Thomas is writing a play.
In the play, Rachel and Violet are underground in an electric power plant. They were there when the super-volcano erupted, so they’re not dead like everyone else, but now Rachel thinks the outside air might be toxic.
Rachel is a scientist and has dreadlocks and a lot of chemistry equipment filled with bright green liquid.
Aside from the chemistry equipment, most of the room is taken up with a double bed. Violet is usually on the bed. Violet needs help to move most of her body that’s not her arms, hands, neck or face.
Violet is twenty-three and used to be a runner, but she had an accident. They replaced her spine and ankles with metal parts, and because the power plant uses giant magnets to run, she’s now stuck to the mattress.
Much of the conflict arises from Rachel trying to de-toxify the air, Violet crying when Rachel has to help her pee, and some guy offstage implying they’re fucking each other. They’re not, by the way. Thomas is eighty percent sure. He wants his play to appeal to a mainstream audience.
It’s a little bit of a shame, though, because gay plays are much easier to write than gay short stories. In gay short stories, the main characters always share the same pronoun.
Thomas is single.
Thomas and his boyfriend broke up a couple of months ago. It wasn’t because he stopped loving him. It was just that he was having trouble breathing. They’re better off apart, working on their stuff. Thomas thinks he thinks so.
He was pretty sick, actually. And Thomas might have had depression, a little bit.
Thomas knew another gay couple who broke up to work on their stuff, and then six months later one of them threw himself off a bridge.
Thomas and his boyfriend are still talking. He seems really good, actually.
In the play, there’s an angled mirror above the stage so you can see Violet on the bed, like one of those daytime cooking shows. Thomas is really proud of that mirror.
In the play, Rachel tells Violet she’ll never leave her. A couple of years go by and there’s no solution to the air outside, but there’s a mask Rachel’s invented that should let them breathe. It has an orange chemical inside that Thomas imagines tastes like mandarins.
There are only enough materials for one mask.
Then there’s a lot of silences and crying. Rachel wants Violet to go, because once she’s away from the magnets she’ll be able to run again. Violet says she won’t leave Rachel behind. Violet says to leave because she’s dragging her down. Rachel says she said she’d never leave her.
Sometimes Thomas wants to throw up into his coffee.
Thomas isn’t sure, but maybe neither of them goes. Or one of them goes for just a little while and then comes back. The important thing is that the mask has been made. And by the time they’re finished arguing about it, maybe a little while later the air clears on its own, anyway.
Because of course they’d stay together; there’s barely anyone else left alive on earth, as far as they know.
At the end of the play, they stumble hand in hand into the sunlight.
Thomas calls his boyfriend.