Fuck me, it's already started. Today C. and I had our fourth fight about money in three days. It's mostly my fault and it's utterly predictable and I still can't seem to help myself. I'm such a raging cunt.
Thing is, I've been poor before. Back in college I used to dig through the sofa cushions for enough change to buy food and if I couldn't find it I'd steal something. I particularly liked stealing from the convenience stores on campus. I'd take the good shit, too -- killer sandwiches, organic juice, candy bars, danishes, coffee, flan -- and just stroll out the door with it. No one ever stopped me. I was invisible. Stealing gave me an angry kind of high, all puffed up on my own boldness and invincability, the stupidity and complacence of everybody else in the world, especially the other kids my age shopping and working at those stores, soft and groomed like over-bred dogs. I was so tough in my own mind in the those days. Little old Army of One.
Stealing made me feel poorer, and being poor made me feel weirdly privileged. Like it was OK for me to take advantage of other people, because they had it better than I did. Like if I was smart enough to take things, that was proof that I deserved to have them more than other people did. Bad, bad mojo. My karma is probably still in the red from the things I did in this phase of my life.
I also had a boyfriend/room-mate at this time who was fourteen years older than me and worked at the post office. He made twice the money I did as a graveyard-shift short order cook, but somehow he was always broke anyway. He rarely gave me a full month's rent, and sometimes he would wake me up in the morning to ask me for five dollars, ten dollars, like a fucking child, like I could just roll over in bed and pull the money out of my ass. I had actually started to hate him by the time we broke up. Sleeping with someone you hate is a rotten karmic practice also.
That was years ago. Still.
I knew this stuff would come up for me if I agreed to be the breadwinner while C. was in school, and it has. For the most part I've dealt with it OK. C. is a wonderful person and a supportive boyfriend, not a free-loader or a jackass or a deadbeat. And I'm not a dumb 19-year-old desperate enough for love and acceptance to buy it at inflationary rates. I'm much too clever and enlightened to let myself be so taken advantage of ever again, no way, never. This is what I tell myself. Meanwhile I look at all the other people tell themselves they'll never again make the mistakes they are at that exact moment engaged in making. And I think, holy crap.
I mean, we're not broke, C. and I. We just have to be careful. The day-job presently pays me an entry-level professional salary that would have seemed exorbinate to me back in my fry cook days, and if it's less than I was making a few months ago, well boo hoo. Most people can't make a grand in a weekend every time they feel like it. As long as I keep the mental abacus constantly running a tally of what we have and what we need and what we've spent, and don't get careless or indulgent, we're OK.
But the result of all this internal calculus is that we'll be at the grocery store and C. will ask me if we can get olives, and instead of just thinking it over and saying yes or no, I'll start to hyperventilate and wonder if he even really loves me. I freak out over ridiculous shit, and C. can't understand why, and thinks I'm a crazy woman, or maybe just a bitter cow being mean for the hell of it. But listen:
When I was small, I saw one of our barn cats taken down by a litter of her half-grown kittens. They were big enough to hunt, but they didn't feel like it and she still had milk in her tits, so they pinned her to the ground and sucked her dry. They did it every day, every time she walked across the yard, till she was skinny and her hair fell out. One day she disappeared. Probably she crawled under the barn and died, but I'd like to think she just said fuckit to the whole program and lit out on her own, and maybe she's retired in a condo somewhere in Florida.
I don't even know, man. I don't even know.