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Word of the Year

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selfie: noun (plural selfies), informal
a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website:
“Occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary.”
Origin: early 21st century: from self + -ie

"Is there somewhere open to plug in my phone?" Cecil asked.

"There’s a few open sockets on the surge protector that the Christmas tree is plugged into," Carlos said, so Cecil heaved himself off of Carlos’s ugly couch to find it. (Some might claim that Carlos’s taste in furniture was less than perfect, but really, it only served to contrast the scientist’s own visual perfection in a sort of chiaroscuro of interior domestic design.) "It’s kind of a shell game to catch which one contains the electricity at any given moment, but once you’ve caught it, you’re good. I haven’t been able to ascertain yet if the surge protector is physically rewiring itself, if it’s just re-routing the electricity somehow, or if it’s the electricity that’s playing hide-and-go-seek. It’s on my to-do list, but got knocked even lower priority when everyone’s leftovers began getting combative on Boxing Day. Don’t unplug my laptop, it’s running calculations. Does your phone need a new battery?"

"What?" Cecil poked his head up through the bottom branches of the tree so that he could glance back to Carlos in what some might call a needless gesture, as Carlos looked exactly the same as he had for the past hour (which is to say that he was sitting on the couch in his lounging lab coat and staring at his laptop screen), though it was self-evident to any sensible individual or collective consciousness that glancing toward Carlos’s extraordinarily pleasing visage was never needless. "No, no, it’s fine."

"You’re always having to charge it. Like, probably at least fifty percent more often than your average smartphone user, at least based on observed behavior."

"I use my phone a lot," Cecil said with a shrug as he unwound the string of lights that had started looping itself around his neck in panic. (They really were just scared, not malicious. If you listened closely, you could hear their tiny cries of "If one of us dies, we’re all done for!") "It’s a very useful piece of non-forbidden technology, particularly in my line of work."

"Facebook is not your line of work."

"Public image maintenance is important."

"Candy Crush isn’t public image maintenance."

"Carlos, thorough Carlos, I know that you worry, but is that kind of negativity any way to turn your handsome face to the new year and ignore the dying screams of the old year as it’s left on a metaphorical mountainside, which isn’t real, to be devoured by literal bears, which are real, because it’s outlived its usefulness?"

"Even that much social media use shouldn’t be kill your battery that bad. Here, wait, no, just hand it to me, the cord reaches from here-"

"Are you scientifically investigating my phone?" Cecil asked, his wide eyes sparkling in the anxious multi-colored glow of the Christmas lights.

"-the newer models do drain power pretty ridiculously, but I want to check that yours really is running optimally. There might be something Night Vale or even just normal that’s being an energy vampire-"

"Oh, no, we had an energy vampire problem a few years back, but it turns out that they’re just as allergic to garlic as the Bram Stoker-type vampires."

"-but if there is something, we should just make sure, because it’s not like there’s outlets out there everywhere, like, when you’re out investigating things and reporting and, you know, if your phone died and then something happened… um. So I should look at it."

A warm and fuzzy feeling slipped around Cecil’s heart like a fleece sock right out of the dryer slipping around a person’s heart as he thumbed the passcode on his lock screen and handed his phone over to Carlos. He did not bounce as he plopped himself back next to Carlos on the ugly and also moderately uncomfortable couch, as much as he always expected that that should happen, despite the number of times that he had performed the action and received the same result. (One time it had almost eaten him, but that didn’t count as bouncing, either.)

"Ooooh," he said, leaning against Carlos’s shoulder so that he could watch what his boyfriend was doing. "I’d been looking at my Year In Review. It’s been a good year."

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Carlos smile shyly at that, his thumb hanging above the phone’s screen like an overloaded web browser, so he pressed a quick kiss to that perfect jawline and reached over to scroll down the page for him.

The first post was a photo of Cecil under his desk at the studio. "Street cleaning day," he clarified as he saw Carlos opening his mouth to ask, and continued scrolling. "Oh, look, that’s me on Superday back in March! Everyone at the station got these really nifty sparkly hats. They’ve turned into sort of heirloom items for the interns."

"Can something become an heirloom in less than a year?"

"If it’s inherited enough times, it seems that it should."

"Point. What the hell is this?" Carlos asked with a laugh, his thumb intercepting Cecil’s as he continued scrolling through the year. It was a picture of Cecil in a gas mask and frilly apron with a petunia pattern, a mop held in the yellow-gloved hand that wasn’t holding the phone.

