“Oh god, is that really necessary?” Three sets of eyes swiveled to Stephen, who was looking around the table with disdain. “Do you need to post pictures of your lunch?” he continued. “No one cares.” I set my phone down, guilty, while the other two carried on without shame.
“But… it’s pretty. It’s sushi!” defended Abby with a pout from across the table.
His withering look was one of my top five favorite looks, which he delivered now while saying, “All of your acolytes have seen sushi before.”
“Is this an acolyte?” Milo said to Abby, pointing at an item on his plate. “I thought it was a California roll.”
Stephen stared at him in horror from across the table. It gave me a chance to speak up, so I did. “Come on,” I shoved him playfully with an elbow and he turned to me and resumed a haughty look. With his blue argyle sweater and wide, dark brown glasses, he was the most adorably offended nerd ever. “Even you know they’re called followers and not acolytes.”
He only scoffed at my remark and I tried to look as bored with him as everyone else instead of pleased. I had a perfect view of the spark in his amber eyes that always appeared when he really got going before he turned to address everyone.
“It’s superficial. Social media is all so fake.” He reflexively moved a hand to sweep his chestnut locks out of his face even though his perfectly coiffed hair was still in place and neat as ever.
“No,” Milo defended, “All my followers are real. I’m not using bots or something. That’s cheating.”
“I’m sure they exist,” Stephen said dryly. “If you can call being attached to a screen 24/7 existing.” He merrily started in on a rant about technology and the superficial nature of consumerism or something.
Abby looked annoyed at Stephen starting another patronizing speech and looked to me for support. I shrugged. Yeah, the words weren’t great, but he looked so good when lecturing about something. I used to be annoyed by it until I got the feelings. It was a pretty good strategy, I thought, having a crush on your most pompous friend made everything he said more bearable.
“Taking picture after picture of the best moments of your life and adding a fun filter is so trivial,” Stephen continued.
“…Sometimes I add a caption too,” Milo muttered, which apparently wasn’t worthy of a response as Stephen turned to me again.
“I can’t believe you’re participating in this too, Will.”
“We’re out of school today and we’re having a nice lunch,” I argued. “That’s something to celebrate.”
That answer didn’t sway him. I pretended to listen to his rant while watching the way his face flushed as he continued to talk and talk.
“No one is authentic anymore. Nothing is real.” Those words filtered through my admiration of his features and his passion. He said he wanted real, but my real big crush on him might be enough to shock him into silence for a full minute. Maybe two if he was especially horrified.
“And that’s what you want?” I asked.
“Desperately,” Stephen said with feeling while looking me in the eyes. He didn’t know what he was asking for. But maybe he was right. Maybe I was tired of pretending. I thought I knew how he’d react if I told him, but all the disaster scenarios I imagined weren’t real. There was only one way to find out for sure.
“Okay, if that’s what you want.” I leaned over and kissed him on the mouth.
How’s that for authentic?