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California Real Estate Agent (An Excerpt from Pretty Lies Perish)

Copyright ©2017

Cover art designed by Frank Cervi

Los Angeles, California 2025

CALIFORNIA: FIND YOURSELF HERE is boldly plastered on a billboard outside on Mulholland in big enough lettering that can be seen from the window of my office opposite of the street. It wasn't until tonight that I even noticed the sign, a sign that had been mocking me the entire time I have slaved away my life of countless precious hours in this godforsaken hellhole of gossip, backstabbing and legal covert prostitution. People in this town don`t find themselves, if anything, the moment they land here with all their personal baggage is when they begin to die inside; lose themselves and who they once were in the sea of advertisements, business cards, meetings, and crocodile smiles. I am not sure what made me want to write this testament, confession, or ode to my nothing today. Maybe it’s the half bottle of Pinot I found in the break-room, the fact that the entire city of L.A has been locked down from the coast to San Bernardino County, or because ever since the markets started bleeding points like a stuck pig my savings and clients have dried up quicker than the spot of wine I just spilled on my Vera Wang skirt. Either way, here I am at age forty, divorced once, and living with my mom in a shitty condo on Mountain Drive off of West Kendall out in San Bernardino; a condo that is out of hopeless reach by now since the electricity has been cut, and the checkpoints are in firm places around the city. This is the first time I can say I've actually missed my mom. All those times I yelled at her to turn down her stupid soap operas, or for her trying to set me up with her friends grandsons seems like a distant memory now, and a waste of time that could have been better spent just bonding and getting to know her. I never really knew her, my mom as a person; just as someone who ever step of the way in my life told me how I was doing everything wrong. From the men I`ve dated to even the outfit I picked out today to wear. She was right about most things though, I just didn`t want to admit it. Deep down she just wanted the best for me I guess, and now I can never tell her that. Tell her how I now understand it all, why our relationship has been like a bad sitcom episode. I never really knew my dad. He passed away when I was only two. Mom said he died in the hospital from illness; however, I later found out secretly through my aunt Sara that he was a solvent abuser, cheated on my mom with hookers down in the Valley on those nights he said he`d be working late at the precinct. I never told my mom that I knew this, just like she never told me the truth; which is fine, she was just trying to protect me so that my life would never be haunted by the thought that my father, a man of the law, was a man of many sins. My ex turned out to be a hopeless drunk who I have been still supporting to pay off our former house since both our names were on the mortgage. He doesn’t have a cent to his name since that lawsuit at his work, and his now poisoned habit of drinking the pain away with cheap cases of Lone Star. I guess those payments don`t really matter now, which is an odd relief. He never hit or beat me, but it was as almost as if he did, since the emotional toll that our relationship took on me was like I had been beaten for years with soft punches on the inside. Anyways, I don’t know where he is now and what he is doing amidst all of the unrest in the streets; he is probably up at his brother’s cabin near Mount Chiliad drinking and shooting his Colt at some poor wild-life or god knows what. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is already dead wasting away in a ditch somewhere in the mountains with a trail of empties leading up to his body. I guess it all doesn`t really matter now. Did anything really matter? My life has been so hurried, so fast and busy that I had never taken the time to ask myself that question, yet here I am starring at that fucking billboard, alone, with this mediocre Pinot. What is there really to say? I'm sick of chauffeuring these fucking entitled wannabe playboys who have never worked a day in their life: Showing them properties that I could never purchase myself, and laughing at all their stupid jokes that I can't stand. All the while fending off their gropes; but not all their gropes because you never know, one of these days I might just get a full commission! And you know what’s hilarious? Well, people always joked about the lives of hookers and prostitutes because what they do is out in the open, advertised by years of common knowledge that when you drive up to that corner, or call that hotline, you know that sex is the commodity up for trade. Yet, what was I? What am I, a real-estate agent? No. I was just as much a call-girl as those women I used to see on the corner while on house scouts. Everyone in this office was. Jessica, Kelly, Sasha, Marie and even Clay; It was like some sort of un-written code here that in order to make it big in this town you had to do some things you aren’t proud of such as stealing clients from co-workers (even the new interns), all the way to blowing and fucking them at the locations to close the deal. All in the pursuit of what- a mansion near the yacht club and a fake social circle to go along with some fake breasts; the American Dream? Everyone steals and breaks the law I guess, it`s what humans do. Some will admit it, and some will deny it. That`s why we invented locks and guns. It’s