"Oh," said Cecil, his voice darkening just a little in distant but not yet forgotten bitterness. "That was the day that we’d decided last fall that we’d clean up around there."

"...did you clean up around there?"

"We did," Cecil growled.

"Okay. Good. Let’s continue moving on from that place in your life. Hey, I recognize that trophy."

"I sure hope that you do." Cecil met Carlos’s grin with one of his own. "Otherwise, I’d need to make sure that you weren’t a body snatcher, and that would really kill the mood."

"Or would it?" Carlos shot back before making that adorable little choking noise he did whenever he caught himself flirting and was pleased. It was the darlingest quirk and always made Cecil want to do unspeakable things to his clever but excitable boyfriend, but Cecil manfully stayed on task and finished scrolling through his Year In Review page so that Carlos could resume doing science to his phone.

"Were all of your Year In Review posts selfies?" Carlos asked as he closed the Facebook app.

"No, totally not," said Cecil. "There was that picture of the two of us on our second date, remember?"

"That’s, like, half a selfie. A halfie. An us-ie."

"Now you’re just making things up, Carlos. You’re so inventive! Anyways, it’s not like I pick which posts are part of my Year In Review. It’s just based on, like, likes."

"You do take a lot of them, though. I notice it when we’re out. Or when we’re in. Or when you visit me at work. Or when I visit you at work."

"Carlos, do you have something against selfies?"

"Or when you’re eating. Or when you’re driving. That one worries me sometimes. But no, I mean, I don’t have anything against them themselves, of all of the contributing factors to the entropy of the universe, I’d put them pretty far down the list, it’s just, you know, the level of obsession oh my god."

Cecil peered over to see that Carlos had opened up his picture gallery. Which was, relevantly, taking up quite a bit of storage space.

Mostly with selfies.

This didn’t seem very good, Cecil thought, biting his lip in mild worry. Of course, he knew that he had the most wonderful and understanding boyfriend in the entire world, but he was also not unaware that some people did have a thing against selfies. Carlos might have just been humoring him or trying to force himself to not have a thing against selfies when he’d said that he didn’t have anything against them. Oh, Cecil was so lucky to have someone who went out of his way to be accepting even when his initial reflex reacted against it. And, well, Cecil did have to admit that the sheer volume was a little embarrassing.

"Should I have gotten you a camera for Christmas?" Carlos asked.

"What?" Cecil stared stupidly at Carlos’s beautiful and inquisitively expressioned face.

"Should I have gotten you a camera? You must be using your phone all the time for this if you’ve amassed this many... you know..."

"No, no, incredibly thoughtful Carlos, I adored your gifts, and still adore them in the present tense, and I really do prefer to use my phone."

"These one were all taken within the span of an hour," Carlos said in a tone approaching terrified wonder as he continued scrolling. "Were you doing a fashion show?"

Oh, dear, Cecil thought as a blush threatened to betray him. He needed to be smooth to cover this one.

"No? No! No, oh- nooooo," Cecil said, "that’s just, um, you know, a thing."

"Hey, that’s what you wore on our first date-" Carlos cut himself off.

The Christmas tree lights trembled as though they, too, felt the self-conscious butterflies in Cecil’s stomach as he waited, even though Cecil logically knew they were just trembling from their fear of death.

"Oh," said Carlos finally.


Carlos let his thumb rest over Cecil’s. "You don’t use mirrors," he said.

"I might have been a little nervous that evening," Cecil admitted with an embarrassed chuckle. Carlos slipped an arm around his shoulders, and Cecil leaned into the embrace. "I also just... like having evidence. That I exist. In this moment. And that I can share with other people."

"There’s lots of evidence that you exist, Cecil," Carlos said into Cecil’s hair. "Lots of observable evidence. And so many wonderful moments. But...” He pulled back so that he could look at Cecil and also probably so that he wasn’t eating his hair when he talked. "...I hope that I never make you feel bad about making more of it. That nobody does. Though I hope that not all of our moments are shared with other people."

Cecil laughed as Carlos choked a little, then tackled his wonderful, intelligent, kind, extremely hot, existentially reassuring boyfriend into the ugly couch.

"Hey, Carlos," Cecil whispered into his ear with a grin as he held his phone out with one hand, the perfect angle long ago committed to muscle memory. "Smile."