Her job was to make Vancouver real estate seem cool to young people with money who believed that they were hustlers or celebrities or whatever.

Manda made a face in the mirror as she struggled with an earring.

The clasp always stuck and she was running late. She didn’t have time for last minute surprises like this and she didn’t possess the temerity of style to appear in the offices wearing only one of her imitation peacock earrings dangling from her left ear like a scented Christmas tree in a New York taxi.

Ugh, she thought to herself. Why are the little things the ones that cause the most trouble? Fuck it, she said aloud to no one, I’ll fix it in the car on the way. She stuffed the earring into her purse, grabbed her keys from the chipped kitchen countertop, elbowed the light switch to off, and shambled out into the hallway with its putrid orange carpets. Some sort of refugee floor covering from a lost era.

Outside she summoned a car with an app on her phone. She huddled under a balcony overhang from the September rain and wondered whether she had enough time for a cigarette.

She checked the app. Someone named Mandip was coming to get her in an orange cab.

She didn’t have enough time.

From the back seat she could see the city as they approached from the east. Grey and fogged in even this early in the year. People on the sidewalks stood with their umbrellas in hand, autumn jackets getting an audition before winter set in.

They had stopped at an intersection to allow a thin man in ragged clothes to push a shopping cart heaped with clear plastic bags full of bottles and cans across the street in front of them. Manda felt a surge of impatience. She was going to be late again and she hadn’t finished writing that copy for the website about the new residential tower that had been built in midtown.

She sighed and her breath gently fogged the window beside her.

Forget the stresses of home ownership and live in the now. Made for the modern hustler and young families who crave and value life-bettering experiences, The Duke is the perfect sanctuary for dreamers. We provide flexible rental arrangements that support your today’s hustle so you can meet the best version of yourself, sooner.

Her job was garbage, she knew it, and this caused her no small amount of emotional anguish.

She had spent a small fortune to study writing at a local university maybe a decade ago and now worked as a copy writer for an ad agency downtown. Lunches at the bodega near the office were sandwiches with fancy names that were heavy on the crust.

Her area of writing expertise, if such a thing could be said to actually exist, was writing brochure marketing lingo for local realtors and land barons.

Her boss told her to “Make it cool, we’re after that young money now,” and she wondered whether even someone like Fitzgerald, that master squanderer, could make something like real estate seem cool. Had Fitzgerald ever used the word ‘sleek’ to describe a countertop or an appliance? Had he ever stooped to rhapsodize about in-suite laundry or laminate flooring?

It seemed unlikely.

The cab had stopped at another intersection. This time in the financial district. Manda knew from a recent Tinder date with a guy named Brian that there’s a high class strip club at the top of an elevator somewhere nearby. She learned this bit of unsolicited information over a glass of wine while they sat together in a booth at a hotel lounge. Brian was married man and claimed to be a sapiosexual.

At The Duke we believe happiness is both a direction and a place.

“What is even cool anymore?” Manda had asked him, using the frustrations of work to keep the conversation going. On a television over the bar a studio audience was losing their shit as Missy Elliot and maybe Ellen were dancing around with a white woman who looked like she might pass for the swing shift manager at Target.

“You know what’s cool?” Brian asked with confidence? “David Bowie”, he said, “that’s what is cool.” He looked at Manda like he’d discovered algebra. He swirled the glass of his smokey old fashioned with a subtle flourish. The orange twist rolled like a listless captive amphibian looking for treats.

“Yeah, I guess.” Manda responded. Bowie was fine, really. She like a lot of his songs but had never really thought of him as cool.

“Here’s an angle for your project,” Brian leaned back and made a gesture with his hands like he was a vaudeville entertainer conjuring a glittering marquee out of the air between them.

“The Thin White Duke,” Brian announced breathlessly. “Bowie’s lean post-Ziggy coked up New York dilettante phase. Thin, white, and hustlin’; with access to quick cash and designer drugs. That’s what’s cool, that’s what Vancouver wants.”

Manda wondered about designer drugs as the cab eased through the intersection, took a quick turn, and sidled up to the front of the building that she worked in. A tower of chrome and glass where everything and everyone is a reflection.

She made it to her desk without seeing her boss. She then took a moment to shake the bagel crumbs, evidence of a recent afternoon snack, from her wireless keyboard and onto the carpet under her desk before powering on her computer.

The screen came to life displaying the open Word doc that she’d been working on yesterday. A couple of paragraphs of text for the new building that she was tasked to make seem cool in a way that would lure that young money to the door. In a way that the appliances, the laminate floor, the central location could not.

Living a meaningful, happy life is about creating, sharing and capturing memories earned through experiences that span the spectrum of life’s opportunities. The Duke was thoughtfully built in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood at Kingsway and 11th with you in mind. Step outside and access happiness far and wide. Expect to connect with fellow dreamers and collect memories on the daily.

The text that appears in black boxes throughout the story is ACTUAL MARKETING COPY taken from the website advertising rentals for The Duke, a new residential tower that’s appeared as if out of thin air in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood of east Vancouver.

The rest of the story is pure fiction.