Everything closed. Yet somehow, the strip clubs of Times Square persisted, attracting more clientele than ever thanks to the purging of tourists and the sole remainers being the locals that trickled in from Hell’s Kitchen and other seedy pockets of the West Side. Shit, even Upper East Siders were going crazy from staying at home too long with their day old bread wives, causing them to traverse the divide that would lead them to Times Square–now semi-restored to its 70s-era (or maybe it’s more accurate to say 90s-era) glory as the men came, if not in droves, then at least easily manageable groups of five. Serenity hadn’t seen so many men “pop by” during the middle of the day since the July 13th blackout of 2019 (not to be confused with the July 13th blackout of 1977). It fascinated her… that the mere assurance of making it rain hand sanitizer in exchange for them making it rain was enough to assuage their fears. Even if the virus had thus far been concluded to be more predisposed to overtaking the male gender (what a weak fucking people).
Serenity had been the first one to incorporate a surgical mask into her act, more out of being familiar with how fetishes develop than any real concern for her clients’ safety. Indeed, wearing nothing more than a surgi mask as she danced to Kylie Minogue’s “Fever” made her feel more uninhibited than she ever had during her four years of stripperdom. She was twenty-two now, well within the youthful range to be unaffected by this strange plague that many were cruelly referring to as a sort of Noah’s Ark-esque flood to wipe out all the olds. Serenity had to admit that her life would be easier if she didn’t live with her mother and grandmother in a one-bedroom apartment, supporting them both (though her mother feigned to be a “part-time” waitress, it was ostensibly “no-time,” for most of her days were spent recovering on the couch from the previous night’s alcohol binge). But that didn’t mean she wanted them to die. Knew, in fact, that it would be a lonely existence in the Bronx without them. She shook this thought away as she shook her ass at a middle-aged white guy who looked like one of the Upper East Side drifters. She bombastically rubbed hand sanitizer all over her body before squirting him with some as though it was coming out of her own vag. That really got the cash flowing. She smiled, thinking how dirty money was and that hand sanitizer could never scrub away the germs–the disease–of the upper class male. Or any male, for that matter.
Wrapping up her number, she squirted him one more time, thanking the faceless man in the sky that the owner, Fat Joe, knew how to quickly turn out fake bottles of hand sanitizer, what with the premium on them being so sky-high right now. The real deal was unattainable. And anyway, all the strippers knew the placebo effect would be enough to placate their ogling clients. Backstage, she took off her mask and touched up her makeup at a slapdash vanity she had arranged for herself. Purell, who had recently changed her name to meet the demands of the niche that the virus had created, scuttled past like the squirrelly bitch she was to say, “That dude been givin’ you mad dollas, share some of the wealth and pass him my way.” It was more of a hiss than a suggestion, but Serenity was not about to share any part of her newfound cash cow with Purell. She would need to go to the overrun Associated on Westchester Avenue after work, and all the money she could get was necessary to keep the matriarchy that controlled her household in check. The last thing she needed to hear was what a useless excuse of a human being she was yet again. About how her grandmother and mother sacrificed everything just for her to exist. No, no. She would not be hearing that anymore. Not so long as they depended on her more than ever during the plague that was gradually but quickly taking hold of the city. Ah, The City. A notorious personified instance of hubris leading to one’s downfall. What other place on earth could be more arrogant than New York? Serenity had been part of the fuel that fed its braggadocio. She was always running her mouth about never leaving the city unless it was in a body bag. Maybe that would happen sooner than she thought. For something told her the government wasn’t being upfront about the virus’ power. Sure, olds might be more susceptible, but Serenity had been born with a heart murmur–maybe this was the “underlying condition” that would cause her own demise.
Finishing the process of caking on more eyeshadow, she reemerged to take the stage again, her surgi mask put in place once more, plus the addition of a “surgi mask G-string,” which, yes, she had made herself out of another mask (thank god she was loosely fucking a janitor at a hospital of late–he was key to funneling her supply). The effect, she knew, was titillating. The closest these men could get to tactile virus porn–because God knows none of their wives were going to be down for this kind of cos-play. And as the opening to P!nk’s “You Make Me Sick” played, she homed in on the same patron as before. Only this time, he appeared remarkably less enthusiastic about her performance, glazing over at times in between coughing. Occasionally, he would take a sip of his vodka tonic to get his throat as wet as Serenity was when she thought about banging on a hospital gurney the other night (oh the perks of that janitor).
Somewhat offended by his lack of gusto, she shimmied closer to him to shake her tits in his face. Seconds later, he had keeled over. The strip club, called Fat Joe’s Fat Booty Farm, was forced to close after reporting that his death had been from the virus (try as they might to initially play it off as Serenity being heart attack-level arousing), causing all the other “exotic dancing” locales to follow suit. Everyone was too spooked to bother with such analog notions as sexual enticement anymore. And as Serenity tossed the last of her used surgical masks out, she had to admit there was nothing sexy about illness anymore. Or sex, come to think of it. Which was a shame, because she knew of no other viable skills she could exploit.