Dreams! NYC Prep was all about dreams last night. Not the fitful things that muddy up your mind while you try to get a good sleep. The beautiful faraway things that some people might call Wants. Singing careers! Fashion!
Singing careers and fashion are, sadly, the only things that any kid wants anymore. Trade schools are left dusty and empty, doors creaking sadly in cold prairie breezes. Veterinarians stand stethoscope-draped and wondering and alone, no pupils to guide, sick dogs whimpering quietly, forgotten. No one studies history anymore! All the old stories are lost, there is only the bright, loud, metallic future. Mysteries of science will remain forever so, ignored and left to other, imaginary minds. Because singing and fashion! Singing and fashion and maybe acting too, they are all the kids dream of these days. We're a nation of wannas and very few bes.
Rich prep school kids are no exception. Well, OK, maybe they are a bit. Cockly Camille wants some sort of Career, sure. But she wants it for all the wrong reasons. Who knows what Sebastian wants. Probably just to minnow his way into as many girls' pants as he can before time marches away and leaves him behind. The other four—furtive PC, demanding Jessi, pointy Kelli, aching Rags—all they're concerned with are lights, bright lights shining only on them. They all want to be noticed, these kids, because the world has become both too small and too large. A terrible equation for this Goldilocks generation.
Rambling, is what I'm doing. What I mean to say is this: Last night's episode was all about reaching for things. About going about the work of becoming a grownup. About finding that label that we slap on our chests in this awkward professional conference called life. Let's start over there. Do you see where I'm pointing, to that pile of stones and broken harmonicas? Let's go over there. Follow me.
Whatever happened to the old hobo dances? Those lurching, primal, exuberant things that thundered down on the muddy expanses of sagging America? That sang you to sleep in railway hotels. That asked things of Hoover in an ancient, universal language. They're mostly gone now. Mostly. Old Rags McTattershanty, her heart stitched together from bits of cloth and wax paper, still carries a small flickering torch. Yes, she wants to dance. She wants to do gymnastics and date rich boys and maybe study philosophies or train elephants, but for now she's pretty focused on dance. And she seems good at it! Her brother, Mechanical Jim, and her road-mother, Dolores Gingerslacks, went to one of her dance recitals and we got to see some of her chops. Before she started, though, there was sort of an embarrassing incident. See, she was wearing some sort of dance frock, and oof, there was a hole in the crotchal region! Aieeee! How mortifying for an already worried teen. I mean, had she been true to hobo tradition a hole anywhere on a garment would be a badge of honor. A welcome place for worms and dust and curious blades of grass to work their way in, a patch kept open for commune with the natural world. But this is 2009 and those are the beliefs of the old-timers. So Rags requested another dress and then the performance began.
It was mostly limbs thrashing and teeth gnashing while a mournful ballad played on a hurdy-gurdy. Rags and her teen pals all splayed and wriggled on folding plastic chairs and Dolores and Mechanical Jim clapped in meek delight. How nice it is to see a youngster doing what they want, enjoying themselves, throwing away insecurity and caution for just a moment. A pretty picture. Though dark clouds gathered at the edges of this serene and hopeful tableau. You see, Rags has not been earning good marks at her hobo academy. She's failing soup science. D's in ambling arithmetic and hambone history. The only thing she got a 92 in was gym, seeing as her bindle handling skills are quite developed for a girl her age. Dolores Gingerslacks was not pleased with this. Not pleased at all. Rags is spending too much time on her hobo Spirit and not enough on her hobo Wits. The two must go hand-in-hand in a delicate and precarious balance. Too much of Spirit and she may end up like Nickels Jackson, who did a blind, feverish tramp tarantella right over the edge of the Grand Canyon. Too much of Wits (though that doesn't seem to be her problem right now) and she could suffer the same fate as Logs Lincoln, an intelligent yet soulless young vagabond who finally figured out the Boxcar Theorem and thusly winked out of existence. Plucked away to some other unseen realm. Rags has too much potential to go either of those ways. She must stay steadfast and true and safely in the middle, like railroad tracks beelining over vast expanses of West.
