Jesse had been living with his sister up until the diagnosis. Watching her try to cope with his schedule was too painful. He often found himself watching her sleep, which center-punched the Venn diagram of creepy, sad and jealous, as Raven put it the next day when he finally told her. So he moved into a co-op house, sound-proofed and blacked-out his room and did his best to cope. He joined a 24 hour gym, bulked up as far as he could without drugs, watched a lot of movies, and tried to find work that would suit a vampire.
After six months he realized that there were no jobs designed around the absence of Sol, and he really was cast out of humanity. He applied for disability. It took for bloody ever to come through, and his aunt sold her second favourite horse to pay his rent for a couple of months. He ate so much packaged ramen he told Raven he thought he was turning into a solid lump of MSG.
He was written up in medical journals. He was interviewed by a woman who made a living from squeezing ad money from tragedy, and stopped answering his phone when it was a long distance number he didn’t recognize.
Each time he went out at night, depending on his friends and sister to buy him beer, young women and sometimes men would glimpse his blue eyes, dirty blonde hair and shoulder-waist ratio, and try to pry him out of his clothes.
Jesse enjoyed sex but a pattern emerged that drove him out of the market for a partner. He’d sleep with her without telling her about the atypical solar urticaria (Raven always scolded him when he did that) and then the woman would ghost once she knew. So he’d tell her in advance. Half of them bailed, since no matter how smart a human is they can have damned strange ideas about infectiousness and then again there’s the welfare of unborn generations to consider. The other half banged him out of curiosity and then bailed when they realized he wasn’t joking about the Evil Villain costume.
Or they realized he was broke, and he wasn’t good looking enough to support. (Raven always lost her cheese when he mentioned that.) Or his new queen would say something racist or sexist and Jesse would call her on it and then it was ass, meet snow.
He gave up, joined a polyamory group, (on his sister’s recommendation, which was kinda strange when he thought about it) and met dozens of cool people, layered with the usual assortment of assholes. He settled among a group of older and mostly unpartnered poly women, and told the Vancouver dating scene to kiss his dimpled ass. He was getting laid despite being unemployed and his mental health markedly improved.
He ran into George at a poly meet. They got talking, and the conversation wound around to unemployment and illness.
“I’m in perfect health until the sun hits me,” Jesse said.
“Generally the first thing happens is that the bags ‘round my eyes inflate to about 150 p.s.i., so driving can be interesting. Then I bust out in hives so bad I have to be restrained to not scratch them. Then I whip out an EpiPen® and eighty dollars later I can see.”
“But you’re okay at night.”
“You’ve looked for night work,” George said.
“Yeah, but it’s never night work, not really. You’ve gotta work rotating shifts, or you’re forced to go in during business hours for HR or staff meetings or training or whatever-the-fuck and then I show up in my Evil Villain outfit and sad times are had by all.”
George considered him for a moment.
“You know what I did last night?” he asked.
“Just so’s you know, I’m a bit of a prude,” Jesse said.
George made a barking noise which might have been a laugh.
“I’m a bit of a prude, too, according to my family, but no, I wasn’t needing to brag.” He considered Jesse for a moment, a rueful smile on his face.
“One of my girlfriends is a sex trade worker,” George said. “She works independently and would like to keep it that way, but a pimp had a different idea. He decided to follow her home and beat her up.”
“Holy shit,” said Jesse. It was a great story, but that wasn’t what impressed him. George was unembarrassed to have a sex trade worker girlfriend. Jesse had never met another man who could utter those words in public, let alone squeeze it into a sentence which normalized poly to that degree. Jesse felt for the first time the tidal pull of George’s charm.
“What did you do?”
“Helped her move. As I was shoving things into the truck, by the light of the silvery moon, it occurred to me that there might be many people who need to move out in the middle of the night.”
“Yeah, but are they people who can pay?” Jesse said, and took a long pull on his beer. That was always the chokepoint.
“Desperation makes cash appear, in my experience,” George said blandly. “Perhaps you could start a business doing that.”
Never say you have a problem, the solutions folks offer are twistier than the problem. “I’m not really cut out to be an entrepreneur,” Jesse said. “I’m kind of a born employee.”
“Fine,” George said. “I”ll start the business and hire you.”
Jesse grinned. “I warn you, I’m a terrible employee.”
“How so? You just said you’re a born employee. Are you lazy? Tardy? Unsanitary?”
It wasn’t the words themselves so much as the way George enunciated them that made Jesse laugh.
Sobering, he said, “I beak off a lot.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“I am not lazy. I probably have a better attendance record than most people my age, and I frequently shower twice a day.”