Title: Requiem for a Dream
Fandom: Dead Poets Society
Total of Chapters: 15
Chapters under cut: Requiem for a Dream, Footprints and Structure and Discipline
Summary: It is only up to Neil Perry’s guardian angel to make him understand just how much an impact he had on everyone’s lives and how lost they’ll be with out him. But the dream of acting has always been his only comfort and without it he feels he has nothing.
I think many of us can relate to the pain Neil Perry feels in trying to please both his father, and pursue what his heart really wants to do. But we must also come to the realization of our own dreams —even if that becomes a form of retaliation. Neil however never had that chance. In his final moments of his life, he is looking back and thinking of the ones he cares for, and how lost they’ll be without him— but when the reality sinks in, it prevents him to accept it—. The dream has always been his only comfort in a suppressive world and without it he feels that he has nothing.
Neil could feel a hand of idleness reach over his head and pull him down to sleep. It was taking him in and he couldn’t see or think or know anything else except that he knew that he was about to start to dream. And as he lay here thinking of possible reasons of why, things were starting to change. When your life flashes, it is not a fraction of time, but a moment where everything stops. Just moments before he was in all his glory. He was the center stage. He was living his dream. He never wanted that moment to change, when he was one stage. He never wanted to forget the joy he brought to his audience—to Todd, to Mr. Keating. He wanted to share that joy with his family, but they weren’t here tonight to celebrate with him.
The words sang into the back of his mind, like a choir standing alone on stage—he wore his costume over his clothes in confidence. He spoke his lines with fluidity and never for a second did he falter or feel his knees begin to buckle beneath. He was invincible. But now as he stood there looking up at the little specs of light that shone down from way up high, he saw all of his friends, every one of them standing and staring out as if he wasn’t even there. They were frozen like blocks of ice stuck in place, freezing the life where they used to be.
And as he watched them and they stared back blankly, distant and cold from what he used to know like ice forming on the railing of a house in the dead of winter, effecting us more than any words we could ever hear or say or know, he saw his father standing there on the edge, watching him. He hoped to find that by showing up here he might have been the teeniest proud of him, and maybe he finally understood what he has been trying to tell him for so many years, but all he found was dark staring eyes staring straight into his soul, cutting like glass.
And now all that lay before him was an open plane of silence, and a thick fog that enveloped his father’s office, like the emerald smoke of apathy circling in the air. He could not even begin to grasp how lonely, scared, and helpless someone must feel in order to take their own life. He could not imagine what must be going through their head the minute before they do. Do they think about their mother? Their friends? Anyone? Are they even thinking about themselves, how many lives they’ll change? or ruin?
So why was he doing this now? Why?
Neil had everything he ever dreamed about. A perfect and loving family, a beautiful home. A chance to be educated in one of the best schools in his home town. Not everyone had these opportunities and that’s what his father wanted him to understand. After he finished medical school and was on his own, then he could do as anything that he damned well pleased but until then he had to do whatever he said.
But what was the point of going to that school for that degree if it wasn’t what he wanted to do in his life?
Everyone at one time in their life, feels lost or trapped or afraid to just to go with the flow because of fear of the unknown or success. Children all want to have their parents to be proud of them for something they accomplished themselves.
It’s like this time Charlie’s friend graduated from school and his parents went out and bought him this brand new fire bird and he loved it of course but it didn’t stop him to get a job and then also buy the Voltswagon beatle—even though it was used and putted along everyone else. He felt a small sense of an accomplishment. He went out and he bought this car with his hard earned cash. And it felt so much rewarding.
Neil always wanted to be an actor. It was hard work, but he loved doing it and he wanted it to make it his one true love, like Knox wanted Chris. But his love for theatre was forbidden and he couldn’t bring her over for dinner to meet his parents because his father would never approve of them together.
He'd never have the chance for her to come over to watch movies or sleep in his bed if it was too late for her to go home; he could never hold her in his arms forever and whisper sweet nothings in her ear, because his father would disown him and his chances of continuing at the school that he loved so much if he pursued after his love for her.
