I used up all the money in my paycheck 10 days before the next one was due to arrive. Part of the reason for the lack of money was because I overdrew my checking account by three hundred dollars even before this current check arrived, and part was the result of a speeding ticket, brake repair, and a broken ball joint in my truck. And I had to pay two months of electric bills because I didn't pay last months bill plus a late fee.
I remember once that my paycheck was sufficient to easily pay for my bills, my food, gas, and pretty much everything I needed and still have some left over for savings or play money or whatever. Maybe pizza and a movie on Friday.
My paycheck hasn't changed, but here I am with ten days left till my next one arrives and I have nothing left. My goal isn't to save any money, instead my goal is to only have a small negative balance in my checking account, say $150 or less, instead of a large negative balance. But I have to pay the phone bill or it'll be shut off, and I have to pay the over-the-limit credit card or they'll jump my interest rate up to 25%, and at some point in the next ten days I might want to eat lunch. I'll wait till next month to get a hair cut, but I need one now. My right shoe has a hole in the bottom, but there's no way I'll be able to afford new shoes. Not for the foreseeable future.
There was a game that I played once, a long time ago, that had a little vending machine in it, and when you pulled the lever a coin would fall down into a little metal cup. If you picked up the coin and looked at it, the little message on it would say, "Your future is bleak." The coins always said that. I found out later that the bleak coin was the only option, so no matter how many times you tried, your future was always going to be bleak.
That's how I feel. The future is bleak.
I get payed what I consider to be a pretty decent wage but my wife stays home with the baby so she's not bringing in any money and the bills just keep piling up. And she's depressed and hates doing housework and doesn't like cooking and is being eaten up by the lack of money to the point where we start fighting almost from the moment I walk in the door until finally one of us falls asleep exhausted on the couch. We never go on dates, we never rent movies, we don't even have cable because we can't afford the fifty bucks a month. The only thing we have left to do for entertainment is have sex, but who wants to have sex when you're fighting all the time.
She thinks the answer is religion. And it's not good enough to just go to church, you believe it and live like you believe it and have this huge mountain of faith and desire and yearning for God to answer your prayers and give you blessings. And she wants me to be like this, she wants me to want it, she wants me to lead her to God because she can't do it by herself.
So when I get home and sit down on the couch, sweaty and wasted after an hour long drive in my truck with the broken air conditioner and a heat index of 109 degrees and she asks if I'm ready to go to prayer meeting, it takes me a minute to answer.
She sees it in my face that I don't want to go and before I even have the words formed in my mouth she's angry with me and spins around and walks away, seething with resentment because I'm keeping her from finding God.
She's been home all day with a crying, colicky baby and a three your old girl and a five year old boy that fight and scream at her and each other all day. The house is trashed. Food, toys, books, little pieces of paper and other trash are everywhere. There is a squashed apple core on the seat of the couch beside me, and in the corner of the couch is a plastic bear shaped honey container that is half full. Yesterday evening it was all the way full when I bought it at the grocery store on the way home.
I lift it out of the couch and a string of honey follows it up in the air. The string disconnects then swings in toward me and leaves a sticky yellow line on my last clean pair of pants.
Time to do the laundry.
I trudge upstairs to the bedroom and find the floor completely covered in dirty laundry with two empty laundry baskets in the corner. My wife must have been looking for something to wear. I gather up a few crumpled shirts and pants into one of the laundry baskets and add in some underwear and socks and trudge back down to the laundry room.
The jug of laundry detergent is empty, but my clothes are mostly alright and just need a rinse anyway, so I load them in and start the wash.
The kitchen is empty.
Technically it's only empty of people. The rest of it is full if you count all of the pots, pans, dishes, plates, and cups that we own dirty and stacked on the counter top with food splattered all over the stove. My wife's not there, but the kitchen table has a whole container of apple sauce poured out into the middle with little hand prints that obviously used it as finger paint. There's a nice picture of an apple sauce tree and an apple sauce house.
I walked back to the living room and looked out the window and saw that my wife's car is gone and from the fact that nobody is screaming or crying about Mom leaving, I can assume that she took all three of the kids. She must have left when I went upstairs to gather up dirty clothes.
I didn't even get to say hello to the kids.
My stomach rumbles because I hadn't eaten anything yet that day except for three peanut M&Ms, so I pick a spoon out of the forest of dirty dishes and clean it off, then I sit down at the dinner table and spoon up the apple sauce and try not to think about where the little hands that made the hand prints might have been before they painted the house and the tree.
I spoon up the apple sauce and plop it into my mouth and it tastes like ashes.
Ashes, ashes, dust dust dust.
Elbow, elbow, wrist wrist wrist.
Smile and lift your head up high and it will be alright.
I can hear the washing machine beep, so I lift my head up and find that I've eaten all of the apple sauce, leaving little spoon tracks running around the table where I couldn't quite scoop up the last little bits. The laundry room is full of musty heat, and as I move my clothes over to the dryer I find myself singing the Band aid song over and over in my head.
"I am stuck on Band-Aid cause my Band-Aid's stuck on me."
Maybe if I do some dishes she'll be pleased enough when she comes home that she'll talk to me. That way we can get in a fight before we go to bed.
I walked upstairs and laid down on the bed and fell asleep without switching on the alarm clock.
I slept all the way through the night and woke up with sunshine flooding through the window into my face. If the sunshine was on my face then I was going to be late for work. I looked over at my wife and saw that she was naked with the baby plugged into one of her breasts. The were both snoring softly.
I loved them dearly then. Loved them with all of my heart. They were so beautiful and peaceful.
I reached over and gently stroked my wife's head.
She jerked her head away from me, swatted my hand with hers, and opened her eyes briefly to glare at me. Her movement woke the baby who clamped down on my wife's nipple with her teeth causing my wife to screech and pull the baby away. The baby cried and my wife started crying then scooped up the baby and rolled over onto her side, away from me, and plugged the baby into the other breast.
She said, "Your better get moving or you're going to be late."
The drive in to work was normal. I'd have to get gas on the way home, and without any money left in the bank account I'd get an extra $25 overdraft charge. Nine more days till the paycheck came.
At work I pushed papers around and fixed some problems and tried to get by without thinking that I was going to be pretty hungry by the time lunch rolled around.
"Hi Jerry, whatchya working on?" Blue eyes topped by perfectly arched eyebrows and curly blond hair peeked over my cubicle wall.
"Nothing much, Telly, how're you?" I asked.
"Great! Mike's got me working on a variance report and it's really hard. He said if I get stuck I should ask you because you're the expert."
I smiled. "Sure, Telly. Just let me know if you need anything."
"Thanks, Jerry! You're the best!" Her eyes sparkled then she disappeared.
Telly was Mike's intern that he was training. She was some kind of physical education major in college, and I swear that Mike only hired her because of her tight little body. Or maybe he hired her because she was a flirt. Thing was, that once she was hired, it turned out she was some kind of genius with numbers, and she knew how to write code as well. He had planned on using her as a glorified secretary and eye candy and ended up loading some of his toughest projects onto her.
The guys in the office were all a little bit in awe of her, and insanely jealous of Mike.
She showed up a few minutes later with a stack of papers and chair from the conference room.
"Can I bother you now?" she asked.
I nodded, "Sure, Telly."