Yesterday was a very expensive day.
The City of Los Angeles wants two years of back business taxes from me, since I work at home. Did you know this? As a writer, you owe money to the city so that you can work at home. I have to file two years of back taxes. Luckily, since I don’t make a dime from the city, I don’t have to declare the entire amount, but pay taxes on a percentage. But still. There goes Christmas.
“Just work it, girlfriend,” the tax lady on the phone told me. “You know how it goes. Say ‘My baby’s sick’ or ‘My husband’s in jail’ or whatever it takes to get an extension or a payment plan or whatever. You’re a writer,” she said to me. “Write yourself an excuse.”
Then the Santa Ana winds rushed through the house so hard that windows smacked open, leaves blew into my kitchen, the cats freaked the hell out, and some kind of tree sliced a gigantic scratch along the side of my car. Yay!
I suppose if I had the money to get the car detailed, perhaps someone could buff out the scratch. But for now, it looks like someone keyed my car. A palm tree keyed my car. Outside looks like a tornado hit. It’s insane.
Add to that my unemployed friend got one year older, another one got her car booted, another one didn’t get the paycheck he was expecting and you’ve got some taxed and broke-ass kids wondering how the hell they’re going to make it though the year.
I was talking with a group of near-strangers the other night when the subject of politics came up. One was making that current conversation taboo of bitching about Bush in mixed company. You apparently can’t do that so easily these days. I’ve seen comics get booed for making Bush jokes. Anyway, he made the even bigger mistake of complaining about Clinton, which caused the rest of us to throw up our arms in outrage.
“What was so great about Clinton?” he asked me.
“All I know,” I said, “is that every day that man was in office, I had a job. A good-paying, 401K-having, medical and dental included, paid vacation, sick day having job, when I only had an acting degree. Where they trained me, gave me raises, gave me an office, and I never worried about making rent.”
The stranger beside me high-fived me and then we did the “I miss having money” dance together.
“I miss that man,” he said. “I miss having a job. A real job. A job where I had so much money!”
“I miss money!” I wailed.
“Oh, I miss money so much!” he shrieked.
“Remember how good it smells?”
We all inhaled.
“Remember how it’s sometimes all dirty? With like, someone’s blood or chocolate stains on it? And you’d be able to find a cleaner bill in your wallet? You had the option of a straighter bill when you were at the vending machine?”
“Remember being able to afford using a vending machine for an impulse Snickers?”
“Oh, shit, I miss the impulse Snickers.”
“Hey, remember how sometimes money had phone numbers on it? I should have called those phone numbers. Maybe those people had more money.”
“Remember putting money in boxes and hiding it for rainy days?”
“When will the rain stop, girl?”
“I don’t know! It’s been raining for two years!”
“Two motherfucking years. I am drowning.”
How can one day cost so much money when I didn’t even do anything? Two years ago I bought a car and moved to Los Angeles, and this month I have to pay some kind of penalty for all of that? Why a scratch and a letter from the tax office? And why hadn’t anyone told me about this tax over the past two years? I go to H&R Block for a reason. Why am I paying them to do my taxes if there’s just going to be even more taxes when I want to buy Christmas presents?
“I miss money.”
“I miss money more than I miss my jobs.”
“Oh, you gotta have more than one job these days.”
“I know. I had three once.”
“Yeah. Four jobs. I lost two jobs on one day last year.”
“Now how are you supposed to prepare for that?”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
“Two jobs in one day. That’s hard.”
“Hey, what’s that by your foot?”
“I think it’s a piece of gum stuck to the concrete.”
“Damn. I thought it was money.”
“It does look a little like money, doesn’t it?”
“So what are you going to do for Christmas?”
“I’m planning on writing people letters, listing off shit I can’t buy them.”
“That’s what I did last year.”
“What will you do now?”
“I’m gonna draw pictures of shit I can’t afford.”
“Smart. You can draw?”
We’re just trying to do the right thing. We all work really hard. We work harder than anybody I know. Look at you, working your ass off, trying to please the man so you can answer your cell phone when your girl calls and tells you to pick up milk on the way home.
When we found out how much the boot was going to cost to come off my friend’s car, I saw this look in her eyes, this darkness come over her face. It was right then that I saw how people talk themselves into robbing banks.
“Remember when we used to buy shit off the internet for people? Like, those wishlists at Amazon and stuff? You know how we’d just buy stuff for near strangers, just because they made us smile, or they said something nice about us once on a forum.”
“Jesus, so much money spent on strangers.”
“I did a Christmas card exchange once. Cost me eighty dollars in stamps.”
“Stamps. Not food. Stamps.”
“I miss money. What am I supposed to do for a job?”
“What is it that you do?”
“I’m a web designer.”
“Oh, that’s rough.”
“Any other skills?”
“I’m a freelance writer.”
“No, I mean, shit that’ll get you paid. With like, a boss and a weekly paycheck.”
“You get paychecks every week?”
“I hear some people do.”
“I know. It’s the American Dream, my friend. So, what else can you do?”
“In high school I worked at a movie theater.”
“That’s a start.”