Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Second Post--"Third-person Auto."

He never thought of himself as the type to fret, but fret he did.

He'd been turned down for another credit card. It certainly wasn't the first time that had happened, and he knew it wouldn't be the last. But for some reason, this particular rejection hurt him. And it scared him. Somehow, it seemed more real than before. Before, he was unemployed, or living with his parents, or fresh from college. There was always the easy excuse, the "real" reason it happened. But now he was on his own, well-employed, and drowning. He couldn't cling to the solace of student status. He was an "adult." And that made him responsible.

He tapped away on the computer, pulling up his bank account. Not much. Not good. The credit card company had cited his bad credit history, as well as the fact that more than one account in his name was past due. He chuckled coldly. "More than one" sounded almost benign. He counted them out mentally: power, phone, cable, student loans (twice over). Yeah, "more than one" is about right. Fortunately, he remembered that he'd already paid his car insurance, or that would have been added to the list.

He thought of his empty pantry and his less-than-half-full gas tank, and sighed. There's just not enough to go around. He'd already used all the forbearance that the loan companies were willing to afford him. He was at the end of his line, and it was dragging him.

There was no good reason for his situation. He would have been the first to admit this, if cornered. He made enough money to cover his bills, with a little left over. But that little just didn't stretch. But instead of controlling his spending, he embraced denial. He went for weeks before justifying his bank book, out of simple, shameful fear. Because he knew what he was doing, and he was afraid of having to accept the fruit of his actions. So he avoided the bank statements. He avoided the creditors' calls. He hid as best as he could. And he kept holding out hope for some sort of miracle. He even bought a lottery ticket for the big jackpot--something he had never even considered before. Of course, in the grand scheme, this was a small thing. But it was a symptom of the underlying illness. He didn't want to work for what he got. And he certainly did not want to deny himself what his heart (or stomach) desired.

In the last week, he calculated, he had spent about one hundred dollars on a few CDs, a few lunches, and some movies. One hundred dollars that would have appeased the power, phone, and cable companies.

The worst of it, the worst of the guilt, came from church. After all, he believed in what he believed very strongly. And part of that belief and the obedience of that belief involved giving a portion back. His God demanded it. And he wasn't coughing it up. He tried to justify this to himself, saying that God doesn't want gifts given joylessly. This half-truth almost convinced him, but after a while it tore to pieces. And he realized that, on top of not paying his debts, he was robbing his God.

He sat at his desk, his head in his hands, and started having George Bailey thoughts. His life insurance policy was actually large enough to cover all of his debts. His parents, the beneficiaries of the policy, would have enough left over to take that trip to Austrailia that they always dreamed about.

He immediately dismissed these thoughts as foolish. Of all the cowardices he was guilty of, that option would be the worst. No, he had to press on, embracing the consequences of his poor habits, no matter how grim. It was his responsibility, and he would bear it. Even if it destroyed him.

The radio began playing the song "Loser." And he heard it with new ears.

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