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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

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It had been another one of those nights at the house. He and his wife had argued again. Money. It was always about money. For some reason, people who are good with money always pair off with people with no fiscal discipline. In this particular marriage, he was the one with the money sense.
This fight had been particularly bad. Jimmy was on schedule to get paid the next day, which was a good thing, as the rent was due three days from now. Doreen was between jobs, which was the way people politely tapdanced around the fact that she was unemployed. To add to the fact that Doreen was now suddenly not generating revenue into the house, any money within her reach disappeared as if scattered into the ocean like an urn full of ashes. As much as Jimmy tried to make ends meet, Doreen was foiling his every good thought with one of her own. Today, Jimmy had walked through the front door of their modest rented house and was greeted with a new television set. Doreen, unbeknownst to Jimmy, had decided to rent to own without telling him. He blew up like he had so many times before. How were they going to afford the payments on this, in addition to the payments on his truck, the rents, the utilities, the phone?
Doreen countered by telling Jimmy that as long as she was out of work, she might as well have something nice to watch. Jimmy vainly tried to explain that her energies should be focused on finding a job. Doreen began to nearly cry, following her tradition of not fighting fair to the utmost. Jimmy yelled that the television was going to be returned tomorrow. Doreen yelled twice as loud that it was staying. Jimmy stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him, the vibration on the paper-thin walls knocking one of Doreen's collecible plates off of the living room wall.
Seven hours had passed. Jimmy now found himself in front of a drive-up automatic teller machine. It was almost 1:30 in the morning. He had been here for fifteen minutes without completing a transaction. The screen welcomed him to the bank with the entreaty "PLEASE INSERT CARD" in big, green computerized letters. His wallet was in his lap, beaten and fat with business cards, photos he never looked at, his ATM card and assorted five- and one-dollar bills, which were stuffed into it in no particular order.
He sat with his truck in park, staring straight ahead, tapping his wallet on his right leg. He had been here before after midnight. He had trouble finding a place to think after he and Doreen quarreled. He had a recurring dream when he came here. He told himself that he was going to put his ATM card into the machine, take all the money out of the checking account and leave. He and Doreen had no children yet, so he would just leave and not look back. He would teach Doreen a valuable lesson about what is was like to really not have money. By the time her credit was irreparably damaged and she was living out in the street, she would beg him to come back, and he would say no. That would show her.
The plan only had one small obstacle to overcome. For her many faults and through her appalingly poor judgment, Jimmy loved Doreen. It wasn't a poetic love made of a young man and woman, full of life and happiness, running across flowery fields into each other's arms. I was a love of habit and comfort. They had been together so long that they would hardly know what to do with themselves if the other suddenly wasn't there. As much as Jimmy yearned for peace, far away from Doreen's impulsiveness and fiduciary recklessness, he knew that they were meant to be together. They had been together since they were 16, never leaving the town they grew up in, knowing each other as familiarly as their surroundings. Jimmy;s heart was out beyond the town and back in the living room with Doreen at the same time. Left to his own devices, he could never leave. Anyone who knew him would have a hard time believing that Jimmy would be in any other place.
Jimmy saw headlights in his rearview mirror. Another car would soon want to use the ATM. If he were ever to put his well-practiced fantasy into action, now was the time. He put his card into the ATM. It asked him for his PIN number. As always, he punched in 1-1-0-9. November 9th was his wedding anniversary. The gravity of entering those numbers struck him for a moment.
He pushed the button next to "RECEIVE CASH" and paused as the account choices appeared on the screen. His face turned sad and full of regret. Tonight, like so many nights before it, wouldn't be the night. He hit the button marked "CANCEL" and took back his ATM card. He rolled up his window and began the three-mile drive home. Doreen would be up and waiting when he got home. They'd both apologize, with Jimmy deferring his dreams in silence for another day.

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