about 9:30 p.m. now, I am tired and I am afraid to go outside, not like I would make it far anyways. I feel like jumping. I don’t know. I am tired, but not in the traditional sense, of course. I am tired of having to eek my way through life, and especially in this world now. There is no reward for all the shit we do now in this country. The wanting to end it all now feels like how you would coming home after a long day- you just are so eager to hit the sheets. You want the world to go away, escape into the night, the slumber. It’s different right now though, that feeling of one last midnight, that type of slumber. A part of me thinks it would be hard, but my surroundings are telling me otherwise. Options are limited. I am sure to die tonight, or worse, taking by one of the mobs down there. I have no protection. I need a bad man, but a bad man who will protect me from the rest. The world needs bad men. It’s twisted. I should have got out earlier. The cities are like rat traps when it all goes to shit. You’re fucked. All of those sporadic reports day after day of Wall Street types mysteriously winding up dead, committing suicide, and or just abruptly quitting and leaving their offices should have been a canary in the coal mine in hindsight. I think there is enough food in here to tie me over until at least the morning. The break room fridge still has some snacks and brown bags that people accidentally left or didn`t eat from today. It`s ironic that I am spending, what is probably my last days, in a place that has held me prisoner for so many years, yet it feels ok. It’s no different now- the context just is. I should have left this country and city a long time ago- anywhere but here. It’s usually quite peaceful up here on a normal night- but there is a symphony of chaos down below. Every few minutes I can hear the sound of gun fire- cracks that rattle off the windows, muted and muffled by the thickness. Some I can tell are close by, others most likely across multiple blocks. The thuds and concussions of flash-bangs and grenades can be felt and heard thundering around the city like a distant lightning storm. People are dying, I know it. Faint roars and yelling by the military can be heard and from the roaming gangs that have now formed. Women are screaming. Every now and then I can hear a real loud bang from high above our building- most likely a sniper with a high powered rifle. It could be military or someone else, that’s the scary part. Nobody is in control of the situation. Nobody knows who is out there and what to do. The T.V’s are down, radio, cell towers, internet, everything. We are dark. Cut off. Nobody is telling us what to do anymore. People aren’t being managed. This is what happens. Reality has collapsed. People panic without direction, stability, and hope- even if that hope was false in its fundamentals. Is this what ‘freedom’ really looks like? Can people ever be truly be free and do as they please, or are we incapable of self rule? What’s worse, kissing the hand that feeds us, clothes us and manages us; a peaceful yet neo-feudal state, or a Darwinist battle-royal tribal factional free-for-all? Fuck it. God I am drunk. I have to get this down though. At least for me it’s therapeutic. It’s the loneliest feeling up here. The thought that nobody knows I am here and that I need saving. I feel so small, smaller than the dark shapes that litter the streets right now, just as dead. Just as insignificant. I never actually took the time to appreciate how the hills looked in the foreground of the star filled sky, or how the moon casts a shimmer over the bay to make the water look as if a million fire-flies were dancing on its surface. It’s now ruined with billowing smoke from torched out cars, and sporadic muzzle flashes from the darkened streets and alleyways that flash briefly and rapidly. It’s actually quite sad in a way that it took the collapse of a nation to make me realize how beautiful this land really is, was. I wonder if anyone else is doing what I am doing at this hour, in this city or another, writing what will probably be never found or read by another human soul; their last days and moments, who they were as a person, and all their regrets. It`s bullshit to me at least when people say they have no regrets in life. We all have regrets, and those who say they don`t are only fooling themselves. What are my regrets? Well for starters, marrying too young and to a drunk didn`t help. I never got to see the Atlantic coast or travel overseas for that matter. I never truly felt loved or connected to anyone. The only thing I have ever felt connected to is this cesspool of a city, my Zoloft, the lying, and all the theatre that comes with it. Hell, I never even got to finish watching `Breaking Bad` to see how it all ended with Walter. That man, although a criminal, at least knew what he wanted, loved what he did, lived by his own rules, and was a genius at it. That’s what I most regret I guess, not being me, whatever the fuck that is. I guess it’s too late now to find out who the true Claire Rodgers is. For now, and forever, I am Claire, the alone, drunk, tired, and divorced real-estate agent in what is now the scariest place in America. That billboard is really pissing me off right now because it’s all starting to make sense. It mocks me like one of those information panels at the mall that show you your location, and how far you are away from the Gucci and Prada. `”California: Find yourself Here,” well, I am here, and here is where I belong I guess. To whoever will find this…

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