“I was thinking about a HazMat Suit, complete with air tanks!”
Ralph laughed in delight.
“Did they really wear those?”
“I think so. I met a lady at the Center for the Elderly…she was like thirty when Corona Virus changed the world. She said at both the beginning and the end of 2020…folk wore these to take care of the infected folks.”
“What are you going to wear?”
Ralph smiled back at Minah.
Minah couldn’t help it. She broke out laughing. Ralph’s costume for Corona Days looked just like a bottle of Hand Sanitizer. On the top of his head was a little spout.
Then she spit out her chocolate milk when he held up his sign:
“Free hand sanitizer, stay away!”
She laughed at the Irony.
“Oh. Oh. Got to go. Mom is using that voice. See you at the Party!”
“You will be easy to spot! Red, bright red. Do you think that is what color those suits really were? “
“Don’t know. She didn’t say what color they were. I gotta go.“
She blanked the wall, took off the 3d Visor, and removed the pressure/sensory/and odor tags- wiped them all down and stored them in their nooks.
Racing downstairs to see what her Mom wanted…Minah kept thinking about how she might win “Best Costume” for Corona Days. She hoped so anyway.
“What is it Mom?”
Minah stopped stock still…frozen in place.
Her Mom and Dad were standing in front of her “Holding hands.” She didn’t care that once you bonded for the term of your contract: 24 hours for fun- a year for a “test”, and then you chose either to extend every five years…or if you had children, for the duration of childhood. Childhood ended at 21 in the Modern Post Corona World…as that is when dumb boys finally got in touch with their pre-frontal cortices. And they could finally overrule a half a million years of evolution. Parents still should not hold hands in front of their Children!
“Gross!”: thought Minah.
That’s why boys weren’t allowed in “contact” classes with girls until they were 21. Minah had a wave of smugness wash over her. Girls were allowed contact at 16! Minah thought back to when she brushed Grace’s hair. It felt like silk. Grace is still her very best friend. No wonder Mom’s all over the world are allowed to brush their children’s hair. It is one of the safest, gentlest, kindness ways to touch another person, without all that heavy eye contact stuff. You just sort of talk.
After the Corona Days party - she would call Grace and tell her to come over so she could brush her hair. She still had more than nine contact moments left for this month. And Grace was on her “free access” list, along with her Mother, Father, little brother Victor, and Bryan, the kid she met along with Ralph more than six Corona Days celebrations ago.
She knew Bryan liked her. When he turns 21 she might even “do a day” as they call the 24 hour contact contract. She might even put in a bodily fluid waver…so they can kiss. But her heart was already set on Ralph. She would eventually (she hoped) sign an “for the duration” contract with Ralph. She felt safe around Ralph…he made her laugh, and unlike most boys she met in VR…he listened and not to just what she was saying…but what she meant.
Yeah, Ralph was her guy. When their twins were born - on Corona Day 2071- Ralph and Minah were allowed to hold their babies for a group portrait. It was the first time- for either Ralph or Minah- where they were physically touching four people at the same time. It was a rush unlike any other…first the fear, then the joy.
Minah’s Mother spoke first.
“Minah, we just got off the link with Harvard. You are in.”
Minah Squealed. There really isn’t any other way to describe that sound she made. Joy, surprise, relief, hope, happy and even some tears all scrambled into an audible shriek.
Minah launched herself at her Mother. The nano screen lit up full orange, and when her Dad wrapped his long arms around both of them, the three screens turned blue, pulsed once to force them apart by a few inches. It made them laugh, when all three of them said: “Sorry. Contact was unintentional and emotionally driven.”
That was the phrase necessary for avoiding a “Hug Penalty”- and those could be very serious violations…at times.
The “Amy Voice” chimed twice and then said: “A warning for spontaneous touching has been issued. I explained the circumstances to the Moderator. An exemption has been granted…and the Moderator said to say: “Congratulations, Minah. That is is no small achievement to be admitted to Harvard.”
That made them all giggle and hold hands while they danced in a circle. Amy chimed again:
“A second exemption has been granted. But don’t get carried away.”
Minah ran back upstairs to her room. She had to tell Ralph. She still had those nine contact moments left. Maybe she would have Grace Brush her hair, and Ralph hold her hand. Grace would understand. So would Ralph.
As she slipped on her goggles, turned on the wall, and attached the Sensory buds and olfactory tag…she beamed.
“Yes. I shall have Grace and Ralph here at the same time…and use two of my contact moments.“