Eleven Dollars

When I decided that DC was my home, I packed up my car and left Texas behind. I’d secured a room in a house in Silver Spring that was already furnished, and I just took enough clothes for a week. Anything else that I needed from my parents’ house could be mailed. That’s what we did. For months on end, I received boxes that contained things I’d forgotten about. If I asked for one thing, the box still came full, because it was a waste of space not to pack it full. It was going to be $11 either way. It became a running joke between my dad and me…. “you’re moving $11 at a time.” One box would have boots in it, and then a purse I hadn’t used since 2003 and a half-tube of Chapstick (that I still have and it is still delicious, thank you…. it’s cherry.) If I wanted something, I accepted the randomness that came with it. The $11 box never changed, but the value of the contents were never the same total.

I’m in that relationship right now, a friendship that I want to grow to be as big as anything in my life. At this point, I can’t tell you what that means. I just know that Daniel has been my friend since second grade, and some of the countries I want to visit would shit a brick at me traveling alone, or see me as traveling alone anyway if I brought the woman I was dating. You can’t just walk up to someone you haven’t known since second grade and say, “I really want to go to the Middle East, Viet Nam, and Cambodia. I am a woman first of all and a lesbian second. You don’t happen to want to travel, do you?”

My friend Gabriel already lives in Cambodia and I just dropped a truth bomb on him, too. “My work in progress is set in Viet Nam. Can I come live with you for a few months? I have some work I need to do locally.” Gabriel said that he wasn’t in Viet Nam anymore, he was in Cambodia…. but I am absolutely welcome to come and live in Cambodia. I’m thinking 90 day visa because three months seems like a reasonable amount of time to do research and come home, and that way I can probably afford to do it more than once.

Where Daniel comes into the picture is always travel companion, sometimes bodyguard. I do not mean that I am hiring him to be friggin’ Liam Neeson. His Texas accent’s too strong for that. I also don’t need him to fight anyone. I just need him to stand there and look big.

For that, I will absolutely treat him like a king.

But as a single lesbian, I’m muddling through what that means. How do you treat your friends the right way so that they feel taken care of and the relationship isn’t a one-way street? I know that if I was paying Daniel for his services I couldn’t afford it. The best thing I could do is just make sure I can take care of his basic needs.

The best thing I can do is wait to start traveling until I know my situation with my inheritance. If my stepfather leaves money for me in his will, my financial situation will turn right side up in one day. There is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t. He has said as much, that I would get money that clearly only belonged to her. All I am saying is that if he is not an honest man, it is an enormous financial hit for me.

I am not worried about being rich. My mother wasn’t rich, but she invested well, and so did the insurance companies where she had policies. I do not have any pipe dreams about being rich. The only thing I have ever wanted out of money is stability. If you read the studies, there’s no percentage in acquiring more than that. I will be happy with my own house, car, and a bit of land. Nothing haughty. I’d like to build with plain 2x4s, rockwoool insulation, and triple-paned windows. I want to choose the materials I would like to use in my house, and price the house by them. I would much rather have a very small house capable of lasting a hundred years than a house where everything starts going wrong the minute the new wears off. In essence, the relationship I want to build with Daniel…. made of such strong stuff that it’s even better when the new wears off. As book lovers, we know exactly how much love it takes to keep a relationship going. We’ve read The Velveteen Rabbit. Let’s not get stupid.

For us, the process of becoming real to each other is heart-wrenching and necessary. I’m bipolar and have been hospitalized for it. He has other health issues that are different in origin and the same in behavior. We present the same, but we’re so different.

Daniel and I also have a lot in common, and have since we were children. He was my first boyfriend in elementary school because we were the nerdy English lovers. If I could give you an image from literature, he’s not a preacher’s kid, but he is very much like Norman from “A River Runs Through It.” I don’t mean that in a romantic, fly fishing sort of way. I mean that he is perfectly capable of being a novelist’s friend and told me I have free reign to say whatever I want about him here.

Whatever I want?

Daniel, it feels like after all these years, parts of me are moving back to you……….. eleven dollars at a time. If you want me, accept all the randomness that comes with it.

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