The celebrities were growing increasingly depressed. And, of course, their depression far outweighed that of the average “non-person.” These were not people so much as vessels with which to absorb the message of the advertisements. That message, when featuring a celebrity endorsement, being simply, “Look at me.” Without them scurrying about the streets like common rats and roaches, who would there be to regard Jezebel’s latest billboard in SoHo? To bow down to it as they took pictures of it and selfies with it? The thought of her effigy standing there all alone without a single plebeian around to revere it was more than she could bear as she broke down in the closest thing to what her face would permit as “tears” (it amounted to the faintest bit of misty-eyedness so as not allow crow’s feet to form or mascara and eyeliner to smear).
Lounging poolside in her white Gucci bikini (her waxist had just come by yesterday to ensure that the barely there aesthetic of this was not compromised by any unsightly appearance of pubic hair), she sighed wistfully. Oh how lonely she was. Yes, Dylan was right next to her, resting his toned, tanned body on another of roughly twenty chaise lounges spread out along the length of the Olympic-sized pool, and he had been perfectly viable company for when she could see and be seen with him about town. But now, forced into sequestering with him (and her fellow rich bitch sisters), she was feeling less than affectionate. What was the point if there were no cameras around? What’s more, some part of her felt that his body contaminated her own. She hated being touched or caressed by him. He wasn’t on her level. Had come up from some nothing town in Michigan or wherever. She was royalty. Knew the streets of Manhattan and Beverly Hills better than the consistent non-contours of her own rail thin body. All Dylan seemed to know was how to get himself off, barely bothering to lick her smooth, hair-free pussy and asshole the way he ought to. The way boyfriends past being used as pawns in her publicity stunts had. Knew it was the least they could do to earn their keep for the favor she was doing them in letting these nobodies glom onto her star. But it seemed Dylan was still too much of a novice to understand. He had only recently hit the big time with a series of viral TikTok videos that had landed him a modeling ad campaign for Kenzo. Which was, in fact, how Jezebel had met him in the first place. For she was fresh off her own modeling shoot for Louis Vuitton. Some cliche bullshit posing naked in a crowd (all paid extras, of course) in the Tuileries. But, without question, she still had the handbag in tow. That was the thing being advertised, theoretically.
Though, as usual, what it came down to was sex. Continuing to sell it in a society that didn’t even really care about it anymore. It was a subject everyone had long ago become blasé about–somewhere around the time Clinton took office and his many affairs were paraded for tabloid fodder before, in the end, all it took was a blow J to get him impeached. Jezebel wasn’t even alive at this time, so she couldn’t really understand or trace the origins of total malaise with regard to seeing yet another girl take her clothes off for public consumption. She simply did it because it was what still made her money, still got her attention. And yes, it certainly got Dylan’s attention that day. For he was one of the passersby to catch a glimpse of her svelte olive-toned body.
Soon, their publicists arranged a meeting. Or rather, a very strategic dinner at Georges, having the entire Centre Pompidou shut down early for their cocktail hour beforehand amid one of the best views of the city. This, naturally, did not stop paparazzi from “just happening” to be given exclusive access to the photo op. Jezebel wasn’t really expecting to have much in common with Dylan, nor to be interested in him on anything beyond a skin-deep level (but oh she wanted him deep, beyond the skin, that was for sure). Yet here they were, talking well past the time when the paparazzi had long ago left. Maybe Jezebel was doing most of the talking, “advising” him on his next steps. This, eventually, turned into drinks back at her hotel where, inevitably, they proceeded to bang. It was nothing especially special, but Jezebel was eroticized enough by the sight of her own body against his in the mirror to get off. He didn’t take long to cum himself and afterward they realized they had exhausted any remaining tension, therefore “connection” between them.
Even so, they agreed to see one another again back in Los Angeles and now here they were, just three months later, “quarantined” together. Quarantine was a more loosely applied term to celebrities, obviously, for they were always quarantined in some way or another from the rest of normal society. And Jezebel was more than certainly glad to be in this instance as she waited on her own personal doctor to come up with a vaccine that would immunize her and her friends (and maybe her sisters if they stopped acting like such cunt rags for five minutes) from this icky virus. Jezebel shuddered if she thought about it too long. The fact that something inside an animal could jump to a human almost made her want to put her Dobermans (the ones Steven Klein had insisted she get because they made her look “like, untouchable”) out on the street.
She kept this to herself, for she didn’t want to risk the wrong person overhearing and suddenly the headlines insisting she was some kind of animal-hater. Then again, there weren’t much of any headlines at all about celebrities at the moment. Unless, that is, one of them contracted coronavirus. Her publicist had even reached out to her to suggest she might want to consider “getting coughed on” at the supermarket so that she could garner some similar media attention. Jezebel didn’t have the heart to tell Erica that she wasn’t about to go buy her own groceries just for an off chance of maybe getting the coveted disease. Coveted among the famous anyway, for they could afford the testing and the treatment. Sure, Jezebel had heard of a few friends of friends getting it (like P!nk before she went public–and, on a side note, who could possibly want to be friends with P!nk?), but that didn’t mean she was any closer to. The best she could hope for in terms of securing a modicum of attention now was that a few errant homeless people might notice her nude billboard, the very one she had shot the day she met Dylan.
Boring, annoyingly naive Dylan. Who, at this very moment, was getting an erection. He looked over at her pleadingly. She rolled her eyes. They fucked in the casita, or what was effectively billed as the “changing room” by rich people’s standards. She sighed in boredom as she pulled her Gucci bottoms back on and then walked out topless, lighting a cigarette from a pack that had been left out on the table outside. Dylan ran after her like a codependent puppy. “You shouldn’t smoke. Especially not now,” he cautioned.
