Waterproof mascara, because my eyes would certainly tear up the moment I stepped outdoors. Orangeish foundation around my five o’clock shadow, until I saved up enough money to have it lasered off. Contour some cheekbones, soften my jawline. Pluck and pencil my eyebrows.
I painted the lip color on my lips, exaggerating the pout, and counted to twenty, watching the seconds tick by on the secondhand smart mirror. Then I applied the gloss and the setting spray. Count to twenty again, then put on my N95 to test it. None of the makeup came off against the dingy white felt that was to be my lungs’ sole protection from the fire and brimstone outside my trailer door. The old AC unit duct taped in one of the windows spat out 80 degree, somewhat less sooty air which was for the time being the main source of breathable oxygen my sister and I shared.
The sky was the color of twilight when I stepped outside, though it was the middle of the day, the sun a bloody halo looming above. It had been weeks since California had been without the oppressive smoke choking every inch of the atmosphere. The hundred degree heat made electrical fires flare up everywhere, not to mention the wildfires that ravaged most of the remaining woodlands of the state.
It was only a minute’s walk to the parking lot where I’d said we’d meet up, but by the time I got there my pits were leaking onto my cropped white tank top, leaving translucent stains on the cotton. I approached the car cautiously and peered through the passenger side window at him. It was a white Mercedes, like he’d said, and the man behind the wheel looked like he could plausibly be the anonymous set of abs I’d exchanged a few curt messages with on the app. His face was disappointing, but then again most no-faces were, and that had never stopped me before, not when one of them had something else I wanted. I messaged him “Here” and knocked on the window. He looked down at the display on his arm, then at me. A leer came over his face. An top-of-the line battery-powered HEPA filter dangled from his neck.
The door unlocked with a click, and I climbed in, knowing that once I did there was no going back. He could be a serial killer for all I knew, or a rapist; he could have HIV or the rona. But I didn’t really care about the risks, desperate as I was. For some reason, the adrenaline pumping in my blood turned to courage and not anxiety like it did in most other social circumstances.
I closed the door and pulled off my mask, taking a large, grateful breath of the crisp, filtered air. A shiver ran down my spine. He regarded me with a smile of pity or amusement. I spread my legs and draped one up on the dash, one near his waiting hand. I smiled back at him. I didn’t have to try to be seductive, not when I already had his dick pics in my pocket. “What kind of music do you like?” I asked casually as the car maneuvered itself away at the touch of a button, his other hand’s idle fingers finding the hem of my shorts.
He ignored my question and started unzipping his pants once we were cruising at a constant speed. He pressed a different icon on the screen and the tint on the windows darkened.
“So did you have somewhere you wanted to go?” he asked.
“I thought you said you had your own place?”
“I was hoping you knew somewhere closer.”
This was news to me. Not all that surprising, though - men always wanted to get away with the least hospitality possible. “I don’t really do this a whole lot,” I lied. If I could convince him to take me home, that was at least another hour in transit; if I milked it long enough, I could remain in his filtered company until evening, when at least it wouldn’t be so hot.
“This is your neck of the woods, right? There has to be some abandoned building or alley we could park in.” There were, but they were all crawling with people. The suburbs had become a rat’s nest over the years. “Sorry, but I’m kind of pressed for time, and if I have to make two round trips all the way out here…”
“I mean, we could just cruise. This thing drives itself. Don’t worry about the mileage, it’s electric.” He smirked. “Have you ever given road head before?”
I had, but I shook my head. “I get motion sickness.” Another lie.
“We could park somewhere though, right? Trust me, these windows hide everything.”
I didn’t seem to have much of a choice, so I directed him to a spot I knew a bit out of the way. I gave up on trying to make conversation on the way and let him prattle on about tech stocks or something.
As soon as the vehicle stopped moving, he started unzipping off his pants. “Sorry, babe, I just need some stress relief ASAP. My work has been--you know what, I shouldn’t talk about it. But can you…?” He gestured to his crotch, black silk boxers already tented.
He was neither particularly big nor particularly small. I swallowed once before reaching down and fishing it out. It at least seemed clean, like he had showered in preparation. You’d be surprised by how many guys didn’t even bother with that.
He reclined in the leather seat and I stroked it for a while. After about a minute, he pushed my hand away. “Mouth. Now, please.”
I knelt down and took his tip between my lips, before feeding more of it in. I started to feel a strange sense of dissociation, like it wasn’t really me controlling my body. I was just watching a video. I felt nothing but the cool air on the back of my neck. I knew later I would probably feel sad and disgusted with myself when the reality of what I was doing set in-- Are you really whoring yourself out for some air conditioning?
Yes. Yes I was. I would let him use my body for as long as he wanted. And for at least those few minutes, I would breathe easy.