From the author: When you'll do anything for health coverage -- even get married.
The ad reads, “Female wanted, under 30, thin, blonde. Benefits, vacation, own room.” I’m 32 with mousy brown hair, but I haven’t seen my real color since I was 15, and I can pass for 20 if I need to. So even though the ad says nothing about the guy (assuming it is a guy) -- who could be a 75- year-old axe murderer for all I know -- I pulse over a carefully worded note with my sample vid. The auto response looks reasonably sane, so I set an alarm, and go back to work.
“Work” means finding trends, the kind of stats that the search engine algorithms may not pick up. Doesn’t bring in much, but it’s worth a few groceries. Nothing new today, though. Job rate up, vice rate down. Wedding rate booming. “Marriage is a wonderful institution,” says the Reverend President John Sprite, beaming at the vidcam. Same old, same old. I start to grab a few feeds anyway -- if I can’t find a real trend, I can always make one up -- when my alarm sings at me.
My bait is bit. The guy sends a long response in words of six syllables -- some kind of college guy? -- along with a request for a two-week commitment, which is totally not acceptable. I check his stats: lives alone, good neighborhood, stable job, full benefits. Not bad. I pulse back a three- month alternative, along with a couple of paragraphs of my best post-grad banter to soothe his superego.
Ten minutes later, I get back three screens of pseudo-Mensa crap and an agreement on two months, with a GPS code for a person-to-person at the Hillside RealMall, about an hour away. We’re in business.
My mirror tells me I’ve got a couple of sores coming on that could be a problem if they get any worse. I’ve only got one anti-viral patch left from my stock, and if this doesn’t work I won’t be able to get more, but I have to look good, and that means look healthy, so I slap it on. Some makeup to hide them until the medication kicks in, pull on a blue tubedress, and I’m ready. Grab my purse and out the door.
It’s a theme café. Ye Olde London with waiters in top hats and kid actors screaming for more. I pull out my phone, hit the GPS code, and locate my intended: way in back, out of direct lighting. My turn to get the hips moving, head up, smile pasted on. Ready for my close-up.
He’s a Santa: belly that could comfortably hold three invitros, stained tee, beard that tries to make up for the weight and fails miserably. Not a total fool, obviously, since he knew enough to bargain, but when I get close, he gets a look on him like a three-year-old at a candy con.
I slide into my seat, giving him a nice glimpse of thigh, and try to look really impressed. “Hey,” I say. Throatily, like an old movie vamp, because I will bet you any amount that this joker knows his cine.
“Hi,” he says. He’s already hyperventilating.
He obviously wants smart, though, so I take it slow. “I really hate this part,” I say in my best Park Avenue. “You have to get past the business, and the awkwardness of the whole situation.”
“I know,” he tells me. “It’s hard to get to know somebody when things are so...so...”
“Crass?” I suggest. He likes the word. We order drinks, and I play with the straw a bit before leaning forward, making sure just a bit of the tube slips.
“Let me be frank,” I tell him. “You know why I’m here. This isn’t love at first sight. But neither will I associate myself with somebody I don’t respect. I’m not that sort of person, and from your email, I don’t think you are as well.”
As if a feeb like him would turn down this mama’s birthday gift. I smile at him, and put a hand gently on his. He almost comes right there.
“I like you,” I purr. “I think that we can be good for each other. Can teach each other things.”
He swallows, and zaps the check without even looking at the total. I’ve got him. We stare soulfully at each other for another minute or two, and then split for the JusticeOfPeace storefront two levels down.
To have and to hold, in sickness and in health... for two months, anyway. Anything to keep the virus at bay, one patch at a time. With my new hubbie’s bennies, and my contacts, I should be able to squeeze at least six months of medication out of the pharms over the next sixty days. And after that, if I keep my cool, the feeb may want an extension. Or maybe he’s got friends who are looking for a two-month wifey, devotion guaranteed.
After all, a girl’s got to live.
Read about this story's background here.
This story originally appeared in Sybil's Garage.