Theatre to Neil was like the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. The only way they could be together was is in death.
Neil Perry woke up in the snow. He had no shirt on. The thorns he wore for the Shakespearean play were still on his head. He must have forgotten to take it off before he went to bed. The last thing he remembered was opening up his windows in his bedroom and standing there for a good solid 10 minutes just staring out at nothingness.
Was he sleepwalking? He hasn’t done that since he was just a little kid.
“Where I am?”
“You’re in between worlds.” A strange voice spoke behind him.
“What?” He turned around and for a moment he couldn’t believe his eyes. She had to be the most beautiful person he’s ever laid eyes on and he wasn’t just thinking that because he went to an all boys school and felt he had to talk to the first girl that showed him the least bit of attention. He meant that beauty like this was only in fairly tales—the ones with happy endings, except he knew that there was nothing happy about the way this story was going.
“Who are you?”
“Neil Perry. I’ve come for you.” She said. “Follow me.”
"Wait...How do you know my name?"
He followed her. They walked in the snow for a little while and then he realized that he was outside the whole time with no shirt on. He was going to freeze to death.
“I’m going to freeze to death out here.” He tells her.
“No you won’t.”
“Miss you realize it’s like 30 below out here and I’m practically naked?”
“Do you feel cold?” She asked him.
He thought a moment.
“Uh. Well ironically not at the moment, which I don’t know how it’s possible. But perhaps I’ve suffered from hypothermia after I took that nasty fall out my window wearing nothing but this ridiculous crowned thorn on my head.”
“And that’s how you think it happened?”
“Well I mean… I woke up face down in the snow.”
“Do you remember anything about last night, Neil?”
Neil thought really hard. Everything was in bits and pieces. He heard words and voices, saw images but nothing made sense. It felt like everything was like this giant jigsaw puzzle and he to sort through all the pieces to figure out which one fit the best, but he must have knocked some of the pieces onto the floor and his mother accidentally vacuumed them up so then he’ll never really get to finish it. They’ll always be a missing piece.
“If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Carpe. (whispering again.) Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary."
“I hereby reconvene the Dead Poets Society.” Neil begins.
He reads out a poem.
"To put to rout all that was not life, and not, when I had come to die,
discover that I had not lived.”
“I've got to tell you what I feel!” Neil leaps up from his seat.
Mr. Perry stands up.
“ What? What? Tell me what you feel. What is it?”
Neil stood there as if he was facing a blank wall.
“I'm trapped.” Neil says.
“No, you're not.” Keating tells him.
Neil puts his hands to his face. "What is that... What is that… Where is it coming from?"
“Oh Captain, my Captain!” Neil blurts out then.
She hands him a long sleeve white collared shirt and he breaks away from all the noise and voices.
“Here. If you think it will make you look more stylish— but before you decide to hire me as your fashion consultant, I’d just like you to know that no one will see you.”
“Well thanks, I guess.” He looked at her. “But how is that possible that no one can see me except for you?”
“I see everything, but not everyone can see me. I see things that most fail to see or forget is there. As humans, you are the only creatures on this earth capable of empathy: You can feel and understand what others are feeling without actually having felt those things. But an angel is someone who notices all of the things everyone else misses. Life experience is incredibly important, as long as you are open to what it is telling you—.“
Neil watched her as she basked within a golden sort of light.
“You’re an angel?”
“Yes…” She pauses a moment. “Well… I am on my way to becoming one.” She explains. “Let’s say I’m attending the “The Welton Academy for Holiness” and apart of the graduation ritual is to 1)… help someone witness a miracle and 2) lead people to the other side and with completion of this final exam, I’ll receive a pair of oversized wings I can display with dignity on my back, while you’ll receive an oversized diploma your father can display with dignity on his living room wall. And of course both of us would be going places, right? You’ll have a chance of being successful in medicine and it’ll be easier for me to travel while doing what I love— reaching out to people.”
Neil wondered if she brought up the difference with diplomas for a reason. If she was doing something that she loved, than it was more of an accomplishment. But if he went on to that school his father demanded him to go, then his father would be displaying his hard work on the living room wall as if it was his own accomplishments not Neil’s.
