“Leave me the fuck alone Dillon,” I say trying to swat the camera away.
“I’m just trying to do my job Tori.” He says pissed off at me for invading his space.
It’s bad enough having a bad day without the cameras buzzing around your shit like a fly. This is now the second premier model agency I’ve lost in less than three days. The first – Ford – rejected me on the spot for turning up like a battered junkie with half my arm hanging off, and Q quickly followed suit when I didn’t show up for my appointment because I looked like a battered junkie with half my arm hanging off.
I get back to my car not really sure what to do or where to go so decide to cruise in search of some inspiration. It’s only when I notice the Grauman’s Chinese theatre that I realize I’ve drifted onto West Sunset Boulevard and am surrounded by greatness. I briefly pull up to the sidewalk to wish upon a star idly dreaming where mine might be located one day as people trample all over legends both past and present. I watch on as short Asians take frenzied photographs of everything and nothing, while fat men with fanny packs and non-descript baseball caps scratch their balls. The more I see the angrier I become – foreign tourists with white socks and sandals complaining about the heat, white trash hillbillies posing like pornstars, and perma-smile tour guides exploiting the talent of Hollywood royalty for a few measly dollars. These people don’t deserve to be literally standing on the shoulders of giants. All around there’s nothing but gaudy shops, and neon lights –when did this place become such a dump?
“What are we doing here?” Dillon asks as a fat little kid drops an entire scoop of ice-cream and I really don’t know. The kid leaves the scene of the crime with no remorse only a sense of loss for his ice-cream and retreats back to his mother as I try to uncover what great he defiled.
“Who’s Alice Brady?” I say squinting and Dillon responds with a tired shrug.
I must be cruising for close to twenty-five minutes before I find a tanning salon to take refuge in. I’m not even particularly bothered about topping up my color (as I’m pretty much dark chocolate already) but figure it’ll allow me some downtime without Dillon’s camera stuck in my face.
“What are you stopping here for?” Dillon says and I tell him that looking this good don’t come easy.
“How long you gonna be?” He says like a possessive boyfriend demanding to know what time I plan on leaving the club at.
“About half an hour.”
“For a tan? Jesus I’ve seen whole pigs spit roasted in less.” He says and with a face like his I’ve no doubt he’s something of an expert on pigs. I tell him to grab a coffee and stretch his legs before making my way into the salon.
Inside I book a five-minute session off a confused looking Korean woman and quickly dart into my designated booth. I strip down to my bra and thong while I wait for the bulbs to come on and swiftly examine my body in the mirror for any signs of healing but the bruises on the side of my chest are still a violent black, and the ones on my thigh look like they’re still ripening.
The bulbs have barely had a chance to shine their electric blue before they’re off again, and I quickly fling on my clothes and head back to the reception area.
I return the unused eye protectors, which I never use because of the tan lines, to the confused Korean woman who accepts them with a bow and dubious smile.
I swiftly make my way to the window and pull down the shop blinds to see if Dillon’s still in the car, and thank the Korean woman before dashing.
Back in the car I execute a getaway even LA’s finest car thieves would be proud of; my foot slamming on the acceleration so hard that within a few seconds Dillon and the salon are nothing but a distant memory.
As I approach east Florence Avenue I can almost feel my heart beat in my throat – three years and not a damn thing’s changed. I park up by the sidewalk and slowly try to recompose myself, staring at the grubby pastel colors of childhood poverty. The house somehow seems smaller than I remember with the sad little chain link fence adding an odd ironic twist. What exactly did they think was worth stealing? Most of the patio furniture’s seen better days and the yard umbrella doesn’t look like it’s been open since I left. Everything seems to have given up with the exception of the brushes and tree shrubs which run feral around the house seemingly terrorizing it.
Walking up to the front door I can’t help but notice the sinister grass which seems burned by cigarettes. I rap on the porch shelter a few times and wait on a response surrounded by creepy silence. No sign of life. I guess nobody’s in. I’m about to turn around until my curiosity gets the better of me. I swing the porch shutter and try my luck with the main door which opens with ease. Inside the place there’s not much natural light and the stench of alcohol and tobacco hangs heavy in the air. I slowly make my way into the main front room which is nothing more than a bottleneck of takeaways and whiskey bottles. An old worn pair of men’s sneakers lie suspiciously positioned at the foot of the couch (I guess something’s never change) while a sneaky cat purrs somewhere refusing to reveal itself.
“Who the fuck are you?” A shirtless Mexican man says appearing from the darkness.
“I’m Stacy’s daughter Tori.” I say unsure as to why I’m the one explaining myself.
“Oh,” He says eying me up and down focusing hard on my tits, “she never said nothing to me about having a daughter.”
It’s only upon closer inspection that I realize he’s not Mexican and that his skin is just leathery from overexposure to the sun.
“Is she here?” I say growing impatient with his pervy disposition.
Searching for a cigarette he absently informs me that she’s not. Not even five minutes home and already this scene is old.
“You drive up on Florence and Normandie to get here?”
“Yeah.” I say confused by his line of questioning.
“You come across El Dumpo Fiasco?” He says with a dirty smile.
“That weird cat lady?”
“Naw trust me you’d know if you met him.”
My patience is already worn out with mom’s catch of the day so I quickly make my excuses and head for the door.
“I’ll tell Stacy you dropped by.”
My hand is turning back the doorknob when he yells, “Don’t forget to watch out for El Dumpo,” and as if reading my mind adds, “he always wears a green suit and purple bow tie.”
“Why?” I find myself asking despite my better judgment.
“Guy’s a maniac – hangs around street corners and takes a dump in the window of any car stuck at traffic lights.”
Slowly I walk outside back to my car digesting the information-and to think all these years I craved a father figure.
I’m barely through the front door when my misery is compounded by the sight of champagne and a shrieking Barbie. I haven’t even closed the door and Cassidy’s straight over to plonk a glass of bubbly in my hand.
“Guess who’s the new ass of Pepe jeans?” Cassidy says with only part of the sentence ringing through.
“Congratulations.” I somehow manage to cough up at the announcement of what is now her third job in less than a week. Cassidy is about to lean in for a hug until I point wincingly at my bandaged arm.
“And again I’m so sorry about that Tori. Any sign of improvement?” Before I get a chance to respond Brian interrupts in a panic.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him in a while – think he was running some errands.” I say polishing off my champagne in one go, “I’m not his minder.”
I wait until a socially acceptable amount of time lapses to avoid any drama before retreating to my bedroom where I lay awake paralyzed by the injustice of it all as Cassidy celebrates late into the night. Fucking bitch.