The Provider wakes up to a kiss at the back of her neck. She almost startles, forgetting that she’s with an overnighter and not at home in her sweaty futon.
They fool around for a while. She defines “a while” to last as long as the muffled Metro Morning segment playing in the room beside them. She preps breakfast as he showers. Over waffles and diced strawberries, he complains about his boss making him work weekends. The Provider nods along.
“Asshole’s just riding me about coming in late, just on and on 24/7 non-stop. Not my fault traffic sucks and the TTC’s impossible, blame Doc May,” he says, around a mouthful of Nutella. “See, I would’ve voted for that Daniel Cook guy. But he got landslided. Well, here we are.”
The Provider nods.
Just as she’s showing him out, he surprises her with a tip. On top of his deposit before they met, his full payment at the start of their session and the Pizza Pizza coupons he left on the dresser, it’s a great start to her day.
She cleans the room fast: Lysol wiping all flat surfaces, restocking the condoms in the bedside drawer and replacing the sheets for the next worker.
She asks her car for the news. It feeds the Provider a tidbit about Timbits, telling her a batch of nutra-boosted glazed ones will help kids focus in math. An anti-condo rally in East Chinatown reaches its second day. Her ears perk at the last one, an announcement from Doctor Mayor about the expanded Scarborough reach for the city’s mental-health crisis-response service.
It’s a choice the Provider predicts won’t play well with the pro-cop crowd, but she couldn’t disagree more. She likes the health-conscious city leader, a favourite in the industry ever since she defended them against whorephobic fearmongering during the 2028 outbreak. A popular theory was that sex workers were transmitting the virus from athletes’ village to the general population, one that gained enough traction to net international headlines that even she read back home. Then a public-health official, she held a press conference devoted solely to shutting that misconception down.
The Provider’s car informs her that Tropical Joe’s has sold out of goat. Would she like to reroute?
She does, grumbling. No use pulling in for mild beef. She sets a course straight for the Fairmont. Watches the steering wheel turn itself.
Then her ride gets worse.
The Provider gets a text from her roommate. “ LL shut off the water X_X”
She’s glad she’s not the one driving, else she would have slammed the brakes. The Provider breaks out into a cold sweat. Sensing rising cortisol, her mood tracker buzzes a slow steady rhythm on her wrist. She breathes to the beat of her blue bracelet, and her anxiety starts to ease.
There are a million things she wants to reply with, mainly the caps-locked words WE PAID HYDRO TENANT RIGHTS WTF, but her thumb-tapping is interrupted by a follow-up text:
“You’re probably panicking. Keep your voice down settler!!!”
The Provider stifles a laugh at the callback to when they first met. On her second night at Egale Centre, she walked by their room. The door was open, and they were smudging. The Provider, smelling smoke, started screaming at the top of her lungs. They had screamed back with that line. Together, they laughed about it. Later. Much later.
The Provider promises she’ll figure something out as soon as she gets back, urges her roommate to head to a cooling centre for now. The fall heatwaves were dangerous, starting intensely and without warning. No water or central air in their apartment could get bad.
Her car drops her off at the Fairmont, wishing her a good afternoon before driving to its other renters. She doesn’t usually do hotels anymore, working from Brella’s shared incall property most of the time, like this morning, but this regular was worth the trip — he was moving to Montreal and this would probably be their last date.
She beelines the foyer in her six-inch pleasers, having no time, energy, or fucks to give for a switch to something more civilian-friendly. She hurries past a gaping group of pink-faced, mosquito-bitten tourists. She gives a little wave and they turn pinker.
Still, she empathizes. If someone had told her Toronto got so hot and buggy that it was a major public-health concern before she immigrated, she would have laughed right in their faces.
The porter by the elevator says hello. She holds her phone close to the porter’s face-screen. It buffers, loads a *GUEST VERIFIED. WELCOME!* screen. She rides it up. Breathes to the blue on her wrist.
She hurries to her room, flies through her prep, touches her wrist and exhales. When her client arrives, she wastes no time. It’s a good session. He’s a great regular and showers before they start without prompting. A playlist keeps time as they go. Halfway through, he fumbles in his bag and pulls out an Hitachi, asks if she’ll like it. She says no and they continue. It’s no biggie. His Enthusiastic Ongoing Consent (EOC) compliance rating has always been 100%.