Kelli hears music. Kelli hears music when she's walking down the street and missing her parents. Kelli hears music when she stares at boys who are busy and wrapped up in other girls and she's just sitting there, stirring a pretend cocktail. Kelli hears music when her older brother lopes awkwardly into a room and tells her a strange off-color joke that sucks the room dry of anything but the sound of two bodies shifting, trying to maneuver the uncomfortable silence. Music all the time! She wants to sing! So it was time then to audition singing coaches. Singing coaches are people with weird, wild eyes who spend their time driving around in beat-up cars, or plastering telephone poles with fliers, or staring bleary until dawn at bootleg Broadway videos on YouTube—new, wicked technology—wishing it was them. These are sad and strange people for a young person like Kelli to be suddenly face-to-face with, alone in the room except for, you know, a whole damn camera crew. She interviewed a few people, none of whom really seemed to work out. There was Don, a heavy-breathing weirdo who smelled of gravy and Febreze and talked about his mother. There was Belinda, all pathetic and roomy in her flowing blouse and trembling, watery eyes. And there was Rick, intense and bug-eyed but also competent and able. But still he was kinda weird. Kelli needed someone fresher, someone hipper, someone not-ugly.
Eventually she settled on Diane, a Beverly D'Angelo sorta lookalike who sat in a big glass-walled aerie behind the enormous black gourd of her piano and got right down to business. She asked Kelli if Kelli knew stuff about theory and keys and pitch and all that and Kelli shook her head dumbly and said "No, I just..." and she made a motion with her hands to imply that her sonorous gifts just come tumbling out unaided, a white dove knowing when to release itself without trainer or cue. Diane raised an eyebrow and said "Mm hmmm," and got back to an exercise. Mee May Mai Mo Moooooo... Mee May MAI Mo Moooo... That kind of shit. Kelli mimicked it back and then it was time to sing the national anthem. All voice practices end with the national anthem right? So Kelli shook her belly to wake up the dove, opened her mouth, and out came the most mellifluous sound the world had ever heard. Sopranos the world over wept and tore at their clothing and reached into their ample bosoms and pulled out small pistols, because there was nothing to do but end it all. Crystal glassware shivered and shook and shattered gloriously. The Sydney Opera House groaned and trembled and sank into the sea, leaving only the gurgle of air bubbles and stray orchestra seats bobbing in the harbor. Diane clapped and cooed and knew that Kelli, this rich rube with unrealistic dreams of stardom (because her voice is good, but not Good), would probably pay for the summer house she'd been dreaming of. Barney's Joy, here I come..., she thought. Phil would just about shit himself when he saw her strolling down the beach. "Oh how funny," she'd say gaily. "I simply had no idea you summered here." And that bitch new wife of his would frown and pout and say "Let's go honey," pulling the dumbstruck, paunchy Phil along with her. Victory.
Sebastian meanwhile, his ears ringing like the rest of the city's, was trying to bounce back from his terribly embarrassing Rags rejection. See he's still cool, brah! He's just keepin' on keepin' on, hair perfectly mussed and wavy, beady little bird eyes trained and focused on the next... bird. This bird's name was Thor or Victoria or Bramble or something equally authoritative. Which was fitting, because she's a senior! Sebastian's a lowly sophomore and here was this older lady, surely well-versed in the beautiful and erotic art of doin' it, who cast her porcelain gaze down upon him as if to say "my place or yours?" And the thing is... I kinda think Sebastian's a virgin. Does anyone get that same vibe? I think he talks a big game, but he's really just so nervous and wound up and obsessed with the idea of sex that he can never actually be smooth enough to close the deal. So that this advanced-age cougar was basically trying to take him by the ears and show him how it's done... well that was just too much. He bombed.
See the main problem is that she spoke French! Sebastian's French ability is what he lures the ladies with. They think it's just sooo sexy and interesting and cultured that this blonde haired non-surfing surfer boy can rattle off little Fancy Talk words. And, I mean, they're not wrong. People who can speak other languages are kind of sexy (unless it's something hard and guttural and then it's mostly just frightening). But Sebastian doesn't even do it well. He mumbles and swallows the beautiful French words. He also says things like "Yeah... I went... to the Louvre." Oh, stop it, Sebs! Too hot, too hot! You're killin' 'em! Turn it down or Antonio Banderas is gonna get a complex, motherfucka! You are one game-laden son of a bitch, you know that Sebastian? The Louvre?! The goddamned Moaner frickin' Lisa?! Boy you gotta be knee deep in tail since this episode aired! Phew. Excuse me. Needless to say, Anvil wasn't terribly impressed, and she basically told him so. Sebastian's little heart sank and he resigned himself to another lonely evening spent at the computer, wandering the Louvre all by himself.
