Dollars & Cents

“What? What did you say? I can barely hear you. Are you chewing?”

“I’m eating toast, but I’m almost out,” I tell my mother. “Just ordered groceries, so now I am officially broke.”

“You were broke last month…” she says gently, unaccusingly.

I feel bad. “It’s my own fault. All the online shopping. I don’t have any fall or winter clothes, and it suddenly got cold and I looked stupid. I never cared about clothes.”

“No, you never did.”

“Right, but now I feel like I’m playing a part in some shitty movie.” I wipe crumbs off my lip.

“Please don’t curse at me.”

“Sorry.” I swallow the last of my toast and switch the phone onto the other ear. “But it’s true. I feel like I’m acting out this role of magazine publicist. Every time I go to a party and get an onslaught of business cards, or meet these New York media darlings, or whatever, I’m waiting for someone to throw me out. But they don’t. Like, I play the part so well everyone believes it. And a lot of it is the stupid attention to detail.”

“Like clothes.”

“Yes, exactly. And it’s stupid, because I still really don’t care. And I don’t even look great, but now I’m shallow. And broke.” At this point I’m whining.

My mom sighed. “I’m sorry I can’t take you shopping.”

“What are you talking about!” I scoff. “I’m 24. I don’t want you to take me shopping. I want you to pump cash into your retirement fund.” I mean this.

“I know, but I wish I could help you like a lot of your friends. I wish I could help you with your rent, or let you charge your groceries, and buy you new boots– you said you needed new boots, right?”

“Yeah.” Now I’m an asshole, and I know it.

We pause. I don’t know who feels more guilty at this point, me or her.

“Mom,” I say, “I don’t need your support. I just get jealous sometimes, you know? This city is too green. Too much money and too much jealousy. Much too green.”

She laughs. “Well at least it’s all this guilt is environmentally friendly.”

“Right! So don’t worry about it.” Which was to say: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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