By the time the last song plays, he’s already on his way out, a nice tip and a box of Soma truffles on the bedside drawer. She pulls up the Agency on her phone to confirm the session has ended and gives him five stars across all metrics.
Developed as a non-profit app made by sex workers during a Quayside hackathon, the Agency assists every aspect of her independent business. Taking a reasonable cut that goes to advocacy organizations, the Agency oversees her screening, schedule, accommodations, taxes, and ads. If she had been born twenty years younger, she doesn’t think she could handle her current workload every day, on top of all the administrative bullshit.
With a swipe she updates her availability in the app. The Provider decides to pull an all-nighter.
The Provider loves Honest Ed’s. She browses the aisle piles, marvelling at stacks overflowing with yellowing pillowcases and smelly denim. Several of the ceiling-leak buckets spill over into filthy puddles. It’s perfect. So authentic. (At least, according to reviews. She wasn’t in the city before the place was torn down.)
She finds what she’s looking for: a shoestring-budget air conditioner with enough juice to save both her and her roommate’s life. She drags it to her cart and heads to checkout, phasing past stairways and mowing down the customers in line.
“Would you like a bag?” the cashier asks. The Provider squints. She prompts to interact one more time. “Would you like a bag?” the cashier repeats.
Not good. “Honest Ed’s Sim” was tagged #DeafHoH100Comp. A primary NPC without subtitles was a major accessibility oversight, one that could cost her a client if she brought them here. The Provider confirms her shipping address with the cashier, requests gift-wrapping, and pays. She files a bug report, then logs out.
The Provider slow-blinks the virtual afterimages away. Yawns, jiggles her sleeping legs. Takes off the Google Lucid Lvl 4 glasses, pinches the Lvl 3 contacts from her eyes. Although the equipment was pricey, Brella offered free access for their members; they need only pay for their own Lucid contact lenses and the tech room’s hourly rate.
If Brella’s grant with 307 goes through, they could invest in more gear. Maybe Lvl 2 pelvic motion sensors…
It had been a long night shift. The Provider went overtime plugged into neural wetworks, hotbuttplugging from sim to sim as her clients requested; so far she’s done kinbaku on the CN Tower’s Edgewalk, GFE + greek at the Ex, and a quickie at the Waverly — her back still itches from the phantom fleas infesting that hellhole’s scratchy floral bedding. Some XVR devs got way too authentic. She had been Princess Zelda, Batman, someone’s D&D character, herself, and then a neon-yellow version of herself for that client of hers who had a thing for Marge Simpson with her hair down. All bootleg mods of course, no official skin would include naughty bits.
When she first started out in online work, she stuck to augmented camming like most did. Stubby dildos IRL became majestic dragon schlongs for her viewers, her bedroom transformed into a queen’s boudoir. Her favourite was JOIs — jerk-off instructions — where she’d dictate absurd masturbation suggestions as her hair changed colour with the story’s mood. Eventually, the money behind XR (or XXXR as media sometimes called their niche) couldn’t be ignored. Local tourism couldn’t either. She bets a big percentage of Toronto’s sims was downloaded for sex, paid or otherwise.
There’s a knock at the door. It’s probably Sam, who texted her for a ride to mosque. When the Provider answers, she’s greeted with a guttural scream and a hug, so it’s definitely Sam. His hair is slicked back. He’s wearing black lipstick, a dark blazer, and fishnets.
“Cute, yes?” Sam asks, twirling on the doorstep. “Daddy asked for Bay-Street banker goth futch. Ooooh, I’ve got some Mystic! Let’s eat before we go.”
They split the muffin as they walk the hallways. Some of the bedroom doors are closed, for business or cleaning, but they stop for Sam’s peek into one of the unoccupied.
“Wow, the little brothel getting real fancy,” Sam says. He hasn’t been to the Brella Centre since checking into CAMH for their refugee in-patient program, doing POT meet-and-greets and camming while he got his work groove back.
The Provider corrects him.
“You say shared incall,” Sam says. “I say brothel. Whatever. To-may-to, to-mah-to, to-brothel. As long as we’re decriminalized, we can call this anything. Escorts Incorporated. How I’ll pay off my crew’s extravagant Iftar soon. The sexiest OSAP repayment assistance plan. Language is a social construct, babe!”
