Parasite ★★★★

so right after graduating a v snooty college, i was homeless for two months. i had some promising job interviews but nothing lined up yet, and one of my friends was gonna let me move in with her once she got her current roommate situation sorted out, but that wouldn’t be until September. so i was in full couch surfing panic mode

but i did have one resource at my disposal. during college i'd dated the daughter of a bigshot executive at some legacy news outlets, and eventually gotten to meet the big guy himself. he took a liking to me and would invite me to dinner every time we were in the same city, treating me like the fascinating subject of his new biography even though i was just some dumb Polack from a blue collar Chicago family

and like... you know rich people. they have more than they could ever possibly need, and they love to think they’re kind and generous

so i told him about my plight and he was like well that just doesn't make sense. you're smart and urbane and charming, so it just won't do to have you checking into shelters and hostels every night. and for most of that period before I could move in to a permanent address, he offered to let me stay in his pied a terre on Central Park West

occasionally i had to clear out and erase all presence of my existence because he'd tell me that someone rich was coming to stay there for a night or two. (i’mma note here that the pied a terre had several bedrooms and could have easily fit me plus his other guests) but i still got to live, for the most part, this charmed life in this lavish building in one of the most expensive neighborhoods IN THE WORLD and befriending the really hot doormen. hell yah

and i remember one time i got in an elevator and there was this older guy who saw what floor i was going to and was like, oh, floor 8, that's the big journalism man. and he asked me, are you the son?

and every part of me just wanted to say yes. yes i am the son. this man that you're obsessed with enough to know what floor his apartment is on, i'm his son. this man that you know little enough about personally that you don’t realize that he doesn’t have any sons lmao, i’m his son. this man that you clearly see as an important cultural gatekeeper, i'm his son

i'm the one that can get you access to him. you want to write some hack fuckin article about your business in his weekly magazine? talk to me. i can make that happen. you want to be on a cable news panel so you can brag to your shitty dinner party goblin friends about it? beg me for that

i ended up not saying any of that because it seemed... profoundly risky. and because this story is kinda about me being a coward

but i wanted to say it so bad. i wanted to be the one with the power, the one with the access, the one that could be impressed, the one that HAD to be impressed. i saw how fucking ugly this guy was, prostrating himself over the journalism man’s glory in a golden elevator, and i hated him for it. i hated him for the same ugliness i'd covered myself in so many times. lying in bed and practicing all my dinner party anecdotes that could make rich people fall in love with me enough to extent me ephemeral scraps of charity

did you know that the Roman emperor Caligula was a lot less mad and incompetent than history remembers him as? is what i'd ask them. that was a favorite story of mine. It’s a wild oversimplification of the history, but it’s true enough and which one of these empty-headed dorks was gonna call me out on it

did you know that the famous story of him trying to give a Consulship to his horse Incitatus was actually a symbolic gesture on his part to show his contempt for the patrician class? a fuckin horse could do your job better, he was telling them. and the Romans loved rewriting their history to talk shit about whoever had just forcefully tumbled out of the seat of power, so they damned his memory and said everything he did was incoherent clown shit

did you know that the common people loved Caligula, by and large, through much of his reign? he offered them a generous grain dole and lavish public works and rousing games... which he funded by executing patricians on trumped up charges and seizing their assets. Isn’t that wild, that this guy who’s synonymous with hedonistic madness might’ve been more of a ruthless, canny populist leader than we give him credit for. isn’t that a smart and charming and urbane story you just listened to

they loved that anecdote so much. enough of them confirmed it to me directly that i can guarantee you they repeated it time and time again in the company of their high society friends. and i can guarantee you that all they internalized from it was "this friend of mine, this very charming and sophisticated young man who's a scholar of ancient Roman history, told me this fascinating story about an emperor. the secret is… he’s NOT what you might remember from school!"

i can guarantee you none of them internalized what i was actually telling them, which was, "holy shit dude i'd like to kill you”