I was walking down the street with my boyfriend in Cambridge, Massachusetts on a Sunday morning. I was a student at Emerson College and he was substitute teaching in Boston, having graduated from a Midwestern school some years before. We were both broke and wanted breakfast, but weren’t sure where or how we’d get it.
Then, suddenly, I saw him leaning down as a five-dollar bill blew into his hand.
It was early in the morning, and no one else was on the street. The money seemed to have come from nowhere and was going nowhere. I had about seven dollars in my purse and he had a few dollars too. This extra five meant we could go to the Plough and Stars, our favorite bar, which served an amazing Sunday morning brunch.
At the time I remember feeling like this was proof somehow of the magic in our relationship. It’s only with hindsight I realize our gain was someone else’s loss, though hopefully, not too much of one.
The breakfast was delicious; omelets and toast and hash browns, topped off by a Bloody Mary (shared) and coffee. Did it all taste better because we hadn’t expected to be able to afford it? I think it did.
My relationship with this man had been like that. On one of our first dates we went to the Farmer’s Market where he bought us a lot of fresh vegetables to cook. I asked if he needed help and he gestured at me dismissively. “I like to spend until I don’t have any more.”
I loved his answer. It turned our lives into something bigger than money and larger than life. I was a big fan of old 1930s and 1940s movies at the time and used to see them at a movie theater called the Orson Welles. Movies like The Thin Man with William Powell and Myrna Loy perfectly encapsulated my fantasy of the perfect couple; insouciant, cavalier and devil-may-care about the daily grind.
Now and again I look back at how I lived and find myself wishing I’d lived more like those fantasy couple in movies did. Now I realize the William Powells and Myrna Loys were quite rich so they of course could be cavalier about money.
But maybe my former boyfriend knew something about how easy it is to get enslaved to money—and that while it was hard to live without it, it was just as crazy to worship it too.