When the statements piled up and the creditors started calling, I had to do the unthinkable -- confront my mounting debt.
It was December of last year, a few weeks before Christmas, and I was buying a present at Barnes & Noble.
“Do you have another credit card?” asked the salesman. “This one doesn’t want to go through.”
How gracious of him to make it sound like the credit card’s fault. That credit card was such a coward, always chickening out in the face of a crucial transaction. Unfortunately, I did not have another credit card. Well, actually, I had three, but experience had proved they didn’t want to go through, either.
There was a time when this exchange would have flustered me, left me stammering excuses about how the card had just worked, and I couldn’t imagine what was wrong. But by late December, I had grown so accustomed to this awkward scenario that I wasn’t even all that embarrassed. It was as if I had presented him with a lottery ticket and, failing to win big, went back to the original game plan.
“Just take this.” I handed him one of my few remaining 20s. I was, officially, broke.
I was so broke, in fact, that I actually had no idea how broke I was. The exact number had become a mystery, something hidden (or, rather, stuffed) in the closet: I didn’t know how much I owed on those credit cards, or how much was in my bank account, or whether that balance — were I to check it online, which I did not do that month — would be positive or negative. I knew I owed several thousand. Five freaking digits. The evidence sat in a neat stack of unopened credit card bills, which had been piling up next to the French press since October. The evidence came in the form of phone calls from bill collectors, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., calls that I never answered.
If this sounds like breezy indifference, if it seems that I was not worried, then good; I fooled you. I was desperately trying to pretend that my financial plight did not bother me. Who wants to confront such colossal failure? Besides, it was the holidays. Gifts and parties and free champagne. Every day the mail b