JOHN SAAVEDRA JR.
Student Voice Editor
Port Authority: A man with a black bag full of what smells like feces. White jacket, a sports team logo on the back. Young. Looks normal except for the horrible stench coming from his black bag. He cradles it against his chest as people pass by him on the escalator. I wonder what it could be. Maybe a head. Like a trophy. When Pompey was executed, his head was delivered to Julius Caesar, who cried for days on end and thought no republic is worth a man’s head.
Details: Researching the lives of the Caesars. Come to the conclusion that Suetonius was one of the first (if not the first) gossip writers in world history. Suetonius used the imperial archives and secondhand sources (word of mouth, stories, his imagination, his opinion) to create the comedy of their lives. He was Emperor Hadrian’s personal secretary, but was ousted when he began working on “De vita Caesarum” (“The Twelve Caesars”). He wrote completely subjective accounts about the first twelve Caesars.
Suetonius hated Tiberius, the second Emperor, so he described him as a half-mad, syphilis-ridden man who enjoyed watching performances that I can only describe as “sex circuses.” Gaius Caligula, Tiberius’ nephew and third Emperor, was also mad: he liked to sacrifice flamingos, tear down statues of Jupiter and make love to his sister. Caligula was the first Roman Emperor to be assassinated by the Praetorian Guard. Upon hearing of his nephew’s execution, Claudius, soon to be the fourth Emperor, hid behind a curtain for hours in the Palace. Claudius reigned for 13 years and was poisoned by his wife because he was an idiot.
Port Authority, again: A man watches people climb the escalator. He meets them at the very top. His face is shaped like a giant’s: protruding forehead and sharp jaw. Dumb eyes. Which is funny since he is a small man, very thin, wearing a white t-shirt and gym shorts in the middle of winter. His dirty mustache looks like a caterpillar that’s threatening to crawl off his upper lip and into his ear. The man must live in the terminal. His mouth ajar, he watches the people ascend onto his floor. The man with the bag full of shit passes by, but the little giant doesn’t seem to notice the smell. His face is stuck in a half-smile, half-glare as if someone had paused a television screen right in the middle of a transition.
All around him, the homeless sleep on every little open space in the terminal, sometimes barebacked, sometimes with a bag full of laundry, sometimes with little things to sell. Some men have bent their backs into a C-shape, their arms outstretched, eyes closed, mumbling a tune from the old days. These people were young once. This terminal was young once. But the little giant is wide awake. He’s not begging, mumbling, or cold. The little giant is watching. Women hold their handbags a little closer, squeeze their children’s hands tighter. Eyes become watery with frustration as they meet the little giant’s gaze. Tell me: who is the idiot?
Details, again: The Caesars were gluttons, sexually depraved, cruel, wise, and talented. Nero, the fifth Emperor, was a musician. He liked to perform in front of the upper class Romans for hours. He did not allow the audience to leave until he was done. Some women gave birth during the concerts and men faked their own deaths to escape. Nero fiddled as Rome burned. A great fire engulfed his city and he admired its beauty, the way it reminded him of the sacking of Troy. He fingered the lyre and it sounded like heaven.
Hoboken, Leprechaun Day: What can only be described as an extreme example of overabundant consumption and depravity. If anyone can remember their name after this day, it’s because their friends chase after them as they run drunkenly into the streets, which are covered in green flags and drunken bodies. Beer at 10 in the morning. Whiskey at 11. Bloody Marys, Irish coffee. Someone flaunts his bottle of Smirnoff. People serve shots, which contain vodka, a swirly drop of Grenadine and a gummy bear hooked to a paper clip. If someone offers you a chocolate-covered strawberry in Hoboken on Leprechaun Day, don’t accept it. They contain hollowed out strawberries filled with wads of mayonnaise covered in chocolate.
This is a day of madness… Do you ever live a day that when it’s over you feel like you dreamt it? Down and out by 3 p.m., giving off putrid smells as they lie on what they believe will be their deathbeds.
Details, finale: The most interesting stories about the Caesars are the ones in which they die. Several omens predicted the Emperor’s death: a bolt of lightning that struck The Capitol of Capua on the Ides of March, a comet flew over Rome, the statue of Jupiter at Olympia shrieked with laughter, a blackbird waited for him at his windowsill, blood splattered on his clothes as he sacrificed a flamingo. Suetonius says that Julius Caesar was handed a document describing the whole plot against him. He did not get a chance to read it before he was assassinated. The Praetorian Guard ran their swords through Caligula’s privates as he left the gladiatorial games. Nero, unable to escape the coup against him, took his own life.
Then the Year of the Four Emperors: Galba was murdered by Otho’s loyalists. Otho knew he would be murdered soon by Vitellius’ followers, so he contemplated suicide. He decided to sleep on it, a dagger under his pillow. The next morning he shoved the dagger through his chest. Vitellius was dragged through the streets of Rome by his people and tied to a post. The Romans took turns throwing animal feces at him before they killed him. Vespasian died of diarrhea.