We went out this weekend for the very first time in our own city. It was January we moved here. It was nine months ago. It took us that long to finally crawl out of our cave and have some fun. That’s how long it takes, I guess, to get over being desperately poor. Because if you won the lottery tomorrow, spending money probably wouldn’t be the first thing you did. After you paid off your debts, you would sit on what was left over, for a long while, for months. You would hold on to it like the wind might just blow it out of your hands.
I had this dream once, years ago, that I was waiting at the bus stop, and as my bus pulled up, I helped this old man step off of it. He was wearing a brown hat with a feather in it, and carried a cane made of glass. He was so grateful for my help that he have me a tip. He gave me $100.
“You don’t have to do that,” I said, but I took the money anyway. It was such luck, I thought. It was fate. I needed to pay my rent the next day and I didn’t have any of the money for it. And after I had said thank you and got back in line to get on the bus, he called out to me, “Wait!” and he put $100 more in my hand. And then more. It was just as much as I needed to pay my rent. I said “You don’t know what a help this is! Thank you so much!” He tipped his hat and started to walk in the other direction.
And as I waited in line, I looked at the money in my hand. It had turned into shreds of newspaper and as I loosened my fingers around it, the wind lifted the paper into the air. The man was walking away, and every time he took a step, the sun gleamed off of his glass cane and burned my eyes.
I never knew what that meant.
But anyway, it was my birthday this weekend, 25 years old, and Jimmy took me out. Tuesday, we saw Coldplay in the leftovers of Katrina. Friday, we found a fantastic little martini bar, saw Broken Flowers at the art theater, and after that we wandered into Memphis Smoke for dinner and some great live music. And Saturday we met my family at the lake for a barbeque.
These are the things people do. This is how people have a good time. Does money buy happiness? I think having some money does. We’re not rich, we’re just normal. Upper-middle class suburbanites (though we’re still driving the janky car). Having no money is stress and worry, is the rent going to get paid, will we buy groceries this week? Even if you’re happy, if you’re in love, there is worry in your mind like sad background music. Money buys comfort, security. Money buys the things you need to allow you happiness. And then there are extras – concert tickets, dinner, movies, drinks, cover charges, nice clothes. Anything more than enough is just for fun.
But there is a weight hanging over this weekend because of everything that’s happening down south. And I’m really not meaning to sound selfish, but just noticing. People are out but feel guilty for celebrating. Profits from shows are going to help the victims, firefighters are standing on the side of the road collecting spare change and singles in their boots.
We’re having grilled hot dogs on Labor Day, and they can’t even have a shower and clean sheets. I don’t know how to feel about that.