She glared at him. “Oh fuck it. Nothing matters. No one’s looking at me. And they might not ever again.”
“I’m looking at you.”
She chortled. “Who cares? You’re one person. I need them all.”
Dylan appeared genuinely offended by her words. “How can you say that? You hate those people. You always complain about them.”
“It doesn’t mean they don’t help me serve my purpose.” She exhaled from a drag and blew smoke in his face.
“And what about me? What purpose do I serve?”
She blew more smoke at him, this time in a ring. “None, that I can think of as of now.” He regarded her in stunned silence. She continued, “In fact, why don’t you just fucking leave? I can’t stand the sight of you anymore.”
Dylan couldn’t believe her. “I’m not leaving. You love me.”
“No Dylan, I love me. Now will you please get the fuck out of here before I have you thrown out?”
His lower lip started to quiver. “B-but… I thought you were my quarantine.”
She laughed at him. “Are you fucking serious? That’s a made up word for people who can’t afford the fines to leave their house. Just, please…go!”
So it was that Dylan departed, three months of his life down the drain. And here he had believed she might have been the love of his life. To think she was just using him all along. Then, driving down Sunset Boulevard past Sunset Plaza where the same billboard that had brought them together hovered above him mockingly, he was struck with an epiphany. He had the means to retaliate. He could hit her where it really hurt–by continuing to throw salt into the wound of her fading starlight. The only and best way to do that, he realized, was to ensure the virus kept affecting the public. To make certain that the spread wouldn’t stop so that neither would the “shelter in place” orders (what a polite term for “government mandated self-imprisonment”).
Without anyone outside to see her beloved advertisements for things that people could no longer afford anyway, what would she be when this was all over? Just another nothing, a nobody. Sure, she would still have enough money to flee the planet with the rest of the celebrity cabal, but she would not have the thing that really mattered to her most: fame. And that was something that no amount of money could buy back for her if Dylan performed his new mission correctly.
Six months had passed and the virus had not only continued to spread mercilessly rather than being mitigated by “social distancing” measures, but no one was any closer to a viable vaccine–in fact, only coming up with ones that made the masses feel worse. Still, they offered to pay people who had “recovered” from the virus nominal payment for participating in trials that would use their plasma. And the people, true to form, came in droves. Clamoring to be injected with the virus and used as experimental lab rats for a few thousand dollars. The price on dignity gets lower and lower as time wears on in this country, Dylan mused to himself, thinking he might go back to his own native Canada soon (for, yes, Jezebel had mistakenly assumed he was from Michigan). After all, his work was done. Even if a “cure” was miraculously found soon, the virus’ damage had been wrought. And all it took was paying a few hundred infected homeless people in L.A. and New York to cough arbitrarily at civilians, even to jump out and touch them as they did so. Spread unstoppable.
Yes, the effects were permanent. Everyone was too afraid to go outside anyway, even if the government assured them it was all “okay.” Dylan had been a plebe once… long enough to know that, for them, it would never be okay again.
Back at Jezebel’s overrun with siblings and their spawn mansion, she was visiting with her “guru.” Eleonora Eliopolis might not have actually been a guru, per se, but who had time for thorough background checks during an existential crisis like this? Gwyneth had mentioned her a few weeks back and Jezebel figured she would take the tip to heart before everyone else did. So it was that this “spiritual guidance” materialized on her doorstep soon after, taking up residence based on how “grave” Jezebel’s need was, or so Eleonora claimed. Obviously, she would have told any celebrity sucker such a thing. She had no idea how or why Jezebel reached out to her with such a willingness to pay through the (deviated septum of a) nose, nodding along when Jezebel mentioned Gwyneth’s referral. She couldn’t have known that Gwyneth was actually referring to someone named Leonora D’Eliopolis. A woman so sought after she had even outshined longtime California staple Esalen by opening her own “wellness” facility in Carmel-by-the-Sea. So no, she wouldn’t have been available anyway, even if Jezebel was able to accurately track her down.
So it was that she now spent all of her free time (in between making various “appearances” on Miley Cyrus’ Bright Minded Instagram chats) under Eleonora’s tutelage–and, much to the latter’s surprise, quickly took to the notion of becoming “zen.” Surrendering to the power of the virus as something even more powerful than celebrity. She even got her to daily chant, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference,” honestly having no idea that it was something Eleonora, as a longstanding alcoholic, had ripped off. Jezebel thought she was a genius for imbuing her with such words of wisdom, eventually leading Jezebel to have her own “wellness vision” for what to do next.
“One infection must be traded for another,” Jezebel reckoned. This was after her private jet had flown her to the second location, SoHo, completely deserted, after Sunset Plaza’s prominent billboard of her posing au naturel in Paris. It was there that she set fire to the advertisement, just as she would to this one. Maybe, somewhere deep within, she knew it was going to result in her being painted as some kind of neo-freedom fighter for poor people (“normals,” if you will). That she would be positioned on news outlets everywhere that night as a “woman of courage” for tearing down the final bastion of capitalism: false advertising. False because no one could ever achieve that lifestyle, not without an extreme leg up that only the truly good fortuned (otherwise known as those already born into said good fortune) could ascend to.
Sure, she might have been calculated enough to pretend that her burning these billboards wasn’t about her contempt for them being displayed to no one for almost an entire year, but, in the end, she knew it was best to go with the media’s narrative, glibly telling multiple news channels in an “exclusive” interview, “One infection must be traded for another.” And she didn’t even need her publicist to coach her to say such an effective line. Effective because, like everything else in the twenty-first century, it had no real meaning and made absolutely no sense. The public lapped it up as the most profound soundbite to be spurred by the virus (apart from, of course, Cardi B screaming simply, “Coronavirus!”).