I knew I should’ve bought condoms. You don’t have to tell me that. I can’t take the pill. I used to smoke, before the price went up. But I’m older now. There are a lot of risks. They cost money too, the birth control pills. Everything costs. The kids need milk, something to take for lunch that looks like what everyone else eats. I remember what it was like all the time, saying I forgot my lunch, I ate it on the way to school, having some teacher take pity on me and find me something in the staff room. Not my kids. So I ask you, if you had to choose between peanut butter and condoms, what would you choose?
You wouldn’t think to be a husband and wife together should cost money. But nothing is free. Not even love.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to look after my family. Somehow, we always get by. I’m a genius at finding deals, fixing up hand-me-downs, making the place look nice. (Shrugs.) If I’m such a genius, why couldn’t I go find some free condoms? I know they have them at that clinic, and I should have gone, but I didn’t want to be seen going in there. It’s full of prostitutes and drug addicts.
We look respectable, the kids are clean and well- dressed. No one’s going to take us for a charity case. I tell my boys you never take anything you can’t pay for, never borrow money from a friend. If you can’t pay for it, you can’t have it. That’s the way it is.
Three times I’ve taken an extra job at night, once the little ones are in bed. In an office across the street. Cleaning. Just when the money gets too tight. I’m right across the street. They call me if they need me. And my husband’s home most of the time. I don’t want to leave them alone. And I’m fast. I’m finished in four hours, sometimes three and a half. Benny takes all the overtime he can get. But the plant has cut back. Times are tough around here. And I’m at the store five days a week, sometimes Sunday too, if I can get it.
They throw food away. If it’s still any good, I bring it home. I’m not supposed to, but I do. They say they’ll fire anyone who does it, say that it’s stealing. But it seems worse to have perfectly good food go to waste.
We should be able to get ahead. But it’s always something. The car needs to be fixed. Anthony broke a window at the school and we had to pay for it. I couldn’t say we didn’t have the money. Then he lost a running shoe on the school bus. Benny freaked out but I had to pull him into the bedroom to calm down, remind him, “He’s just a little boy. Things happen, he has accidents, makes mistakes.” We went and searched for the shoe but couldn’t find it. How am I going to get another pair?
We can’t afford new running shoes. We can’t afford another kid. I’d love to have another baby. I’m a great mother. But if you can’t pay for it you can’t have it.
Benny’s afraid it’s a sin. He’s more Catholic than me. I still go to church, for the kids, but I’m not really a believer. But Benny – he’s a wreck. Now I have to deal with that.
Some decisions you just shouldn’t have to make.
Copyright © Jane Cawthorne, 2010