She starts to walk down a path now. Neil stays behind and watches her. And just like the time Keating on their first day of his poetry class walked out of the room—she turned to look over at him from her shoulder and said, “Well come along.”
Neil followed the girl surrounded in the unearthly light.
when you saw only one set of footprints...
That was when I carried you."
The angel walked beside Neil. She watched his facial expressions closely. He hadn’t spoken a word for such a long time as they walked. He seemed to be concentrating on something that played across his mind like a bunch of images, being modified on the screen, like a movie and there was no way to make sense of it but just watch it over and over again.
Scenes of his life flashed along the sky, like a strew of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics or like those planes that fly past bearing advertisements, while you lay on the beach trying to catch up on your tan but this time it was dragging a giant billboard of Neil Perry’s face across the sky.
He saw when he was born, he saw when he said his first word, he saw when he lost his first tooth, when he learned how to ride his bike, his first day at kindergarden and how he learned to read and write and count, add—subtract, multiply and divide. He saw his first date and how nerdy she looked, and how awkward his first kiss was.
He saw his first fight and how afraid he was for his father to find out about it. Even at 10 years old he was afraid of seeing his father disappointed in him.
“Are you alright?” She asked him.
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Neil you must be aware of that what we experience in life is the most beautiful foreign film that we don’t always understand. But we should still make out in the middle of it and cry at all the best parts.” She explains.
“Yeah and I’m sure you’ve never kissed anyone.” He replies smartly back.
“Why would you think that?”
“Well I thought angels were supposed to be all holy and shit like that. You know celibate.”
“A scary old nun stuck in some convent in the middle of no where, is that what you mean?”
“Not always true. We feel things just like anyone else. We may not act on our impulses like humans do but we feel complete love for everyone and everything. You don’t have to kiss someone to have the ability to understand them Neil.”
“I was being sarcastic. I just don’t understand how god or anyone can relate to someone when they haven’t actually had the pleasure of walking in their shoes. I am sure if they did, they would be singing a different tune.”
“It is logical to feel that way. But I like to “side note” that I wasn’t always an angel… or on my way to become one. I was chosen.”
“So you had a past life as a human once?”
Yes. Which is way I was sent to you. They told me we had a similar life.”
“And your job is to come here and do what? Educate me on the powers of higher learning—or take me back to show me my parents, and I'm meant to go all mindless and blubbery? Forget it. You got the wrong guy.”
“I’ve been sent here to watch over you. I have been sent here to help you make sense of your life.”
“I don’t have time for this.”
“Neil I’m not trying to convince you of anything. It is up to you to get the best of what I am offering you now; I can’t make you feel anything that you don’t want to feel. I can’t make you see anything you don’t want to see or hear things that you block from hearing. Look at trying to convince a drug addict that he has a problem and needs to go into a rehab when he is in denial that a problem actually exists. You can give them the best advice that you can ever give but it is only up to them to want to make the first step to get better. If they can’t admit they have a problem, than they will never face those demons.”
“Well I don’t know what you want me to admit, miss angel girl because I am not a drug addict. I am not some bum that you picked off the street, so stop trying to preach to me about how rotten my life was.” He takes a deep breath, the cold air swirled around his mouth. “And I thought angels were supposed to make you feel good about yourself.”
“It was an analogy, but not necessary meaning to target you. I’m just trying to tell you not to waste your life or throw it away over something stupid.”
“You sound like my father and how he thought my passion for acting was a whim and to put it out of my mind for my own good, because he and my mother were counting on me.”
“Angels don’t discourage ones dreams— but create a pavement for them to reach them.”
He sensed she had taken offense to what he just said and realized that he didn’t mean to compare her to his father. But he guessed that was how he felt when she was comparing him to the addict analogy after she was only trying to make some point.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t saying that you were my father.”
“It’s alright. I didn’t think you were.”
The images of his childhood depreciated and he was now standing in front of a door, except there was no door knob. She tried to push it but it wouldn’t budge. She looked at him.
“You are the only one that can open it.”
