“Nothing Weighs More Than a Check” | #EatADick

By Andersen Richards

February 3rd, 2016

I stood outside the ATM last night punching the frame as hard as I could.

I stood there punching until security rolled up and I ran off.

Today I can’t close my left hand all the way.

Monday night I had been paid for the first time since I was fired from my old job. They cut me a check and told me to stay away. But Monday, my boss paid me in cash. Normally I spend less than three dollars at Taco Bell and eat my dinner in a dark parking lot somewhere. Monday night I went and I got a real burrito. Sure, I still slept in my car but at least I was full. I had breakfast the next day instead of a few handfuls of the trail mix I keep in the center console.

Tuesday I got paid, I took what was left from the day before and I deposited.

The ATM read I had a zero balance.

There was hardly any gas in the Bronco. I should have gotten gas first.

So I drove about a mile or two from where I work and slept there instead of the nice, private spot I usually hide in. There was barely enough gas to get there, anyway. Afterwards, money in my hand again, I put it all in the tank. And this is a Ford Bronco, mind you. All the money I made today took me to the halfway point in the gas tank.

Throughout the day, during any break I could take, I called my mother’s office to make an appointment with her. Apparently they don’t want me in the building. My mother’s receptionist told me she would meet at the Starbucks in Hillcrest. “Here’s the check,” was the first thing she said to me.

Yes, as embarrassed as I am to admit it, my mother has been helping me financially. “I got job, Mom.”

“Great, I’ll write you a new check for the right amount. How much do you have?”

“I don’t have anything.”

“When do you get paid next?”

“Tomorrow. I get paid every day.”

“So why don’t you have any money?”

“The state says I didn’t file my taxes in 2012. They said they sent me a few letters. Ever since my apartment I’ve had my mail going to your house since it’s so close.”

“I know. Martin checks the mail.”

“Well, what I mean is, nobody told me the tax board was looking for me. So they froze all my assets. Or just the one I have, I guess. They said they needed five hundred dollars from me.”

“But you’re working now.”

“Right, but I’m… I’m working now.” Mom isn’t a rigid person. I’ve seen her at parties, with her friends. With my sister. She’s still the person she used to be. Just not with me. “Do you want to sit for a bit?” I asked.

“It’s late, Andersen. I have to get home.”

“I was hoping I could ask you for a loan in a week or two, help me to get a security deposit somewhere.”

“Why don’t you just room with one of your friends?”

“My friends beat me up. They tried to turn me in.”

“Not all of your friends. Surely there’s someone who will let you stay with them.”

“It wouldn’t a lot that I’m asking, Mom. And I’ll pay you back.”

“Martin has already started to notice the amount I’ve been giving you. I really don’t think it’s a good idea to give you anymore.”

“But it’s your money. You make more money that he does.”

“When you’re married you make decisions together, Andersen. There’s no room for being selfish.”

“I love you, Mom. I’m grateful for everything you do for me. I just… I was hoping to get out of the car soon. It’s been so cold at night. Since I can’t stay with you I just thought it might be nice-“

“Why don’t you stay with your father?”

“I don’t want to watch my father die every day on top of everything else.”

“You need to be grateful for what I’m already doing for you, then.” She zipped her purse and turned away.

“Mom, what did I get out of it?” She stopped. I didn’t expect her to stop. I didn’t even mean to say what I said, it just burst out, a groaning exclamation like when someone knocks the wind out of you. If she hadn’t, I would have never said another word. “What did I get when you went back to school?”

“I was doing that for us.”

“What I get spending my childhood in after school care because you wouldn’t let my Dad take care of me.”

“He abandoned us. And he was sicker then than he is now.”

“What did I waiting for you to stop studying and come watch the movies you rented?”

“If you hadn’t dropped out of college maybe I’d explain it to you. You don’t know what it’s like-“

“You weren’t paying for college. I was. So what do you care?”

“You don’t have a future, Andersen. You don’t have a future and you blame everybody but yourself for that. You have anyone to blame but yourself.”

“It used to be just you and me, remember? Do you remember before Martin? Do you remember waking me up after I’d put myself to bed and saying you were doing it for us?”

“I was doing it for us. I was doing it so we could have a better life.”

“Like what? Like a house with my own room? I had that for four months before you got pregnant and had me sleep in the garage so the baby could have a nursery. So we could travel? We never went anywhere, not like the life you’ve given my sister. Not like the trips the three of you go on without me.”

She slapped me across the face. People looked. No one said anything. “I made sacrifices.”

“You married a man who hated that you had a son. And rather than let me go to live with my father, you just let him make it clear I wasn’t supposed to leave the garage.”

“You led a charmed life,” she told me. I don’t know if my face was read, but the skin burned and my eye watered from where I felt the band of her ring scrape across.

“You said that with a straight face,” I said.

She bit down on her lip, raised her eyebrows and looked down at the ground. “I’m glad you got a job,” she said and turned away.

Normally I try to be a little more detailed about the things that happen.

This was all I could really muster tonight.

I think I’m going to throw up.

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