Quantum Queue

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With his hand in front of his face, Pete thought no one could see him pick his nose. When his eyes met those of the other people in line for the movie, he bowed his head and wished himself invisible. He did that as a child. Often. In a corner, while Mom and Dad raged at one another. As an adult, he tried the same thing. The same wish. The same squeeze of his eyes tight, so the darkness overtook him.

Three young women, around his age, early twenties, he suspected, chirped and giggled. Their eyes met. The three girls glared at him. Blonde beauties. They'd never pay attention to him, even if he suddenly went invisible and then popped back into view. Beautiful women never spoke to him. Even when he effected a debonair demeanor, dark hair slicked back from his pimple-studded forehead.

He pictured himself handsome. He imagined he projected the image he wanted. Crooked teeth straight, chapped lips smooth and inviting. Puffy cheeks, not so.

Sometimes.

Most times, he knew, he projected nothing of the truth that he wished. Still, he imagined he might gain a lovely woman's attention -- any of the three staring at him would suffice -- by performing a feat of daring. He'd be brave. He'd save them from catastrophe. All three would reward him with hugs and kisses. Then he'd pick one to take back to his room, where he'd do what he often heard his father brag of doing to mom.

He'd save the women from a deranged gunman intent on slaughter.

Suddenly, he got his wish, as though wishing made it happen, as though he'd found the magic words to make his wishes real.

Gunfire filled the air. Someone screamed. And he went into action, arms around the three women all at once, pulling them to their knees, yelling, "Get Down!"

Laughter took the edge off the danger. A toddler cried, a burst balloon in his hand, and his tall, efficient mother shook a gloved finger at him, saying, "That's what happens when you don't watch out."

"Creep," one of the lovely women said. She pushed Pete away.

"I saved you," he muttered.

The other two helped one another to their feet and a tall man who didn't need magic to be handsome intervened with, "You girls okay?" He exchanged glances with Pete.

"I thought someone had a gun," Pete said.

Everyone laughed. The interloper, the lovely young women, and everyone else in line to the movie theatre: laughed.

Pete sank within himself, wished he'd go invisible. He blushed. He hugged himself. He refused to cry. Dad berated him when he cried. Mom just hit him harder when he let loose his tears. At school, the other kids laughed.

And he was no longer a child.

He stared at the three young women. Perhaps he'd scare them. He'd go invisible and pop up beside them in the dark theatre.

"Where'd the weirdo go?" someone said.

Pete looked down at the three young women standing in line, at all the people waiting for the theatre doors to open, at the handsome interloper laughing with the three lovelies. Invisible at last. And hovering. Watching.

Looking about, because he'd suddenly become the other possibility, become the handsome young man the lovelies adored. In the universe where he didn't become invisible, he chatted with the three women, invited them to love him by looking steadily and thoughtfully at them.

All the possibilities, he thought. The idea frightened him; because anything was possible.
"There," the interloper said, pointing.

Pete shrank within himself. He'd been invisible for a moment. He'd been that interloper, too. Perhaps, if he'd been able to hold the instance long enough, he'd be one or all of the three lovelies as well.

Cherish the possibilities, he thought, grinning. And happy. With memories of what he'd imagined.

The End