… Screaming. Why is there always screaming?
I am keenly aware of how early I have been up today and all the days leading up to it. The chaos is doing all kinds of mind warping things to me. I can hear one of our assistants, Elan, yelling to the frigid molecules in the air, but mostly at an intern.
“Can someone please tell me where Cayne is? Anyone? You! What are you doing here? There are legs to be moisturized and dresses to be steamed, missy and where the hell is CAYNE?”
Where is anyone? I fret under my breath hearing him scream for the gangly, awkward, potentially anemic and definitely alcoholic girl we casted at the last minute whose name is spelled Cayne but is pronounced “Cayenne” and if she were in the deep American south, she’d be a hard up stripper who’d be not surprisingly called “Cayne”. As Elan yells, pouts and talks importantly on his cell phone and on his headset at the same time, my stylist comes up to me, bringing my personal angst to a quick halt. She seems out of breath having had to squeeze through the hordes of people and cameras; all caged into the jail cell sized backstage area and doing so in record time.
“Nel? Nel! Listen to me. Suchi called me just now and she wants you to know that the shoes are stuck in traffic at Rue Amp`ere. Also, can you please take a look at the make up looks again, so I can get going because right now there are a lot of fools standing around? It’s like the waiting room to hell for the fashionably supine … OH YEAH, Ocean called and he is having the babies. I mean Noleen is having the babies, exciting non? Nel? … Nel?”
I quickly assist her with what she needs. I try to find Elan on the headset which I saw wound around his wiry neck minutes ago, but one that seems to be turned off. I finally yell his name, flicking my wrist in his direction, so that he can see that I want it turned on, to which he quickly obliges.
“Elan, just so we are clear, I want your headset to be turned on all the time! I don’t care if you are talking to PR, to your mama, to your boyfriend, to your next boyfriend or to an oracle. Your set should always be on and I mean it, not off or on standby. Got it? Good. I want you to get a hold of Rahul and make sure that he has the manifest and arrival times for all the models. I want you to get me the checked off list of who is here, who is in transit and who is late. Also, the ones who are late, Elan? I want you to call them. If they do not pick up, I want you to call them again, and then their agents and then their agencies. I want these people here in less than 25 minutes. Thank you. … Yes, your tie is cute, but seriously? … Yeah I didn’t think so either, no pink stripes don’t make your eyes pop, they make your fat neck bulge, so nix it right away. Thanks Elan. And? That’s right I want you to keep that headset on.”
As hair and makeup is finished up or just about to and dresses with unraveling hemlines, popped buttons, broken zippers, wayward seams are fixed up, it is shocking to realize that almost all the prep time has been completely used up. We are nowhere close to starting. Walking to the little alcove just adjacent to the backstage, I take off my headset for a moment to speak to one of the show producers. He has manorexia written all over him, with three percent body fat, biceps courtesy of the cheap steroids he uses and devoid of hair from head to toe, he reminds me of a hairless cat. Icky. He turns in my direction, his smile widening. I think to myself, why the hell is he smiling? Don’t even tell me that he got some while he was here because seriously I will shoot him if I have to hear about it. The man, Maero, is filled with glee.
“Don’t you think its beautiful Neeelissssshhh?” His deliberate stretching of my name mixed with a shot of cute voice modulation makes me want to wretch.
“What is so cute about this Maero? I don’t see any of the lighting cues on the manifest to match up to the music list. Your DJ is still setting up and half the people are still standing around waiting to be seated. So yes, it is beautiful that you managed to herd them in here but everything else is far from it. Now, this may be a shock but some people actually wait for the show to finish before patting themselves on the back for a job not so well done. Also, can you get the latte away from that girl? She is wearing ivory and her jittery cocaine shakes makes me think that she won’t rest until she’s covered in coffee. Thank you.”
Maero’s smile disappears quicker than a New York minute and I can see his eyes flash that digital banner that you see at airports, except this one doesn’t indicate arrival times. Instead, it reads, “BITCH!” I flash him my own pearly whites and turn around promptly. I call Ocean at the hospital to see if the babies have popped out and also to deduce why his wife could not have held for another hour.
