Peter and Michelle hailed a taxicab and got in.
“Take us to the nearest gateway to Regent Park,” Peter said. “And hurry.”
“OK, from here, that’ll be Queen Street East,” said the cabbie. What do they want to go that dump for? he wondered as he started driving.
“I guess we don’t need to wear these suits,” Peter said to her, “if those little white dots aren’t going to enter our bodies.” He was about to take his head covering off, raising Michelle’s and the cabbie’s eyebrows.
She put out her hand to stop Peter. “Let’s not jump to any conclusions,” she said. “What just happened to us may have been a fluke.”
The cabbie let out a sigh of relief that Peter kept his whole suit on.
“What could have caused those things not to have entered us?” Peter asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “But we shouldn’t be foolish or overconfident until we know. We need to find out more about ‘those things’ before we can be sure of what we’re dealing with.”
“I really don’t think we’re dealing with a disease,” he said. “I’d swear those things have some kind of intelligence. It’s as if they knew when to strike, right when we took the head coverings off, and no sooner. They didn’t come off when Wayne took off his gloves, because they seemed to know we weren’t vulnerable yet. I’ll bet they raised the temperature in that room, too, to make us too uncomfortable to keep the head coverings on.”
“Yeah, OK…and then not enter us?” she asked while sneering at him.
“Yeah, I know it doesn’t make much sense, but maybe they have some kind of subtle plan for us that we haven’t figured out yet. Like they wanted to show themselves to us…to toy with us.”
“Here come the conspiracy theories again.”
“Well, do you have a better explanation for what happened back there?”
“No, and that’s why I think we need to err on the side of caution until we know for sure what’s going on.”
“Well, that’s why we’re going to Regent Park.”
“Getting us a hotel room is going to help us know for sure?” she asked with another sneer. “By ‘knowing,’ I don’t mean in the Biblical sense.”
The cabbie smirked in envy at the thought of Peter soon to get it on with his pretty, shapely girlfriend in a hotel room.
“Well, after the hotel, we’ll meet my doctor friend.”
“You think he knows something about this?”
“It’s the only recently discovered ‘disease’ he admits to being real,” Peter said. “And while you’d think he’d have been wearing a protective suit, he wasn’t when he tested me. Maybe he had the same experience we had.”
“You never asked him why he wasn’t wearing one?” she asked.
“Part of me was glad he wasn’t succumbing to all this fear, so I didn’t.”
“OK,” the cabbie said. “Here’s the Queen Street East entrance gate.” He stopped the cab. “Don’t let any of those bums sneak out when you get in, as a favour to all of us.”
Peter paid the fare, and he and Michelle got out.
Peter took a key out of his pocket, opened the locked gate, holding Michelle’s gloved hand with his free one, and they went in. By the sidewalks on the way to the hotel, they saw rows of tents of homeless people. All of them were filthy. All of them held out their hands for spare change. None was wearing a suit.
“Take a look around,” Peter said as they rushed past the tents and stepped over the stretched-out legs of beggars lying on the sidewalks with hats and bowls beside them, hoping for spare change. “The rejects of Toronto. I’d love to give them some money, but if you or I drop even just one penny into a hat or bowl, they’ll all be mobbing us for more, and I didn’t bring enough pocket money, rich as my family is, to satisfy all of them at once. I feel like such a dick to deny them, but there’s nothing I can do.”
“Same here,” she said. “I don’t have much on me, either. I wish I could give them something.”
“If you think this is bad, wait another few years, when the world completes the transition to a totally cashless society,” he said. “The homeless will really be fucked then.”
“Oh, that’s awful.”
“Yeah, MedicinaTech all but abandoned this part of Toronto. A piddling amount of government taxes goes into helping the poor here, but as you can see, it’s nowhere near enough. The gates keep them from entering the richer parts of the city; only people here with a reasonable income have a key to get in and out, like my doctor friend.”
“Why did he choose to live here?”
“He wants to help the poor by providing either affordable or free health care. Without volunteers like him, if the homeless–note the lack of protective suits for them–ever caught The Splits, or any other disease, real or imagined, they’d be in a pretty hopeless situation.”
They reached the Ritz Hotel.
“Here we are,” he said.
They went in and got a room.
“I guess we can finally take these off,” he said, then slowly took off his head covering.
They paused for a moment.
Their eyes darted around the room for glowing little dots of light.
Several seconds of tense silence.
“I guess we’re safe,” she said, taking off her head covering and looking around cautiously. “The woman at the desk was wearing a suit, and those things only come out from people’s uncovered skin, don’t they?”
“Yeah, and they don’t seem to want to enter us, as you’ll recall,” he said, removing the rest of his suit. “Don’t worry. We should be fine.”
“OK,” she said, still in a cautious attitude. She took off her suit with her eyes always on the alert for the little white lights. Peter was already naked and under the covers. She slowly began unbuttoning her shirt.
“If they were gonna get us, surely they’d have already done so by now. Stop worrying.”
“Well, if I’m gonna die, I want us to die together,” she said, then soon got naked and went under the covers with him.
As they made love in the missionary position, they sighed not only with pleasure, but also from the relief of finally being able to enjoy close physical contact.
For too long, he thought as he went in and out of her, kissing her and caressing her cheeks, all of us have been denied closeness. Fear of disease has split us all apart from each other. We can’t truly help each other if we’re apart, not hugging, not touching, not seeing each other’s facial expressions because masks are hiding our smiles and frowns.
She was thinking these very same thoughts.
When they finished, they lay together and cuddled, their arms tightly around each other.
“Oh,” she sighed. “I’d forgotten…how good that feels. Not just getting laid, but…feeling the touch of someone else. I’m glad we took…the chance here. I’m sick of being afraid…and alone.”
“That’s what I…have been trying to get…you to understand,” he sighed. “We need closeness. It’s what makes…us human.”
“You’re right. I love you.”
“I love you, too.” They kissed. “Now, let’s go…and meet my doctor friend.”
They put on their clothes and left.