The sun beats down on the concrete and lifeless buildings right outside of Las Olas in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The least likely place anyone would suspect to find five strangers who stopped being polite and started getting real.
The truth of the matter is that all of those actual strangers standing in line are nice enough and fantastically unreal -- two concepts that go seamlessly hand in hand in Fort Lauderdale where, despite being the Sunshine State, it often seems like ninety-nine percent of the time, only one percent of the population have real tans.
You're in the line at VIBE, midday, unassuming, and puffing on an electronic cigarette, because in an effort to, well, get real, you decided to stop smoking, turn the page, take some responsibility for yourself. You are a Daria in a sea of Brittanys, a Trent in a sea of Trevors. You are not really sure what you are doing here at twenty-seven years old, but for the thirtieth season of The Real World, rumored to be filmed in Miami, you'd find some disappointment in yourself for not showing up.
It's an homage of sorts. You grew up watching The Real World, probably lost a lot of decent sleep staying up to watch the show -- even from the early days of Pedro and Puck, Heather and Eric. It may even be possible that it taught you about the birds and the bees, though you've spent plenty of time in therapy working that out. And now at twenty-seven, here you are, in line after living a life worthy of being televised --or so we'd all so sickly and insanely like to think. You're puffing on nicotine vapor, wearing a slouchy pair of jeans that only started to fall off your white girl booty a few months ago when you moved back to Florida. A few years traveling, you return to find the rent is so expensive these days, you can barely manage to budget a tofu scramble.
Around you are delinquents dressed in brightly colored denim and cut-off jeans. Too much skin, too much hair, too much lip gloss. Then there are those who are way too flashy for the casting directors to even take seriously. These are the ones essentially in costume, looking like lizards out of Phish folklore and stalking perilously through the line to talk to the others about their chances, or even worse, encouraging each other.
You are aware, of course, that the rules for casting involve the stipulation of one "appearing" to be between the ages of twenty and twenty-four years old, but at twenty-seven, you still get carded for a pack of cigarettes and bouncers constantly side eye you.
Plus, your editor believes you can get away with it. The discussion was something like "Wasn't Montana like forty?" And you both laugh, but really, those people used to look so old to you. Lars, Puck, Irene, Montana... Even Ruthie, and she was on the youngest end of the spectrum.