew coughed when the phone first hit the back of his throat.

"I grew up here in this city and have never left. I was the youngest of seven brothers and had sexual relationships with each at them at separate times. Seventeen of the twenty-one possible relationships between my brothers occurred in my childhood. My mother was an insurance salesman, and my father's job involved the word derivatives. They are unpleasant people and did things to me I will only tell you if we see each other on many more occasions and speak in low whispers."

Andrew worked his tongue around the edge of the device, pulling it past his teeth. He should have removed the case, he thought.

"I now work as a drone photographer, which is very lucrative because I was the first to think of the occupation. We are coming to my stop now. I am looking forward to seeing you again."

"I am looking forward to seeing you again, too," Andrew attempted to say, but it came out as a sort of extended wheeze.

Jeremiah exited the subway car at the exact moment Andrew finally fully swallowed the phone. Andrew would watch out for drones over the next few days, maybe even wave to them.

As the train started up again, he suddenly became worried. He felt the lump moving down his chest and placed a hand on his abdomen. He thought about writing a new post on Quora, entitled, "How long does a cell phone battery last inside your stomach?" He often thought of creating his own posts, questions here and there, but had instead remained passive with the site. Perhaps now he could take the leap.