“But how? There is no door knob.”
“Remember you must take the first step Neil, not me.”
He looked at the door again and placed his hand over it. A door knob appeared. He turned it.
When Neil and the angel walked past the rabid crowd of Whelton Academy that fluctuated through the hallways, a freshman chant carried on imminently past them. Neil stood by watching those less fortunate beginngers being tantalized by a hazing of sorts that the graduating seniors felt necessary to do to them. Neil remembered that day thinking that the seniors were so much older than he was. He remembered being so much less knowledgeable and possibly a bit naive for looking up to those graduating as role models. But he always thought about the time when it came to be his turn to be a senior would the new era of Whelton boys look to him and other members of his graduating class with the same admiring eyes? In the end he knew when the time came for everyone to be sad about the seniors leaving he could say honestly, he would not care, not even a bit.
But now this was different. He never even got the chance to graduate with any of his friends, so he couldn’t really recount how it felt to finally aspire to new heights. Those seniors were headed out in the world knowning they may or may not make it as planned. It was a scary thought, even then and even more so now.
Mr. John Keating walked into the school, adjusting the cuff linked sleeves of his shirt. Neither the shirt or the cufflinks were expensive, nor was the suit that covered it and they knew of course that he didn't shop at those over priced clothing stores. He said that he felt it was stupid to walk around with the name of some designer on this t-shirt because everyone else was. He wasn't going to show support for someone whose values and beliefs weren't something he was intimately aware of. There were more important things going on throughout humanity than to worry what his friends or co-workers were wearing. It was a lost cause trying to convince them otherwise. To them style was an individuality, no matter how much the price tag was.
Whenever he was asked about clothing he'd stop at nothing to catch the most minuscule of breaths by quoting the disadvantages that clothing designers had on the universe and if they told 92 percent of their loyal buyers that it wasn't, "cool," to breathe anymore, half of them would be dead. Ordinarily, Mr. Keating wouldn't mind about how he looked, but it was important to be taken seriously today. At least he didn't always have to worry about his guilty pleasure of searching for lost loves in dusty second hand stores. His reputation cost more than a costumed- made suit by some famous desinger. Besides the tag was sewn on the inside so how would they have even known the difference?
When it came to clothes, his ideas were perplex/ complicated – he thought of sweaters and poetry and how a favorite quote could easily grab the same attention other than the reeked dismal of failure crocheted between rayon and synthetics. His pressed suit wasn't the sweet, waft of Italian silks and wools with imported cotton. This had thrift shop all over it and it couldn't be washed out no matter how much fabric softener you poured in.
Poetry ought to be memorable, he felt for obvious reasons. Poems should be catchy, should make you want to know them by heart. The single aim of a shirt's slogan is catchiness.
But he always said that, “The painful truth about Poetry and clothing is the unfortunate fact that the clothing usually sold better than the poetry itself.”
“Who is that?” The angel asked Neil.
“That’s Mr. Keating.” He was about to choke up on his words. “He was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.”
Mr. Keating lead his class discussion as usual and whenever he talked they listened. It was the type of respect he demanded on the first day not by grilling fear—but from his love for the written word—his ability to fissure poetry out of the most modest of boys, and his true understanding of a young man’s heart. Perhaps if you really listen to what your own voice is saying in given time it will sound like the truth or a barbaric yawp.
“Truth is like; a blanket that always leaves your feet cold. You push it, stretch it, it'll never be enough. You kick at it, beat it, it'll never cover any of us. From the moment we enter crying to the moment we leave dying, it will just cover your face as you wail and cry and scream.”
Todd Anderson opens his eyes. The class is silent. Then they begin to clap and cheer.
“Don't you forget this.” Keating whispers to him.
It was structure and discipline that we needed the most in life and the spontaneities to deceive evolution by doing something that has never been done before. I mean imagine a teacher making a whole class tear out “The Introduction of Understanding Poetry,” by J. Evans Pritchard, because he felt that poetry couldn’t be rated like American Bandstand?
