Dear esteemed patron
The inspiring tale of a down-and-out spam email write who gets his groove back
“I feel sorry for the guy.”
Nathan paused outside his apartment door, wondering who could cause his Patrick Bateman of a college roommate and now-business partner to pretend to express pity.
“He seems so desperate,” another voice added, that of his current roommate and colleague, Eyebrows.
“But are you going to tell him that? Because I’m not,” added Bateman defensively.
Tell who what, Nathan thought to himself softly. He shifted the weight of a ten-pound bag of ice onto his left hip, pressing his opposite hip against the apartment door frame.
He’d done everyone a solid. Fetching ice isn’t something anyone wants to do in Februarian Manhattan, and he’d trekked down the treacherous, unsalted sidewalks of East 7th to pick up the very stuff that could cause him to eat shit. Irony was never lost on Nathan, even on a hungover Sunday.
“Maybe this is one of those times you let your friend fail?”
“That’s a thing?” Bateman asked to the void.
Nathan began to scramble to pull the keys from his wrinkly khakis pocket — though every internal instinct told him to continue to wait and continue to listen. But he was ashamed enough that he’d been eavesdropping in the first place. Everyone knows eavesdropping is a mistake.
“Nathan’s work has been a shitstorm,” pronounced Bateman after a pause. “Someone had to say it.”
And there it was. Disgust began to crawl up from the tips of Nathan’s second toes, through his Achilleses, weaving its way up his hamstrings until it rested like a cinder block in his stomach. Where an ovary might be if he were a woman, he mused.
Nathan knew his work had been slipping, but he was a natural. He’d received more industry awards in his rookie year than anyone since the advent of the industry. He thought he’d plateaued, which seemed like a thing for a natural to do, thinking of Allen Iverson as he often did.
To compensate, Nathan had started pushing himself. Sleepless weeks, Red Bull-induced hallucinations — all in the name of regaining his golden touch. He experimented with new and old tactics, revised and rethought strategy and relied on the lean amount of pure data his young industry could provide.
“He’s making us look bad,” ventured Bateman.
Of course, Bateman makes my bad work about himself, Nathan fumed. He placed the ice on the ground and pressed his forehead against the door, resting all of his weight on his big, stupid brain.
“Did you see what he sent out yesterday to our top tier email list?” Bateman continued, his voice rising like a fascist dictator on-a-roll. “No? Then I’ll tell you: He went Nigerian prince.”
Nathan heard Eyebrows spit out his drink; he sputtered and coughed like he’d possibly taken a bit of Scotch up the nose. Nathan then imagined Eyebrows spitting the whisky into his open eyes. Because Nathan’s eyes were burning now. He remembered that these were what tears felt like.
“I didn’t want to tell you, but last week he put animated emojis into a subject line,” Eyebrows disclosed.
After a few moments, in which Nathan was sure looks were exchanged, both Bateman and Eyebrows erupted into laughs.
That email had been a test, Nathan insisted, defending the passive aggressive accusations laid against him on the other side of the door. He’d be a fool not to test animated emojis in his emails, even if it was an gimme for spam filters. Kids loved them, research showed. And kids typically grasped the ingenuity to transfer large sums of cash into offshore accounts by tricking their parents into handing over crucial routing numbers.
“It’s really not funny,” continued Eyebrows, stifling his galumphing hee-haws. “He didn’t understand I was making fun of him when I asked if the student loan debt series had worked out.”
“Or when he wrote ‘guaranteed winner’ in a subject line?” Bateman guffawed, and Nathan could tell that the eternal dunce Eyebrows was struggling to breathe through his donkey laugh.
“In all caps!” Bateman managed to get out before allowing another round of heady laughter seduce him.
These cheap blows from two-faced friends made Nathan feel like he was being lowered into a vat of lime juice after being flayed with a rusty razor.
But maybe they’re right? Nathan thought to himself. And if they were right, then what did that mean for him? What if he was done phishing? What is a too-skinny white dude that dropped out of college supposed to do?
“Sell weed,” Nathan muttered aloud.
Maybe I didn’t mutter, he mused as he heard his comrades violent laughter immediately cut off.
Bateman peevishly cracked the door, Nathan’s head still resting against its over-painted coldness. Nathan lifted his head, scooting into the room and leaving the door open behind him.
“What did you just say?” Eyebrows asked weakly, unable to look directly at Nathan.
“I said, ‘sell weed.’” He didn’t feel a need to explain; they might as well think I’m crazy, too, Nathan reasoned.
Bateman maneuvered around Nathan to pick up the melting ice off the floor.
“So, I’m guessing you heard us.”
