For a long time, things were hard. Work was difficult to come by and every penny counted. I was poor.
There was no bohemian glamour in this, having just enough to scrape by; it was full Orwellian hunger, Steinbeck depression. I made a decision that a roof over my head and a place to wash was vital to remain presentable for when the work did come along so my money went on a cold attic room, the rent each month, sucking me dry.
My Grandmother once told me that when she was first married, before each weekly shop, she would write a list of the food for the week, tot up the price, then cross half the items off.
I was not that organised; I just bought the same rice and beans, vegetables and eggs, trying to make my meals nutritionally sound at the minimum cost. As I was living alone I did not need to keep up any appearances about my eating habits. There was no one to pretend to, my neighbourhood was full of strangers, I did not care if they thought I was odd, or poor.
I remember one day, standing in the kitchen, stirring my boiling rice, when a program came on the radio about the charity challenge of surviving on five dollars a week for food. It is suppose to show how hard it is for some people to live and you give the money that you would have spent normally to the charity.
Well, instantly, I calculated my weekly food budget. It came to about twenty Euros, about thirty-five dollars then. Seven times the amount stated for the challenge.
This bit of information had a strange effect on me, I almost started crying, I suddenly felt so guilty, I felt like such a terrible person; I was here, complaining, feeling so very sorry for myself, thinking I was spending the absolute minimum on food. I had enough to eat didn’t I? I was spending an extravagant amount compared to some people, a month’s worth of food in one week; I was selfish to feel the hunger in my stomach.
I hated myself, I hated my body’s need for food, I hated the money I had spent that day, it all felt so ridiculously extravagant. Why was the world such an unfair place?
After I had eaten and calmed down a bit, I realised that I was going through a tough time and tried to focus on better thing, like the future. I started buying food for the homeless people I passed on the street, just the small snacks I could afford from the change I had left.
I slowly came to realise that I was blessed, I finally got the brake I needed and worked and worked at my jobs until slowly but surely the money in my bank account started to stay there, then grow. The change was hardly noticeable to me; I was terrified of being thrown back into it again so I kept my poor mindset.
But one day, over a year later, I was looking at the pile of washing up lying in the sink. The bottle of washing up liquid lying there was new, I had bought it a few days before and had not though much of it at the time. But looking at it then, I saw it as a symbol of my life and how far I had come in the last few years. The packaging of the bottle was nice, the colouring and scent were pleasant, it was not an extravagant bottle of liquid, the supermarket offered one bottle priced the same as the champagne, but nor was it the cheapest bottom shelves buy.
It was then I realised that I was not poor any more, the fact I had bought that bottle meant that I had done it. All that hard work, determination and bravely had paid off and I could finally afford, not only to feed myself well enough to create a lot of washing up , but to buy nice liquid for after.
Again I felt like crying, but these tears were not in sadness, they were of pure Joy.
I am entering this in to the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook competition: a short story of no more than 2000 words on the subject of Joy. Any feedback would be appreciated before February when I will enter it.