Jessi and Camille talked about charity things. See Camille really wants to be part of Operation Smile, the one charity where you get to affect physical appearance rather than like, feed people and stuff. (I know this is not exactly true, but why the F are dim girls and celebrities always exclusively into Operation Smile? Doesn't it seem a tad shallow? Humph.) Camille is such a weird little hardtack biscuit, isn't she? All ambitious and strange and gangly. She wants so many things but possesses none of the skills to get any of them, because she's just so damn off-putting and brash. Jessi isn't friendly, let's be clear about that. Jessi is fun and Sassy and clever when she wants to be, but she knows it. So when she doesn't want to be fun she just turns it off like a helium tank at the end of a birthday party. Around Camille she's bored and unfriendly and skeptical, so it makes sense that Camille would be awkward. But Camille, babe. Why you gotta be all up in Jessi about her damn school? Like, Camille, do you really have NO filter whatsoever, that you must, simply MUST, brag about your stupid fucking school at every moment possible? It was just so dumb and annoying, this fight about whose school is harder or better or whatever. "They probably have Earth Day off," Camille said nerdily and haughtily and stupidly about Jessi's school, the New York Earth Day Academy.
Anyway, Camille might help out with Project Smile or whatever, or she might not. It's all up to Jessi. Jessi discussed the matter in her big sprawling kitchen, shoveling unknown food products into her face while PC and some other girl giggled and snarled across the island. Jessi's mom came in at one point too, and she's all fun in a Fun Mom kinda way and PC creepily flirts with her because he's learned recently that old ladies like to be flirted with by young, nonthreatening men. Of which PC is one! Jessi still hadn't made up her mind about crazy Camille, though Other Friend thinks that the school thing should be reason enough to ban her from the charity. Jessi will consider it. Jessi will consider it and then talk to the Bravo people who will consider it for her. That's how this math problem gets solved.
Jessi also had a meeting for fashion. She really wants to do PR or maybe marketing. Whatever it is, she wants it to be fashion. She and Fun Mom had a couch conversation about Fashion, which designers were in, which were out. Pretty much everyone was In. So they sent off some sort of pretend resume in an envelope addressed to "Fashion, ATTN: Teen Job Division, Nice Places In New York, Their Zipcodes." Remarkably, remarkably!, one company agreed to have Bravo cameras come and film their beautiful products while they pretended to interview Jessi for a Teen Job. Teen Jobs are mostly like putting files away incorrectly and hanging up on calls when trying to put them on hold, so they are very important. All of the girls
applying were ready to go, but none more than Jessi, who threw her blintz-like features around the room and demanded recognition. We'll see if she gets it! She probably will! Because she's on TV!
Speaking of being on camera, we end, of course, with Preston Carter Pickles Corporation Peterson. The landed scion of a great and powerful family of slick willies (who's maybe dating another such fellow?) PC was, as he has been all season, feeling a little blue. Well, maybe not blue exactly, but certainly wonderful. Full of wonder, that is. What's in the future? What's coming around the bend? How many wonders can one cavern hold? PC is teetering on the brink of something, but he isn't sure what! He's got a feeling there's a miracle due, gonna come through. He just doesn't want to wait for it! He's anxious and ready and worried and all the tight clothes aren't helping. He feels vacuum sealed.
His therapist, who lives in the showroom at the weirdest Pier One there is, listened knowingly and noddingly as PC griped about sex and drugs and "rock 'n roll." Ugh, that line was just so... ugh. Wasn't it? Stop pretending Peter Carey! Just be yaself. It looked like the therapist wanted to shake him by the shoulders and yell in his mewling face just that sentiment, but she's a professional, and plus there're all those cameras there and stuff, so. You know.
PC went suit shopping, usually his favorite thing, but even that didn't make him feel better. I mean, he bought a beautiful skinny suit, sure, but still... That gnawing. That aching, clawing, creeping feeling like something is there, just beyond the periphery, a monster or an angel or a black, diseased blot. Something. He had earlier joked to Jessi and Other Girl that his biggest problem is that a tuxedo wasn't tight enough. Everything else was bowls of peaches and cherries! It was a sad little lie. An obvious feint. So now he wandered the hard stony streets of old New York and waited for something to break or snap. For clouds to part and a chorus of beautiful voices (Kellis maybe?) to sing him the answer.