“You know you shouldn’t eavesdrop. You know you end up hearing things you don’t want to,” Bateman spoke softly, knowingly.
Nathan knew all-too-well what Bateman was alluding to: that time he returned from the library to hear his girlfriend express her “like” for Bateman. Nathan dropped out of Columbia the next day.
“Look, we’re just trying to be good friends,” said Eyebrows, breaking a pregnant silence. “Can I make you a drink?”
Nathan stared at him. “Friends,” he repeated back at Eyebrows.
“The reason we didn’t tell you is because we knew you wouldn’t take it well because you don’t take anything well.”
“Well,” Nathan mimicked.
“This is going to get really old, really fast,” snapped Bateman.
“Really old, really fast,” Nathan spat back into the tension.
Eyebrows and Bateman exchanged a look. What that look meant, Nathan didn’t know. But something about its lookness crushed every last bit of what Nathan let people assume he was.
He wasn’t okay with being walked all over. He wasn’t okay with being talked about by shitbag friends. He wasn’t okay with Eyebrows living rent-free in the flat he’d bought in Alphabet City — then insulting the work that had put them in un-dire, un-twenties-like financial stability in the first place. He wasn’t okay ever looking at Bateman’s smug, overconfident, beautiful face ever again. He wasn’t okay.
“Get the fuck out,” Nathan whispered.
“Dude, get over yourself,” Bateman replied.
“Get the fuck out,” Nathan said, now at a level, reasonable volume.
“Look, Nathan, you’ve lost your touch. We’re just trying to help. We’re just trying to be friends,” spineless Eyebrows appeasingly soothed.
“I need you to just pack your stuff up and get the fuck out of my apartment. You have until the end of the day,” Nathan said evenly, reaching to grab his messenger bag as he backed through the still-open door. “Or I’ll call the cops,” he added half-heartedly, feeling like it was a much-needed touch from what he’d learned on TV.
These people sucked, and he’d always known it. He was just trying to be nice, and, nearly three decades into his life, he was so sick of being so goddamned nice.
They broke me, Nathan thought.
And he knew the way to make it right. He knew what he needed to do to get his phishing groove back, too.
As he plodded down his walkup, Nathan realized he hadn’t trusted his gut in years, definitely not since meeting douchebaggy Bateman. What his gut was telling him now was that he’d forgotten the number one thing that had made him such a natural spam email writer: you need to make people trust you. He’d trusted Eyebrows and Bateman, and they’d taken advantage of him and his kindness. That’s exactly what I need to do now, he determined.
Nathan really didn’t want to sell weed. He loved the con. It made him feel like Danny Ocean, and that was important. And, like Danny, he knew just where to start: a short-con with immaculate payoff and no risk.
Nathan wandered down Avenue B until it became Clinton Street, where his cash-only coffee spot waited with open arms. These café people are okay to trust because they give me legally addictive stimulants, he thought. Nathan settled into a table for two just inside the door of Atlas. He nodded to the barista, who began putting together his large black cold brew. Mario would just add it to the tab he trued up on Fridays.
As he cracked open his laptop, Nathan wondered if what he was doing was right. Then, he remembered that he didn’t care.
Mario whistled at him, holding up a chocolate-almond croissant with shiny silver tongs. It was clearly the last croissant of its kind, a unicorn, and Nathan felt he needed a treat. Nathan shot Mario a double thumbs-up. He instantly regretted that move; in fact, he hated himself for it. He didn’t have time to dwell today though: he had some emails to write and fast.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Nathan kicked me out of the apartment. He’s completely lost it, and it’s left me in a really tight spot.
I know we’d discussed moving up the date I can access my trust fund over Christmas, and I think this is the perfect time to do it. Seeing as I need somewhere to sleep tonight, and you know I’m doing my best to make ends meet with this doctoral program, it’s as good a time as any.
To skip the hassle and the lawyers, you could just transfer some or all of the cash into this savings account that I set up: Acct. 00112345019264.
I’ll turn over the money tied up in the trust back to you when I turn 30 in a few months.
Love you guys, and thank you,
He continued with emails to Bateman’s divorced parents and older sister. He decided to neglect the younger brother in college — a waste of time. He was glad he’d taken the time to collect email addresses for Paperless Post Christmas cards a few months ago; that was one benefit of being too nice, he realized.
Seventeen-million dollars blinked to life in Nathan’s Cayman Islands account from Saeed and Salma Habibi. That should keep me going for awhile, Nathan thought to himself as he constructed an ask to Bateman’s jaundice maternal grandmother.
Rome would burn, Nathan smiled to himself. And he remembered he like it that way.