The Student, by Julien Darmoni
Our parents, though they are dead to me, often remarked upon my sullen nature as a child. So somber, so soon! It was as if I was the only one that could see our tiny pauper’s village of Newbury, Connecticut, for what it was: an iron cage wrought by God. The artistic-class! How shackled we are! Oh, Anton, I write to you in the middle of my first college semester, full of rage. For now, as a penniless student of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, I feel the weight of my chains grow heavier than ever.
I observed one chilly September morning a homeless man reclining in the park of Washington Square and considered how we were brothers. Can you recall my own era of destitution? When, after my meal plan expired, I toiled at the Newbury Public Library for a beggarly $15/hr.? I approached the man to commiserate, for I felt us bound by the unspoken fraternity of the ninety-nine percent. “Fuck you! It’s raining blood!” he screamed. “Flu gonna kill us all!” I nodded appreciatively because I knew his pain; are not we all driven mad by the immorality of bankers? “Ebola zombies gonna eat ya blood!” he roared, and I beheld at once the fate of our entire cause, should my financial aid run out before next semester.
December snow fell cold upon my face, as I stepped out of the cab which took my last remaining forty-seven dollars. I looked up into the white-jeweled abyss engulfing the city and a great irony occurred to me. That these crystals, each one a complex treasure of unfathomable design, should melt the very moment they reach man; how we covet wealth, and how overborne with it we are! The poor would inherit a winterly fortune from God, were these diamonds not rendered liquid by their touch. I contemplated this, as I took shelter inside the vestibule of my local Wells Fargo.
Oh, Anton, is there naught in this world but hardship and death? Just yesterday afternoon, after leaving Commons Hall to attend a lecture by Junot Diaz, I dropped my caseless phone into the grates of a West Village gutter. Lo! It lay there, unshattered, as if God preserved its fragile LCD screen merely to taunt me! It was then that I realized the sad comedy of my misfortune: I could see the phone, but I would not now be able to use it to call my family for another phone. Ever does society conspire to swallow man whole!
How frequently I am taken by the despair of knowing I may never enjoy the luxuries of the privileged class. Can you imagine what it is like to walk through the streets of Lower Manhattan, dressed in rags thrifted from online vendors? It is a constant humiliation quietly suffered that I observe my peers adorned in designer brands and foreign silks, while I wilt in sale rack items from the Banana Republic. It is this shame which, I confess to you now, drove me to transgression.
Is there any justification for theft? Perhaps in the absence of a compassionate God, and yet I have always held myself to a higher standard (vis a vis: my common application essay). One week ago, at the height of my confusion, I shoplifted dried mangos from a Duane Reade. Do you see, brother Anton, how we are reduced to criminality by our circumstance? I, sweet Ivan Fleishman, a Valjean! And yet, if I have become an outcast of society, is not society to blame for producing me? Perhaps I am entitled to this Naked Juice Blueberry Blaster, stolen from a world with no concern for its underprivileged. These Pull n’ Peel Cherry Twizzlers—are they not better enjoyed by myself, an artist of NYU of no means?! Oh, Anton, I feel I shall go mad!
Despite my letters, the NYU housing board has elected to fill the previously empty rooms of my dormitory suite with another student. He is a meek, intellectual sort of man, frail and spindly, with a tall frame and buggish glasses. But he is also capable of profound insight. He studies business, and assures me that not all Wall Street workers are Capitalist pigs. I wonder what my professors would say, and yet, already I have come to think of him in a similar capacity. Have I not learned as much from Derrick? Has he not also spirited away the dull machinations of my mind, borne on the back of his boundless enthusiasm for truth? I am sending out applications to financial internships.
Derrick’s father has arranged for a summer position at his firm. I have accepted and am changing my major to business. These teary-eyed beggars make me sick; I see them and think, why should lions weep for lambs? Commerce is the true agent of liberty! Yesterday I shook Donald Trump’s hand and gained an erection.
A dream! It was a dream! An illusion brought on by drink and cannabis! Derrick sought to test me, and I strayed! Oh, Anton! God is dead, or is he merely unfeeling? My professors have failed me—that is, I have not passed their classes—and I fear for dropping out! There is no recourse now but death! Anton! I bid you adieu! It has all been for naught—I shall never see you again, brother. This is my note.
Thank you for the letter. Glad you are having fun. Mom and Dad say hi.
Julien Darmoni is a writer and performer living in Brooklyn. You can follow him on Twitter.
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