Now she smiled. “Great.” She nodded to the drink in my hand. “Want another one of those?”
She chuckled. “Okay, then. Let me show you around instead. I’ll give you the grand tour.”
She stood from the bench, and I followed her down a row of computers.
I was standing behind the film crew in Central Park when my phone buzzed with a message. I pulled it out, spotting Afric’s name on the screen, and smiled automatically. What was this? It appeared I’d started to enjoy our budding friendship. I could at least admit that I had fun with her last week at the gaming sphere. Afric and I had spent over an hour playing a race car game. She beat me every time, of course, but I still enjoyed it.
I glanced down to read her message.
Afric: How’s everything going over in the Big Apple?
Neil: I’m a bit jet-lagged but getting by. I’m in Central Park atm. The cast is shooting.
Afric: OMG, that sounds fun! Send me a pic.
I hesitated. She wanted a picture? I rarely took selfies, and more often than not, I was the one behind the camera. I glanced around. Everybody was busy working, not paying me any attention. Navigating to the camera app, I put it in selfie mode and lifted the phone. I made sure to get some trees and greenery in the background, as well as the buildings beyond, and attempted a smile. The first few shots weren’t great. My smile was wooden. But after a few more tries, I loosened up and managed to take a reasonably good selfie. I went back and forth over whether to send it, then, feeling impulsive, I hit ‘send’.
Instead of a text response, my phone lit up with a call. “Hello?” I answered.
Afric was already chuckling. “My goodness, you’re too cute. I meant a picture of the cast filming, not a selfie of you, ya big eejit.”
I stiffened, slamming my palm into my forehead as I held the phone to my ear with my other hand. “Oh, right. Sorry, I thought—”
“Don’t apologise. You look lovely, Neil. Thank you for gracing my phone with your heavenly visage.”
“Okay, there’s no need to make fun. I thought young people sent each other pictures of themselves all the time. Isn’t that what people your age do? They send selfies drinking coffee, or selfies with ice-creams, or other mundane things that certainly don’t require documenting.”
“First of all, you just called me basic, which I’m prepared to overlook because I’m not. And second of all, you’re not that much older than me, Neil. I’m twenty-five. You’re thirty. We’re hardly a Boomer and a Gen Z. Pretty sure we’re both Millennials, so …”
“I didn’t mean to offend you. You’re the one who called me up, laughing your arse off at my selfie, which, might I add, I happen to think I look well in. At the very least, it was the best of a bad bunch—”
“Hold up, how many pictures did you take?” Afric asked, her voice full of amusement.
“A few,” I admitted grudgingly. “But that’s neither here nor there.”
“Oh, my God. I’m going to die,” she chuckled. “I would’ve loved to see you standing there taking selfies when you’re supposed to be working.”
“Well, enjoy the visual because I won’t be sending you any more photos of my time in New York.”
“Wait, no fair! I want more pictures. That way, I can live vicariously through you. In fact, I think you should send me a selfie every day to show me what you’re up to. No, I demand it. I am, after all, stuck in my bedroom in Brixton live streaming video games to teenage boys while wearing gigantic hoodies to give them as little as possible to wank over.”
“Okay, I’m not sure where to start because there’s a lot to unpack there. Besides, it’s not all teenage boys who watch you. My sister, Rosie, watches your stream all the time.”
“That’s good to know. Tell her I said hi. Also, speaking of your sister, did she like the autograph?”
I smiled, thinking of how excited Rosie was when I gave it to her. “Yes, actually, she was made up about it. Thanks for that, by the way.”
“No problem. But back to the daily selfies. I seriously think you should consider it. Think of it as a confidence-boosting exercise. You clearly have some self-esteem issues—”
“I do not have self-esteem issues,” I protested weakly before amending. “Well, okay, I may have some, but it’s not a huge deal.”
“You’re pretending to be someone else online to a girl you’re infatuated with,” Afric said, and I deflated.
“So, here’s my suggestion. You take a picture of yourself once a day in front of some cool landmark or other. You’re in New York, so it won’t be difficult. Taking selfies can be kind of awkward, especially when some passing stranger looks at you and rolls their eyes all, God, they’re taking a selfie, how embarrassing, how vain …”