I'm snapped from my trance wherein I'm staring at my phone, swiping through endless screens of exquisitely lit photographs. I stare at a curtain of braids in front of me and the hand furiously scribbling into a notebook just behind. This is Raechelle Thompson, paranoid genius. If I were the kind of person to have a best friend, she would be mine. Unequivocally, I would not be hers. Proof: I am not hers.
Rae is some kind of InfoSec prophetess which means every morning she throws on her meticulously ironed cape and saves us all from evildoing cyber criminals. Saves the highest bidders, that is; She's amazing and bills accordingly. She is also a huge pain in my ass.
"Powerful black woman," the barista yells.
From the look on his face it doesn't seem possible, but I am somehow more embarrassed than the barista. Everyone is staring at us. She loves messing with people, especially uppity white people, and I'm typically collateral damage. For instance, there was the time she insisted a cashier transcribe hexadecimal encoded text into the customer name field of his register and ended up crashing their entire point of sale system. During lunch. I miss eating there.
"Oh, for f-"
"I'm not giving them my name. Do I look brand new?" she shoots over her shoulder as she sashays over to pick up her breakfast. The only other black woman in the cafe and Rae have an effortless "right on, girl/thank you, sister" moment. In general, I'm complete garbage when it comes to speaking to people I'm acquainted with, let alone strangers. These types of exchanges are out of my grasp and they fill me with...everything. Hope and disappointment. Joy and fear. I have never been good enough but, my God, look at how some people glide through this life.
I'm Audra Quinn, photographer. I won't sugarcoat it: I'm unattractive, forgettable, strange, pale as a ghost, and generally unlikable. I take damn good pictures though. People pay me well to notice things about them and capture moments happening to them. I was told by a mentor that I'd never make it because I couldn't develop relationships. "No client will ever trust you," he said. I don't need them to, though. I make zero emotional demands on almost everyone and others are rarely compelled to invest any towards me. At least once a week someone breaks down looking at their proofs. They didn't know I was there. "How did you get that shot?"
"I'm blessed." But, no, a quiet telephoto lens is the bulk of it and basic psychology takes care of the rest. Most people are so self absorbed they will only notice you if you can validate them in some interactive way. Except for kids. Around the age of 5 they begin to sense the playground trauma in my past. Little vipers.
Rae is back with her blueberry muffin and cuban coffee and begins writing again. "What is that?" I ask. "A security memo explaining that the biggest threat to my client is their vapid bourgeoisie employees who couldn't generate a strong password without the assistance of a child in their lap, banging on the keyboard. Suggest deploying toddlers."
My breakfast suddenly appears on the table before me and the barista is gone before I can register and mutter thanks. Rae, however, is immediately all over it. "Why is he bringing it to you and made me walk all the way up there?" Sighing, I slowly turn the scrawl on the my cup towards her. The only part legible reads "Odd" and trails off from there. "They tried."
She gives a wry laugh. "Well, Cinderella, we know that shoe fits."