Paying in quarters makes it less painful. A step closer to actual bills than nickels and dimes. Heavier in the hand to remind me of what I’m giving up. The price of bread, milk, tea, dinner for three off the dollar menu at McDonald’s. It’s harder to spend quarters frivolously and easier to keep them clenched in my palm until the hash-marked edges leave dents along my lifeline that won’t fade for hours. I think I can still feel them days later. The ghost of change where it would be a gift to be able to think of anything except how it might be to afford to leave town and never come back.
I know a rich boy. This rich boy is older than me but he acts four years younger because his parents are a doctor and a hedge fund manager and when his hours are short at work he’s gleeful. He’s never counted quarters to figure whether he could afford to spend time outside with his friends in an overpriced coffee shop at the expense of bread.
His life’s goal is to make a million dollars. Mine is to pay my bills on time, own a greyhound named Tilda, and have a savings account with more than $5 in it.
Funnily enough I’m closer to achieving mine than he is. Guess which one of us is happier.
The most brilliant woman to walk through the halls of my podunk women’s college was A– , a member of the Laguna Pueblo and Blackfeet tribes, if my memory serves. From the start she would proclaim this with the pride it deserved and from the start no fewer than half of us who heard it would look down on her as if she had taken from us something we should have had. The entitlement is strong among southern white girlchildren.
She was courage incarnate. Unafraid to attempt to expel nearly a dozen girls in one fell swoop for their racist parody script in Theater– they didn’t walk at graduation and their absence was marked by even the filthy rich donors, their sins made known through the almighty internet grapevine– while stubbornly double-majoring in English and Psychology and to top things off she had a baby her junior year, finished her degrees with a newborn on her hip.
“Grace” is too fragile a descriptor for this woman, let me tell you what.
Her family came together to bouey her. At least that’s how it appeared from the outside, from a distance, from my limited perspective hardly knowing her. They were on campus with hot food, with gifts, with affections. As guest speakers working to educate our sorry asses and as friends to those who were kind to their daughter. Even her boyfriend stayed at her side– I think in the end he married her. Oh how we lonely, unloved Others burned with envy, with jealousy, for what we thought we should have had. As if our wanting somehow warranted another’s deprivation. As if there should be a limit placed on the love in the world.
Last time I checked Facebook she was leaving Standing Rock– likely with her small human and family in tow. And to my classmates who sniffed in irritation every time we heard this woman proclaim her ancestry I have to ask, “What have we done since graduation?”