Claremont. Fall 2022.

The city of trees. Tree lined streets. Tree lined streets with LED lights. Tree lined streets with houses that have lawns and scattered lawn signs that say: “Housing Ends Homelessness,” yet leave out the key word… affordable. Signs lodged proudly into yellowing patches of vast front yards gently reminding readers: “Behind each mask is a person who cares,” and it is our responsibility to “end Trumpism.”

Each fall the college kids roll back in. They saturate the streets in cutoff shorts exposing small lines where the curve of youthful ass meets the leg, and flat stomachs open to sky absorbing sunlight. Downtown they gather on patios and in the coffee shops that sell affirmation lattes named “Grateful” and “Worthy.” Places where you can only get a spot at the communal table if you have 7 tattoos and know how to keep a Fiddle-leaf Fig alive.

Hatchbacks argue with lifted trucks, although louder and more obnoxious, the trucks end up outnumbered and glared at with contempt by the eco crowd toting their re-usable shopping bags. The hatchbacks do their best to move slowly, due to more carefully placed reminders such as: “Slow Down” and “Children Play Here.” Additional lawn signage shouting into the void along the strip of town that connects freeway to the heart center of commerce. The lifted trucks don’t see the signs, deciding to go whichever speed they want because: this is AMERICA goddamnit land of the free.

On weekend days the streets are filled with bicyclists, people walking to yoga and young parents pushing their babies to the farmer’s market for local honey, boules of cheddar sourdough, and orchids that come up to their chests. At night the thirsty daters swarm in tight dresses and button up shirts to the trendy gastropubs and fake speakeasies that serve fried nightmares alongside egg white frothed poisons.

People here don’t go east. No not anymore. Not across the county line that seems to stretch the green lush of the prestigious campuses into the brash neon of the liquor stores and desolate grey of self-storage facilities less than a football field away from the line. Everybody knows it is 10 degrees hotter on the east side of the county border, and nobody who lives there even knows what a Fiddle-leaf Fig is.

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