“Hello? Osh! Hey, yeah, no, no, I don’t know actually. I think Elan is checking on it for me. No Ocean, I don’t know if triplets are easier to birth than individual babies! Listen Osh, Listen! Listen to me! I called quickly to just say good luck and I hope that everything goes well. I have to go find Christina and see if she has the press out of here already. Yeah, no I know it will be fine and so will you. Ok then. Tell Noleen I said hi and to … I don’t know… Push? Yeah! Tell her to push those joyful delights out! No, this is not real medical advice, unless you consider the advice to keep your mangy kittens away from my couture until they are old enough to understand the meaning of Lanvin. Osh! It’s a joke. Hello? Hello? Ocean!”
I hang up on Ocean thoroughly ticked off that the reception was bad and that he is now under the impression that I dislike little bald people who sleep and poop all day and get their grubby hands over everything. I mean if anything, I love the little baldies.
I find Christina and we get a lot of the final things done so that we can actually start somewhere, potentially, in the realm of the show start time. I tell Maero to cue down the audience for the show. As the rumble outside that has been picking up for the past hour comes to a lull, I talk to Elan over the headset and tell him to get this show on the road. For the next five minutes, as the lights come down and the models begin to strut, I can barely breathe. My stylist yanks me off directing me to change immediately. I can barely keep my eyes off the screen backstage, which is streaming a live visual of the show. I begin reaching for my wardrobe bag to get my other outfit for the final walk only to find it empty. Missing couture makes one crazy.
“Oh My God Sue! Sue! Where are my clothes? No! They aren’t here. Are you kidding me with this? Who is fat enough here to wear this? Holy mother of God in heaven! Can someone please tell me what happened here? Could you please get out of the way? I need to watch the screen for this dress. Move! You! Behind me! Stop casting your fat shadow on the screen. SUE! I cannot go out there like this. Oh come on, be serious my tee reads ‘You are ugly, I am busy, have a nice day!’ I cannot wear a twelve-year-old child’s wardrobe. Damn it! OH MY GOD, is that the finale? CHRISTINAAAA! GIRL! We have to get out there, come on!”
We walk out on the ramp, my shoe is unhinged on one ankle as I realize that I undid my boot to take it off but didn’t do it back up. The lights hit my eyes, we strut ourselves down the ramp, smiling and waving. I am acting my butt off pretending that I am supposed to look like a heroin addict and am glad about it. As I turn around to head backstage, my eyes fall on him in the front row. A literal scream of delight escapes me. I haven’t expected him to come even though he had said he would. I crouch down on the side to give him a hug and pull him on the ramp with me as we walk away. I walk into the backstage area tightly squeezing my best friend’s hand, the applause outside and inside is resonating.
I look up at him and he cocks his eyebrow, offering “So this is what you do, work, is it?”
I roll my eyes at him, catching onto the joke of the utter frivolity of this spectacle and have forgotten all about the madness from earlier today. It helps that my tee shirt doesn’t seem so stupid now. He is wearing his version of suspect intelligence as well. His tee shirt reads ‘Batman is my homeboy’, wrapped in the splendor of a fedora hat, jeans and blazer. He knows that I am about to say something and haven’t, he gets a hall pass today. I talk to him quickly and arrange to meet him at our after party restaurant in thirty minutes. As he makes a dash for it from backstage, he turns around to give me a thumbs up and his knowing smile.
I look around at the battleground; garment bags move around in the air, makeup artists scramble to put their stuff away and get out of this show and off to the next along with assistants, models, producers and my crew. I thank no one in particular for another great show. Five months of relentless work that amounts to this, a twenty minute show that has not saved a life or fed a needy person but feels oddly rewarding. I grab my bag, shades and trench coat. Quickly pulling myself together, I glance in the mirror quickly, thinking not so bad, could be worse. I walk out into the rain, without an umbrella, and it has already begun to fade to black.