M has four primary freckles on her nose and approximately twentyfour secondary freckles. I say “approximately” not because her secondary freckles can’t be counted—few things in this world can’t be counted—but because I can’t stare at M’s nose for long enough to count her secondary freckles without making her uncomfortable. Her hair is thicker than the hair of 40 percent of the women who work among us and longer than 57 percent, and she wears hair bands 24 percent of the time, scrunchies 28 percent of the time, and her hair loose 48 percent of the time. She is exactly one week older than I am—25.56 to my 25.54—a fact I learned from the icebreaker our team leader, O’Brien, conducted during a taco party he hosted at his house for our whole team when we first became a team. Each of us gave the date, time, and place of our birth, and O’Brien plotted our data on a dynamic 3D Earth model and slowly rotated it so that we could see all forty-three team members ping into existence over the course of our aggregate age span. In the model, M and I seemed to come to life at the same instant.
I’ve crowdsourced M’s prettiness casually among members of our team’s larger unit under the pretense of trying to decide, as a single heterosexual male, whether or not she is pretty, but in actuality to gauge the breadth and strength of my competition. Of the 81 percent who found M pretty, 64 percent are not competitive, being males or nonbinaries attached to or interested in other people, or else females—of whom the 15 percent who identify as gay or bi are not a threat because M is “straight.” Obviously, I recognize the existence of a spectrum of desire between straight and gay, but placing M on this spectrum would require either an honest reporting of her sexual history, which I am in no position to acquire, or gray grabs of M’s sexual memories and fantasies from the collective—an act of such grotesque personal violation that she would justifiably revile me afterward, thus defeating the point.
Of the remaining 36 percent male or nonbinary respondents who might conceivably compete with me in pursuing a relationship with M, fully half possess at least one possibly-to-likely-disqualifying personal trait: 14 percent = noticeable body odor or other personal hygiene violations (nose picking, ear drilling, etc.); 11 percent = online warlordry; 9 percent = old (over thirty-five); 7 percent = radically self-obsessed; 6 percent = obsessed with Bix Bouton; 3 percent = prone to miscellaneous offenses, including engaging in Iraq War reenactments, telling sexist jokes, smoking cigarettes, or wearing bandanas. Okay, that last one is a pet peeve of mine but probably not M’s. I hate bandanas.
Now to the remaining 18 percent of poll respondents who represent possible competing contenders for M’s affection. And here is where the data begin to fail, because how can I calculate whose chances are best? The key to M’s heart may lie in something quirky and impossible to predict without intimate knowledge of her background and memories and psychological state—which, again, I could acquire only invasively. Maybe the person who brings…