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Sometimes, when the darkness of the night has fully enveloped the room and no light can be seen from any angle, Drew (real name: Katherine) thinks about how Crystal (real name: unknown) has whispered to her you make me believe in god again after the web-camera was off and they no longer had an audience. Sweat dried sticky on their skin, and even then, the evening dimness lapped into the shadowed angles and edges of her rounded hips and the slope of her shoulders.
She pointedly doesn’t think about the laugh that peppered the statement, or the way the freckles on Crystal’s back danced while she collected her belongings and went home for the night, work done. She doesn’t think about any of the other scenes she did with her, the way in which her gasps felt so real or the sticky unpleasant feeling in her head when she showered after.
Back when webcam shows like hers were more of a novelty and less marketed, she supposed that she could play pretend much more realistically. But now, with anyone with a credit card being instantly connected to a woman or man willing to preform, every woman she works with comes and goes so quickly that there is no point in maintaining an illusion.
Gabriel (real name: Michael) is coming over to shoot with her tomorrow and she has lost the ability to tell who is a friend and who is a coworker, but Gabe (as he insists on being called, citing his given name as a reflection of suburban American conformity) sticks around after and helps her clean up and chatters away as if he knows that really she just needs some real human interaction.
Nothing is real these days, every interaction, every sentence, so carefully constructed and choreographed that the dances are almost sterile in their cleanliness. People talk to loved ones, real or momentary, through glass screens and microphones and everybody follows their script, in the end.
A coworker, Marilyn (real name: Aubrey), once told her that even our dreams have become electric and motorized, with even imaginary interactions being colored by two degrees of separation. She was right, too. Though their life was not so much a sci-fi novel as it was an itinerary, what more were they than androids dreaming of electric sheep?
Often times after scenes, she likes to take baths. Long, hot baths which turn her skin a deep shade of flushed red, and made her feet tingle with the intensity of it. Sometimes, she just needs to feel alive, like a person again. She needs to feel as if her organs haven’t been taken over by wires and computer parts, that nothing will fry when it enters the water.
I think we’re so starved for intimacy, she writes, that we attempt to simulate it wherever we can.
Drew has got simulating intimacy down to a science, an art form even. She knows exactly when to sigh, when to pretend to long for physical contact, when to pretend she already had it. Being a sex worker, in this day and age, required that you learn to play along, primarily. The men who paid for services were not looking for authenticity, but for the appearance of such, like putting on a play.
I play dutiful wife, loving girlfriend, naughty babysitter, she continues writing, they play loving husband, loving father, whatever role best fulfills their need to be appreciated, to be touched, to be loved. But we both leave knowing that none of it was real.
There is no eye contact. Not here, not anywhere. The men who pay her have more interesting things to look at. The men on the street do as well. Women do not glance up from their tablets as they pay for their coffee in the mornings, while the sky is still gray and ashy.
No eye contact, no intimacy, no touching. Everybody has a role to play.
Sometimes though, when Drew lays in the darkness, she still dreams of electric sheep and Crystal breathing you make me believe in god again into her skin.