Mr. Keating sat upon the edge of his desk. The sunlight lit every pore on his face; he almost appeared angelic, but not as much as the young angel that lay across his desk behind him rolling a pencil back and fourth.
“Will you get down from there?” Neil growled at her.
“Neil relax— no one can see us. It isn’t live. It’s like a re-run , except this sitcom was never aired on television.”
"Interesting way to put it but I never viewed my life as a comedy." He tells her.
The pencil fell onto the floor by Cameron’s foot. Cameron looked down at it. He bent down, picked it up and handed it back to Mr. Keating.
"Oui." She replies and puts a finger in her mouth apprehensively. Neil grabbed the angel by her arm and pulled her toward the door.
“I thought you said this wasn’t live?” He was annoyed.
“Ok. so maybe the pencil fell off his desk 10 years ago. Maybe it was a coincidence. I mean how important is a pencil really?"
"The paradox is this: suppose a man traveled back in time and killed his biological grandfather before the latter met the traveler’s grandmother. As a result, one of the traveler’s parents (and by extension, the traveler himself) would never have been conceived."
"You're going to kill your grandfather with a pencil?" She jokes. Neil gives her a look.
"Alright... enough with the jokes. Here’s the deal. They can’t see us or hear us. We don’t have the power to actually alter the future or anything like that, but like everything there are sometimes small glitches, which will not effect things like you said.”
“So you’re saying if I wanted I could go over by Cameron’s desk, bend down, tie his shoe laces together… so when the bell rings to be dismissed, he’ll get up and fall on his face?”
Neil thought a moment of this and then a tiny smirk appeared slyly across his face.
Mr. Keating went on talking to the class. Neil watched everyone now as they paid close attention.
“As a college graduate I was at my prime. I was sure I was going to be heading out in the right direction. I thought I just couldn’t have been any smarter, more ambitious or handsome. (I know I am being overly dramatic there.) So what stopped me from staying at my peak? I’ll tell you. The world. The work place and school are very different. It’s sometimes a parallel plain that can’t find a concrete meeting point. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up. Be ready for rejections. I got a rejection letter once from this magazine I was trying to get work of mine published in. The letter said Revise and mail again. And I thought what does revise mean?” He looked at the students. “No really what does (revise) mean?”
He let the question float in the air for about a moment or so even after Meeks had blurted “to edit,” out from the back of class. It was a question that Mr. Keating was only going to answer himself.
“It means that hard work isn’t fun. Writing isn’t easy. If you want to be good, you have to work. If you want to have fun, buy confetti and silly string. Cut about 89 percent of your ego and simmer for about a week or month and then write something else. Revision is editing your work till your eyes bleed even with that bachelors, masters degree or PHD. That is a piece of paper with a list of your credentials but it doesn’t count as a free plane ride. Rejections are apart of life but so is reaching goals and compromising. If you can’t work well with others than you can forget getting that promotion or having an agent finally asking for more than just a cover letter. So what did I decide after I realized that getting what I wanted wasn’t as easy as I planned it to be—to quit or to learn from my mistakes and move on?
I had a student once tell me that they just couldn’t write poetry. They were only good at Math and Science so that was the reason why they didn’t even want to try. I really believe in nurturing young, subtle poets but seriously if you don’t want to put in an effort in your work why would I want to even bother to critique a poem of someone who 1) doesn’t like poetry and 2) doesn’t want to learn how to write it? Is this how you want to live your whole life? By drawing limits around yourself and then pretending those limits define some kind of identity? You must realize how that there’s an aesthetic of truth, elegance, symbolism and open-endedness in mathematical sciences. Poetry can produce a similar sense of wonder. I had a girlfriend once who didn’t like Chinese food. She liked broccoli and she liked rice, so the waiter brought her steamed broccoli and rice and she swore it made her sick—because it was Chinese food.”
Charlie Dalton raises his hand in the air.
“Umm. Mr. Keating…?”
“Maybe it's because she thought they cooked a cat in the back room, before they brought it out.”
Todd and Knox bust out laughing.
“Thanks for that input, Mr. Dalton. I never thought of that.”
Neil smiled. He really missed Charlie a lot.