It all started in the athletics department, where I had planned to only get a couple of pair of pants for Zumba class. But then I saw the sport's bra, which I really needed. And then there was the figure-hugging fitness shorts, which I also really needed. And then I grabbed another pair of capris because they were cute and I need those too. Same with the halter top and the pair of Madden Girl flats. And as I was heading towards the cashier, arms filled to the brim with loot, that's when I saw dress.
Unlike the other stuff, I did not need the dress. I just wanted it. It wasn't anything too fancy: a floor-length form-fitting maxi in a zebra print with a hot pink woven rope belt and romantic butterfly sleeves with a deep cut down the sides to the waist. The quality of the dress, particularly the material, which felt more polyester than cotton, could have been better. But it was reasonable priced at $20 bucks, which likely meant that after a couple of washes it would look like I spent $12.50 on it. But when I tried it on and stared at myself through Burlington's security monitored doubled sided mirror, I couldn't help but to visualize all the “nice dress” comments I would receive from admirers and even envious onlookers, who too wished they had a $20 zebra-print dress.
Of course the common sense voice in the back of my mind was still talkin' shit, even as I tried to ignore it. It kept whispering, “but you can't afford this.” And also reminded me of my vow to be more fiscally responsible this month. Butthe spirited and foolhardy-side of me was like, “Girl, don't listen to that square. You don't go anywhere as is. You deserve that dress. And you need all of these things you picked up too. Yeah even that Hawaiian print beach skirt. Pick that shit up too.”
I have to say it was a pretty persuasive argument. One of the unintended side effects of a healthier diet and exercise, mixed in with a little poverty, is that I have no clothes to wear because nothing fits. Everything pretty much hangs off of my shoulders and is saggy in the butt, particularly my workout clothes. I spend most of my time in Zumba class (the only non-bill related treat I allow myself), pulling up my pants and reconfiguring loose bras so my titties don't go bouncing out of the cups during the Que Te Pica routine. At the very least I wanted some workout clothes. At the very least.
“The total is $82.59,” said the cashier in the bunny ears and warm smile. It was the day before Easter and although the lines were super long and impatient, she still managed to be so sincere in her enthusiasm to take my money. So I smiled back, mostly in appreciation before handing her my debit card.
She swiped the card looked at her terminal and back at me mournfully, “I'm sorry. It didn't go through.” I stopped smiling and instead set my expression to confused. I was certain I had money in my bank account. I mean I did buy that whole pineapple and the three piece with an extra biscuit from Church's Chicken- and that burger meal from Checkers, might have stretched my already thin budget over the edge. Those things I told myself I had deserved too, especially after a week of eating nothing, but a maffe, or peanut stew. The first two days it was delicious. But by Thursday, it felt like gruel. I wanted something different. Something fatty, sweet and definitely splurgy.
After all I deserve it right? I had been locked indoors since October 2012, writing all these damn essays, articles and book passages. Last week, I committed to updating my blog daily. I reworked my book proposal and query letter. I started a new project (which I will give more details about in a few weeks). Seriously, I am fucking busy every single day. Every single day.
Swipe it again?” she asked, relieving me from the neuroticism, which during stressful moments – like having your card rejected in front of a bunch of people - made it impossible for me to make on-demand decisions. I nodded and she swiped again. I was hoping that the optimism she displayed in the smile she wore would magically inspire my card to work. But a few seconds later, she handed me back my card,“Yeah, it is saying that it didn't go through.”
This time she offered no other solutions. Whatever way I was going to get my broke ass out of this had to be my own actualization
“Um, can you put that aside for me for a second. I'm just gonna run to this here ATM. I'll be right back.” is all I could come up with.
The cashier nodded and smile again, but this time it was a telling grin, which let me know that she knew, that I knew my ass wasn't coming back. However for the sakes of keeping up appearances, she smiled and I took the mall entrance out of the store and the long way around the parking lot towards my car. I figured I needed the walk to burn off that bit of embarrassment of being too poor for Burlington.
As I drove home defeated on a quarter tank, I started thinking on how much I really miss having a paycheck, which paid all the bills, put food on the table and allowed me to have extras like cheap zebra print dresses from a store that is primarily known for selling winter coats. Just get a job. You can always write on the side, is what I said to myself defeatedly. The real answer to that though was: but not really.
I hated working a 9 to 5. I hated it down to depths of my soul. Every professional job I had outside of writing, left me feeling depressed and unfulfilled. Worse, by the time I would get home at night from helping some other corporation or boss achieve their agenda, I was feeling too tired to really want to work on my own shit. I mean I did it. But none of it wasn't great – nor was it consistent.
I had thought that losing my full time gig, which left me most days feeling miserable, had to be a sign that I needed to recommit myself to my passion. That the Universe, in all of its infinite wisdom, was creating the space for me to advance what I had been doing part-time and sporadically into something more tangible. Lord knows those years of struggling as a local journalists had been less than kind. I thought this would be different. But almost one year-and-a-half of writing and creating, Now I'm starting to think the Universe doesn't know shit and is really just an asshole.
I got home, signed into my banking account via the computer and saw that sixty-two dollars and some change is all that remains in my checking's account. And it is only the 18th of the month. I still need gas and groceries. I still have my cellphone due. The cat food was almost gone too. And I still needed toilet tissue.
Not only can I not afford a pretty dress, but I can barely afford to keep up with the stripes I already have.