Sometimes this city is sad and cold and lonely. So too, sometimes, is The City, MTV's blotty watercolor reality show about lightbulb fairies that live, for the time being, in gray old New York City.
On last night's episode it was the holidays. We knew this because there was a kicky grrl rap Christmas ditty joining the episode's establishing shots of people falling down at the Rockefeller skating rink and stuff. All were atizzy about the exciting season.
Even heard-hearted Olivia sat gamely at Diane von Furstenberg's office holiday party, wearing a silly hat and pulling noisemakers and doing the Fizzlywig Jig and filling her tummy with glorious roast beast and talking demurely and apple-cheeked to young master Bibblywick, the bank teller's handsome son. She swooned and twirled and giggled like a schoolgirl with her dear, dear friend Whitney Crumblyfrizz and it was the best Christmastime that ever there was.
Sadly though, that was all a ghost or a dream or something. For the real Olivia, withered and sere, stood in her thin, icy nightgown, unnoticed in the the party hall's shadowy corners. This was a vision of Christmas Present as it might have been. Had she just shed the hard exterior, had she just let the true spirit of goodwill toward men into her crusty, splintering heart... But no. Instead she lectured Whitney about not having too much fun and acting a fool. Then she took a long, cold sip of her drink and it became a tiny ice droplet inside the hard metal jewelry box she calls a torso.
Whitney didn't let it daunt her own holiday spirits though. She just chuckled a knowing chuckle and headed gamely, like a deer in a Things-Deer-Like-to-Eat factory, off into the city. You see there was a party to enjoy that night, at her boyfriend Jay's friend's lovely Soho loft, outfitted with a charming stripper pole. There she would drink butterbeer and play Yes and No, and perhaps Fortunatas, and supposed she'd find herself succumbing to Jay-kisses under Captain Screbbeneezer's mistletoe. There was only one small flaw. Dear friend Erinwilliams was still having boyzone problems. You see, she really still likes the barkeep JR. But she's sworn to a bearded fur trapper from the north. And, unfortunately for her, they both showed up at the same party! As if summoned by some large, unknowable force! Named Adam DiVello!
So the fur trapper and the barkeep met and testily eyed each other and fisticuffs seemed imminent. But, thank ye heavens, both fellows played the gentleman and turned coat from one another. Erinwilliams was grateful and let the Northman escort her home, but her mind still lingered on the smoky, oak-scented JR the Barkeep. Fearing the poison of holding lies in her heart, she confessed to the Northman that she was straddling both sides of the Thames. Furious, he left in a flurry of snow and cold arctic air, dragging an enormous fir tree behind him, as is his people's custom.
Meanwhile the Male Model and the Girl Model, Jay's roommate and his girlfriend, were having frowny, pointy-faced lunch. You see Girl Model had been shacking up with Jay and MM and it was maybe time for her to leave. "Well that's it then," she said sharply (because her face is sharp.) "Maybe we just need space." Male Model didn't like that at all, because it meant less painful, angular sex. So instead, as a whip cracked loudly over his head, he suggested that maybe they should live together so he could wake up next to her for the rest of forever. Or until she gets old or whatever. The problem with this, though, was that Male Model needed to break the news to Jay. Mr. Australia did not take it well. He cursed a blue streak and tousled his hair and stomped off into the wintry day, his black boots clomping 'gainst the cobbles.
All of this anger and worry culminated at at festive New Year's Eve party, where the boys wore sparkles and hats and the girls wore concerned, worrying faces. Erin had vowed to get over her Northman by getting under another fellow, a suggestion to which Whitney nodded sagely. Though her eyes told a bigger, sadder, far more complicated story. At the party, all were merry on spirits and gins, and all danced the Wexler's Wander, a dance someone had brought back from the Orient. There was the toasting of drinks and proclamations of love and a group in a corner played Blind Man's Bluff and all seemed well and happy. But it was simply the glorious lie that a party often tells, because 'neath it were the same nagging fears and angers, like termites gnawing softly on a foundation throughout the night.
Jay was still upset about Male Model evicting him. Erinwilliams had once had two fellows and now had none. Cruel chance! As the music swelled and drinks fizzed up and up and up, Jay invited himself to move in with Whitney and she nodded, cow-like, but yet again her eyes told a different, more desperate tale. Midnight struck and lovers embraced but Erinwilliams let sapphire tears tinkle down her cheeks. She'd received post from neither the Northman nor the Barkeep. She wandered out to the balcony, towering like it was over the skyscrapers and busy cobbles of New Amsterdam. If you slowed the television to a near stop, you could see a quick, darting moment when she reached into her chest, pulled her sorrowful mitten heart from its ribcage home, and tossed it o'er the rail. Through with love, Erinwilliams was. Done with her wicked, lonely business she returned inside, where all was warm and golden and full of nuts and fruits, like a Christmas goose.
And again the ashen, sallow Olivia watched unseen from a corner. She'd been on a tour the past week, watching as she cruelly forced her fattened Cousin Jub-Jub to look for a new Manhattan apartment, one that wasn't her own. She watched with grim inevitability as she lectured him as if he were a child (he was). Then she was whisked away by the bony hand of her mysterious astral guide to a Christmastime some years in the terrible future. There was Cousin Jub-Jub lying dead in a city alleyway, his poor, frozen, bologna-like body crumpled in a heap. "Oh merciful Gods!!" Olivia cried to the heavens. "Is this vision an unavoidable truth?? Or can it be changed? Please, dear spirits, say I can go back. I want to go back.... I want to go back... Oh ghosts... I want to go back..."
And then she awoke, tangled in her bedsheets and sweating. She looked out the window, a light snow was falling. "Perhaps there is still time!" she thought. She flung open the door and raced downstairs. She saw the kindly doorman sitting there, as he always does. "You there, Negro!" she called. "What day is today?" The old fellow looked at her, a bit confused. But finally he answered "Why Miss Olivia, it's Christmas Day, 2007."
Olivia's heart swelled. Yes, of course. The day MTV had called and she'd accepted the reality show. "Merry Christmas!" that terrible smoky voice had told her over the phone. "You're on a show!" But now she knew. Knew the rotten future, knew the way she'd freeze over and become a pale blue wisp of the warm soul she was today. "There is still time! Oh Happy Christmas, my beloved Negro!" she yelled as she ran back up the stairs. She arrived back in her apartment, panting but grinning, just in time to catch the ringing phone. "No! No! I won't do it!" she told the voice on the other end. And when she was done she walked to the window and watched the snow fall and knew that the world was once again full of possibility. The kind that greets you on a hill, untouched after a blizzard, when you're possessed of a sled and an adventurous heart. "Come," she said to herself as she stepped into her boots and coat. "Let's go explore this new, wonderful world."
And then she did.