That didn't happen, though. Instead he went to a photoshoot for Social Life magazine, the made-up magazine run by Devorah Rose, who seems to have a very tight balls-hold on Andy Cohen, because he keeps putting the damn publication in his shows. The photoshoot was in some sort of dark room full of flames (and flamers! ha ha ha!) and PC was really inept at everything. It's funny to see people who are soooooo into themselves in certain contexts and then soooo awkward in others. He was all fumbly with his words and didn't like Devorah and Co. teasing him mercilessly about boobs and girls and boys and stuff. Then he almost broke a really expensive camera. Things were not going well.
Things were not going well until they were going more than well, which is how life works sometimes. Sometimes the tides just shift suddenly, mid-swim, and you are swept away to somewhere magical. Once the pouty girl model was done with her business for the day, Devorah was feeling saucy and prodded by Bravo types, so she said she wanted a boy photoshoot. A boy photoshoot involving PC. The skinny photographer got up there all shirtless and then was joined by an all-too-eager PC. No one would notice if it was in the name of fashion and photo, right? No one would notice as PC's blood quickened and his knees knobbled excitedly and something in his eyes burned with desire and the brief fleeting fulfillment of a person recognizing, suddenly in full, as if standing across the room and observing a life in bloom. PC felt queasy and hungry and parched and sated and glad and scared and terrific as he nuzzled up against this shirtless other man and the world tilted towards meaning. And then it was over.
Then the cameras stopped flashing and the modelman got down and so too did PC. Some weirdo assistant kept hitting on PC creepily and he chuckled and indulged him (kissed his hand!) but mostly PC's insides were still reeling with the fever dance of having been so close to that which one wants most. So close to happiness he could touch it, did touch it. And just as quickly as it came it was gone, and the lights were turned off and PC was dumped out on those cold streets again, left to remember what had been however briefly. What had climbed into him and taken hold. A dream, preferred.
Later than night he lay in bed and when he closed his eyes he saw that warmth emanating from the other fellow. Felt the champagne tingle of sensational sensations rising up his spine. It would be a fitful night of thinking. Of dreaming. The funny, sad, wonderful, tough thing about youth is that it's so many firsts. So much of everything is the first time. And it's great, because you get to feel new every day! But it's scary, because so much of the world seems to loom over you, to know so much more than you. And you wish yourself into the future, into that faraway time when you're settled and able. How dumb that is. How dumb it is to not want the first blush forever. PC is already miles away in his head. Already domestic and coupled and safe and open. Enjoy this, PC! Enjoy that fretful, fanatic night when you put your head on a pillow and felt like an entirely different being all of a sudden. Someone who knew something small, who'd found a golden kernel of knowledge and taken it, joyously.
And the others. Well, they dream too. Sebastian sits in the glow of the screen, hand typing away, taking him to other bits of art. He dreams about women. Fields of them, stretched out over acres and acres, all reaching for him as if he were the sun. Camille sits at her desk, little lamp buzzing hotly, and dreams herself into the model she's created. This part fits here, this snaps in there. And there she will be, when you step back and look, done with your task. A complete human being. Little does she know that nothing, not one thing ever, goes exactly as planned, that things trip you up, or carry you wonderfully off to unknown adventures. ("Try it! Just try it!" Camille will always remember, until the day she slips away. She is standing in skis, leaning dangerously over a black diamond course, while Ruth waits, poles in the snow, down the hill. Ruth is calling to her to just plunge and do it. They'd been looking for the blue square, but took a wrong turn after the lift. "Try it! It'll be fun! I promise. You'll be fine. I'm here." And seeing Ruth's face there, all red and flushed from the lively cold, waiting for her lover, Camille feels ready. She takes a deep breath. She smiles bravely. She pushes off and disappears into the white.)
Rags will sit by the fire and look out over the crabgrassed expanse of the lot and she'll feel a pull in her bones. She'll feel the need for dance. And though she is sore, though she still hurts from falling when she and Soots had strapped dull razorblades to their shoes and gone ice skating, she gets up and dances. She's joined by beautiful, lilting music. Wandering Kelli, out for a lonely parentless stroll, calling into the night. The pair sings and dances together, united briefly by dreams and desires.
And Jessi waits. Jessi waits to hear from Fashion. She waits to hear from PC. Fun Mom is snoring softly on the couch, Real Housewives glowing blue and quiet on the television. In the future, she won't remember much of these moments. These moments before the gate opened up and she went racing off into life. These quiet spells of peace and protection. This blue, womb-like world.
Do babies dream, I wonder. Before they are born? Or is their breathing and beating dream enough? Is the mere fact of their possibility enough?
Potential and Progress are two different things. But they are both good things, I promise. I promise you that, young Prep kids. They're both good.