Sergio, 53

Sergio, an enigmatic man in his 50s, conceals a peculiar and clandestine fixation on “collecting” life vests from airplanes, masking a deeper, subconscious emotional need.

4 min read

The untold secret:

In the dim cabin light, as the plane taxied to its final resting place, Sergio's heart raced. He had honed his ritual to perfection, yet every time felt like the first. As the other passengers stretched, gathered their belongings, and chattered about their onward journeys, Sergio quietly surveyed the cabin. His palms dampened with anticipation, and a sense of exhilaration washed over him. He knew it was twisted, but it was an addiction he couldn't resist.

The secret he carried with him, like a forbidden fruit, was his bizarre and dark hobby: stealing life vests from airplanes. It began when he was just 14, on a solo flight to visit his grandparents. Now, decades later, he had amassed a collection of over two hundred and sixty-five vests, each meticulously marked with the flight number, date, and origin airport as a reference. The life vests were more than just souvenirs to him; they were a symbol of protection, a promise of warm, tight embraces that he could inflate when needed.

Sergio's technique was polished and precise. At the end of each flight, he would patiently wait until he was the last passenger to deplane. This granted him the privacy and time necessary to execute his heist. As the cabin crew prepared for their next flight, their attention focused elsewhere, Sergio would slide his hand beneath the seat, fingers tracing the outline of his prize. He would carefully unhook the life vest, deftly folding it, and tucking it into his carry-on bag.

His movements were fluid, like a magician performing a well-practiced trick. The smooth fabric whispered as he cradled it, masking the dark secret within. The vest was a bright canary yellow, its stark hue obscured in the depths of his bag. Its plastic enclosure, embossed with airline logos and safety instructions, crinkled beneath his fingers as he ensured its concealment.

He knew what he was doing was wrong; he was fully aware of the potential danger it posed to others. But the thrill, the feeling of satisfaction that coursed through his veins each time he added another vest to his collection, was intoxicating. It was a secret he guarded fiercely, fearing the judgment and condemnation of those he held dear.

Once the life vest was safely tucked away, he would take a deep breath, feeling the weight of his dark secret in his bag. He would then offer a polite smile to the flight attendant waiting at the exit, uttering a simple "thank you" as he stepped off the plane and into the terminal. His heart would still be pounding, the remnants of adrenaline pumping through his body. But as he walked away, he knew he had succeeded once more in safeguarding an inflatable, tight hug.

About Sergio:

Sergio's world crumbled when he was only twelve, leaving a gaping void in his heart. The sudden death of his father carved a canyon of loss that never seemed to fill, no matter how much time passed. His mother, a busy lawyer, did her best to provide for her son, but the long hours and her own grief left her emotionally unavailable. This left Sergio to navigate his emotions alone, seeking solace in an unusual and seemingly innocuous object – the airplane life vest.

It all began when he was 14, flying alone to visit his grandparents in Milan. The curiosity and fascination with the self-inflating technology of the life vest under his seat spurred him to steal one, tucking it away in his carry-on bag before disembarking. Little did he know that the act of swiping that first life vest would spawn a lifelong obsession, with each stolen vest representing a warm, comforting embrace.

Sergio's collection of life vests grew over the years, each one a symbol of the security he craved. As an adult, he transformed the stolen vests into an art installation in his modern apartment, disguising them as an avant-garde exhibit on a custom-built bookshelf. Friends and acquaintances would marvel at the display, never suspecting the truth behind his peculiar collection.

Beneath the surface, Sergio was acutely aware of the potential danger he posed to others by stealing the life vests. He grappled with the moral implications of his actions but found it difficult to quell his compulsion. A chance conversation in a dimly lit bar with a stranger who condemned his actions as reckless led Sergio to research the necessity of life vests in air travel. To his relief, he discovered that they were rarely used, and even when needed, few passengers managed to wear them correctly. The knowledge assuaged his guilt, allowing him to continue his collection without remorse.

Despite the secretive nature of his obsession, Sergio was far from a recluse. He formed close friendships and engaged in occasional romantic affairs, but the thought of exposing his secret to a potential long-term partner terrified him. The life vests, and the comfort they represented, were a part of him that he was unwilling to surrender, even for love. He feared that revealing his secret would not only lead to judgment but also jeopardize the very essence of what made the collection so special to him.

Sergio's life was a delicate balancing act between his private obsession and his public persona. His career as an account manager for a renowned Italian furniture design company afforded him the opportunity to travel frequently, offering ample occasions to expand his collection. Yet, even in the midst of his successful career and vibrant social life, the memory of his father's loss continued to cast a shadow over his heart.

In the stillness of his apartment, surrounded by the life vests that lined the walls, Sergio could almost feel the warmth of his father's embrace. He imagined the tight, protective hugs that the life vests promised, and for a fleeting moment, the darkness receded. Each vest was a lifeline, tethering him to a feeling of safety and love, a reminder that even in the face of tragedy, he could still find solace in the most unexpected of places.

Sergio, 53