did you see me?

I was explaining that, with this plan, they could afford bananas, beans, rice… maybe even some mac and cheese.

“It’s okay,” the girl’s friend said. “You can put butter and parmesan in the macaroni and it makes it a lot better. I do that when I baby sit.” They both went with the thrifty plan.

During today’s reality fair, I was manning the groceries station — asking high school kids holding worksheets what their fictitious situations were (married or single? any kids? how much disposable income?) and then lightly advising them.

As they traveled the room making decisions re: housing, transportation, clothing, and etc., they fell anxious at times and grew giddy at others (depending on a few things: circumstance, chance, and repercussions of the choices they’d made).

IMG_6585
this was on the wall, just outside of the library

Anyways, at the groceries station, food options ranged from the thrifty plan (basic necessities from Walmart or Piggly Wiggly) to the liberal plan (frequent meals out and tasty treasures from places like Sprouts and Whole Foods).

“And you’ve gotta keep in mind,” I kept telling the kids, “that although the figure for the thrifty plan is ATTRACTIVE, you probably love food like I do and want to be happy with your choices — right? Try to balance economy with diversity and health, and keep in mind, too, that it’s not just YOU that you need to consider; if you’re married or have kids, your family members are going to have preferences, and they may not be as disciplined and committed to the thrifty plan as you are.”

I was pleasantly surprised that about half of the kids admitted they’d need a moderate to liberal budget for food. Realistic. There was this one kid who’d opted for a super expensive car and could only afford the thrifty meal plan for himself and his daughter.

“You could always revisit the transportation station — make a different decision that frees up some cash?”

“No, that’s alright. She’ll be fine.”

Well then. 

The insurance station was right beside mine and tended to get traffic-y, so I stepped over a few times to break it down: home, car, and health insurance were required while dental was optional.

“Worksheet says you’ve got a kid,” I said to one guy who was deliberating. “Say she gets a toothache; you wanna take her to the dentist to have it taken care of or just pry the tooth out at home?”

“I’ll pry it out.”

“Alrighty then. We’ll skip dental.”

When I worked an event like this in Chelsea last month, I’d been given the childcare station. I remember one kid walking up, sighing at the figures on his chart, and asking: “Can I just smother the child?”

“Nope,” I responded promptly, eyeing the little jokester-slash-possible-sociopath carefully.

Another kid in a tracksuit and afro (who’d just finished visiting each station) had strutted across the gym afterwards, singing: “LOOK good, FEEL good, GOT ten dollars…” I loved his spirit so much that I may tattoo his words on someday. Because he got it right, damn it. Damn right.

One of the last girls I helped today frowned as she calculated things. “I think I’m going to be broke,” she said.

“That’s okay,” I said. “As long as you’re happy.”

I really enjoy working with these kids. They’re funny, nervous, excited, weird, and they’re all going to change sooooooooo much over the next several years. I’m glad they’re mentally bracing themselves for this world of finance they’re about to fall into, but I also can’t help but wonder how we’re preparing them for the confusion and heartache and loneliness and uncertainty that all lie ahead.

**

I thought I had four dates scheduled for this week slash weekend when I realized, early this morning, that I’d forgotten about the fifth.

I met a guy for fancy grilled cheeses on Wednesday night. He was a sweetheart who was nervous about making eye contact, and I was extremely excited to learn all about his time working on boats (as you may recall, I have a small dream of boarding a carrier ship someday and sailing to Europe upon it). Along with a few Kid Cudi song suggestions, this Wednesday guy was able to give me lots of helpful info re: boats, like licensing requirements, how to generally conduct yourself on a boat, and what kinds of things one might experience while at sea.

“My first week, we came up on an abandoned boat. Found the guy it belonged to and my captain charged him a finder’s fee — we all got an extra three hundred bucks that week,” he smiled. He also shared stories about catching a shark (on accident) and putting out a rope fire (quite deliberately). Again, a real sweetheart, but he wasn’t the fish for me (haha — catch the nautical reference?).

I met another guy for Indian food last night. What was interesting: I immediately felt at ease around him — this random bartender from New Jersey who’s now joining the police force. Super handsome and confident; deep, gravelly voice. He talked about working out daily and driving over salt flats in Arizona once at one hundred and twenty, and I thought to myself that this was much too fast. He was well-spoken and strong, but my masala was spicier than we were (is that lame? I’m really trying for fun references here).

I’m going to a storytelling event solo tonight before embarking on those three other dates this weekend (I’ve got double duty on Sunday — oops), and I’m going to try very hard to NOT think about CK this evening. I’d invited him to go to this event with me before weirdly and sadly and rashly breaking up with him, but he’d said he couldn’t go, anyways, because of some farewell shows his friends would be playing.

I was talking to a respected guy friend about CK earlier. He agreed that this dude had pushed things along quickly, just as I had, but disagreed with my opinion that he should have agreed to date just me so early on in the relationship. He talked a lot about balance; about compromising my needs and sense of comfortability with someone else’s. And the guy I’d gotten Indian food with the night before was a Libra who’d also talked about the importance of balance. Weird.

Anyways, after our conversation, I was driving downtown when this song by Queen came on: Under Pressure. It sounded like a song he’d like.

So I pulled up our old thread and was just about to send the song along with a text that read I’m sorry and I miss you and can we please keep listening to records and being dorky and getting to know each other? when I imagined him happily on a date with someone else — someone pretty and cool and not crazy clingy and DEFINITELY not stupid-emotional. I deleted the text and continued on my way.

IMG_6597
rose tea before live stories

***

In last night’s creative writing class, we workshopped seven stories. Something is staying on my mind, with one of them.

It was Jackie’s story about a single mom who, discovering she’s pregnant (again), is considering an abortion while driving to her daughter’s ballet thing. She gets there late with a bear in her arms — the show’s already ended. The kid seems happy enough anyways and asks if she can have chicken nuggets for dinner.

A classmate who felt the daughter’s reaction wasn’t realistic suggested tweaking the ending a little.

“At this age, the child needs to notice and wonder about these things. I’d suggest putting the narrator in a hard place where she has to decide between making the kid happy and being honest with them by having the little girl ask the mother: Did you see me? Could you see me up there?”

When she said this, I felt like crying. It’s hard to explain. But maybe you can feel it too?


Still here,
Aun Aqui

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