November 22, 2008 § Leave a comment
We’re all scared about the economy, some more than most. I’m not an auto-worker or single mother; I’m in no danger of being homeless. I’m a member of that unlamented breed, the formerly privileged—having always depended on money from inherited stock to keep me barely middle class through a life of writing, depression, chronic illness and a deep-seated terror of men with angry voices. In my youth, I thought every job came with a boss like that. Recently, my boyfriend Philip assured me that, in fact, most do.
My mother is in the same pickle, though she won’t admit it yet, and it’s a little worse when you’re 83 and not really qualified for phone sex jobs. My brother thinks we should all move in together in her big, unpaid for, not-worth-what-she-owes-on-it house. I imagine a second childhood—hers and ours—where we’d learn the character-building truths somehow neglected in our education. Either that or set upon each other with axes.
My neighbor, also in financial distress, tells me that he’s going to kill himself soon. He tells me this often. People confide their suicidal thoughts to me because I listen without recoil. My father killed himself when I was 10, and in the next decade I knew half a dozen people who killed themselves: two husbands of my mother’s close friends; two teenage brothers I’d met a few times while we visited their home in Houston, and lusted after; one I’ve forgotten; and my schoolfriend’s aunt, who used to drift around the dinner table of her father’s elegant house, neither eating nor talking except once when she halted behind my chair and touched me on the shoulder, pronouncing, ‘watch out for this one.’ I doubt anyone heard her but me. I was spooked by how she knew, without ever having a conversation with me, that I was also profoundly disturbed.
Philip’s wife once said to me, “Nobody kills themselves for love.” I looked at her incredulously. “Well, unless you’re depressed; that’s different. Then you need help.” Indeed. It’s easier to imagine dying over money. There’s no niggling feeling that the bastard isn’t worth it, no pathetic transformation into the martyred lover. There are just numbers and though numbers do lie, frequently, you can’t really take it personally.
My neighbor and I discuss methods. I remind him that overdosing on pills can leave you brain-damaged. He’s more worried about who’ll take care of his white cockatoo. I consider it a good sign he’s not planning to take her with him, perched on his shoulder in the coffin, ready to sink her wicked beak into any welcomers on the other side.
Philip called me just now to say Obama had announced his Treasury Secretary, exciting Wall Street. He thought maybe my stock had shot up to the moon, and when I told him I’d sold some this morning, he asked if I could buy it back. Yesterday he was infuriated with me for not selling it sooner. Charles left a message on my machine telling me he was watching the market news, and the woman anchor was wearing an ugly necklace. One of my handmade pieces would look much better. “We’ll have to work on that. I bet she’d pay more than $45.00.”
My mom says, “You should ghostwrite for Sarah Palin.”
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