Remember how we’d sit around the kitchen table, drinking tequila from plastic cups till the sun came up? We’d scoff at the capitalist system, at money, and those helpless people devoted to it. You would roll cigarettes and we’d talk about Mao Zedong and Thomas Pynchon, and we’d laugh and imagine a life unburdened by all those ridiculous plastic notes.
My family empire was built on the ostrich boom of the 1990’s. Our finances rose and fell according to this market and eventually left three boys to wander this earth directionless and vague, without any clear path to economic stability. Last month, the youngest quit Crown Casino to rig roulette wheels and set up a greeting card business. There’s a poster in his room: “Entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to be their own wealth managers”. The eldest squats houses, is an animal minder, and has applied to be a cop despite the kinds of texts he’s been sending out at midnight.
Then there’s me, middle child, whose communist fantasies of my early twenties have manifested into stark, concrete realities. When I look out my window there’s a gigantic, grey wall reminiscent of post-war Berlin. The sun doesn’t come out here. Not on the bottom floor. There’s mould in the bathroom and little yellow worms in the kitchen. Every now and then, a faceless, uniformed figure from Body Corporate arrives to lift out any life growing near the apartments. When I walk out to check the soil I can see faces from the other windows, watching me, faint smiles of resilience.
All three brothers are on Centrelink.
I met a friend for coffee and he remarked that I looked like poverty. I agreed. My clothes were shabby and my beard unkempt. I kept fumbling my cigarettes in the rain, cursing. He smiled. He looked great. White teeth. Fitted shirts from Thailand. He was heading off to Paris for a conference on quantum mechanics. I remember when we used to drink Woodstock’s from his school bag and beat people up on weekends.
Then he told me something. He looked at his phone and told me Trump was going to win. Then everything changed.
My thoughts were immediately scattered, ill-conceived, and dangerous. I was Chris Christie, standing behind on Super Tuesday. I was Barack Obama’s perspiring forehead, under those lights shaking Trump’s hand. I was the angle of Lesley Stahl’s lips on ’60 Minutes’. The delirious pupils of Baron Trump on election night.
I staggered home in an ideological flux. I felt grotesque and sick and free and willing to explore any economic avenue of dubious legality. I’ve been scamming Deliveroo. My housemates. My family. I’m helping my friend sell pot. I signed up for a credit card. I sit in front of the TV all night and flick through infomercials, picturing a lavish life. A life devoted to the dollar. To the capitalist system that will act as a ladder over my concrete wall.
That night I dreamt I was a close adviser to Trump. I was leaning into his ear during press conferences. Finessing his early morning tweets. I was snorting cocaine off Eric and Ivanka then pacing The White House bleary-eyed and hard, thinking about walls, ISIS, Mexico, whatever the fuck. I was winding up the windows of his 50’s Rolls Royce making sure the wind didn’t ruin his hair.
Because the life of the con-artist has been vindicated. The charlatan. The demagogue. The sociopath. I’m unable to reconcile a democratic world view with this new swelling in my pants that demands I swindle everyone; any God damn chance I get.
So come around to my place. We’ll drink tequila like we used to. We’ll discuss ‘The Art of the Deal’ and pledge allegiance to that Yankee dollar. We’ll grab ourselves by the pussy, or the balls, or the gooch, and we’ll brace ourselves for a new age. The age of the confidence trickster.
Then I’ll slip you a Rohypnol, take your wallet, your phone, your keys, your shirt, and finally climb that wall.
It’s going to be tremendous. Just terrific. Beautiful.
Words by Gabriel Filippa