The Provider snorts. Begins to feel synthesized warmth wash over her in waves. Mystic Muffin was one of those nutraceuticals marketed as conversation lubricant. Meant to heighten social intelligence and improve friendships in close proximity, it hits her growling stomach a little too hard. For the next ten minutes, she cares deeply for everyone in the city. She wants to watch a Jays game. She has opinions about bike lanes. Wouldn’t her face look good with a raccoon stickandpoke?
Sam must be hungry too. Drake’s grandchild, Patio Season Graham, is a national treasure… are the Raps playing soon? Do you remember how awesome Ontario Place’s waterslides were, girl, can we log in right now?
As a Gen Z-er and a recent immigrant, she’s a childhood too late and a country too far to understand the nostalgia, but nods anyway. They reach the locker room, where three other workers are starting and ending their shifts. Communal Wet Wipes are passed around.
“I want to get into radical queer domming,” one of them says, applying eczema cream to her arms. “So a potential session could be the client licking my shoes while I shame their birth chart.”
“Oh I’ve done that, it pays ehhh,” another says. He squeezes into a glittery binder. “If you’re due in November, you should milk pregnancy fetishists. Ha. Get it?”
One of them is new to Brella, a woman who introduces herself as Aisha. She looks older, likely the new GILF masseuse everyone had been talking about last week.
The Provider is just about to ask what a birth chart is when the room buzzes. An Agency notification lights up everyone’s phones: toronto bad date list: new addition goes by martin.
The asshole paid in counterfeit, scamming at least two workers in the Annex last week. That won’t happen again. As an Agency affiliate, if he tries to book her, he’ll be auto-rejected by her screening protocol. They all titter, cussing the bad date out.
Aisha gags. “Back in the day, if a guy like this fucked me over I couldn’t warn anybody except friends and duo partners. You kids are lucky this new stuff is around.”
Curious, the Provider asks her colleague what it was like before “all this new stuff.” She knows Canada decriminalized sex work five years ago, but isn’t aware of what the big differences were.
“Honey, this job would be so much worse,” the colleague says. “Before Maggie’s and all the other activist groups won the Charter reform, everything was done in the dark. Now, I’m an indoors lady, but when I was streetwalking do you think I screened? Not really. And incalls like this were illegal.”
“Like, I still can’t believe that,” Sam says, shaking his head and wiping his makeup off.
“So you had to be slick about which hotels you were at or if you worked from home,” Aisha continued. “Picture that, the safe place you picked was against the law. Cherry on top is anyone working with you could get booked. If your friend was lookout, they could get in trouble.”
“My aunt, she worked, well her brother got arrested for driving her around,” one of the workers pipes up. “Served time and everything.”
“Can’t believe that,” Sam repeats.
The Provider turns Aisha’s history lesson around in her head. It’s different, so different she can’t imagine the atmosphere at all. Everyone knows what she does and where she goes to work. At the laundromat down the street, they give her a discount because of how often she’s in there with outfits and lingerie bags. Every shift starts promisingly because her location is safe and her john is vetted by her process and a hiveminded security system.
Brella is the only shared workspace in the city. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like to work without learning from everyone who rented space or had a membership at Brella. They all helped each other too. Vanier, an SB and PR intern, wrote her ad copy, hyping her as a playful companion without any of the weird racialized “exotic” language. Mali, a PSO and Ryerson photography student, took her photos, using anti-facial recognition tools to keep her identity a secret. Olenska, one of Brella’s admin, helped the Provider find stable housing when her Egale stay ended.
There are bad moments, sex work was still work. But now it wasn’t bad in ways it didn’t have to be.
The Provider drops Sam off — with a pinky promise to be at his nephew’s Freedom School graduation ceremony — then drives the car to its charging station, soaking in the sunrise.
Around her, the city wakes up to cardinal birdsong and bad traffic.
By the time she enters her neighbourhood, her roommate texts her an update: “OMG OK 1) WATER BACK WHOOP AND 2) OMG CHILLY SAVIOUR ARRIVED! ^_^ Delivery person helped me install. Cya soon!”
Then her ride gets better. Her car tells her Tropical Joe’s just opened; would she like to pick up yesterday’s route? The Provider does. She has goat curry for breakfast. It tastes like getting paid and air conditioner and community. And goat.