“Elites” by Maia Siegel

Maia Siegel


We argued over what an “elite” was
because you wanted to be included
in that category and I didn’t, because
I had branded myself as Appalachian
and poor in order to be different from
the billionaires I dated. I silently waited
for the billionaires to buy me things, but
they didn’t. I said I would let them have
my virginity if they bought me a boat, but
that’s not a gift, that’s a trade. If there’s any
thing a billionaire can do, it’s bargain. No,
barter. The billionaires would argue me down
to a jet ski and then I’d freak out in bed so
we’d never have sex anyway, and I’d never
get a jet ski. A jet ski is an elite purchase.
At first I tried to get them to buy me
a microwave and I felt so provincial
and cute and said things like We heat up
our food in pots and it takes a long time,
and I waited for them to offer up elite
kitchen appliances, but they did not.
I told you that elites all had microwaves
and fridges that make ice. We had neither
and we really did live in Appalachia, and
not in the nice area with the farm-to-table
restaurant, either. But we pretended like
this was all temporary and maybe even
ironic, because we were The New Yorker
subscribers, and we had even eaten
corn ice cream and charcoal ash
ice cream and ice cream with little bits
of meat in it. I liked to tell the billionaires
about the fancy ice cream we had tried,
how gold flecks honestly didn’t taste
so good. They tasted dull and metallic. Sort of
like blood, I guess. I waited for them to offer
to get me something really good, some rare,
rich sweetness. Maybe some of that adrenochrome
that conspiracy theorists say they have. They said
they were broke. They said that a lot. I told
my Appalachian friends about the billionaires
and they said I bought a belt bedazzled with tons
of little gems once, and that was when they knew
I was different. None of them had microwaves either,
or jet skis, and especially not bedazzled belts. I told you
we were not elites, but God did it feel good to think,
for a second, that maybe we had been them this whole time.

from Rattle #76, Summer 2022


Maia Siegel: “I like to tell people that poetry is ‘a quiet way to scream.’ To put it simply, I just can’t stop screaming.”

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