“So I told the airline guy…I told him that the handling of my luggage was the reason my computer was broken. I told them there’d been toothpaste and cologne spilled in the bag. And rather than suing them, all I was asking was for them to waive the baggage fee on the return flight.”
“But that wasn’t why your computer had failed?”
“Well, no, but I didn’t agree with the baggage fee, you see…”
“Did your boss know you were doing this?”
I looked at Tabitha, my therapist, and saw the creeping disapproval in her face. “I made the mistake of telling her afterwards, yes. But I gave her back the cash she’d offered.”
“You didn’t take the money you were owed.”
“Okay, but the COMPANY owed me—”
“She is the company.”
“Right, but I wanted it to come from-” I stopped, flustered. This was going worse than expected. Tabitha looked at me sadly. “I felt that’s what I had to do. The whole trip was stressful and I’d gotten fleeced almost everywhere and I needed that victory…”
“You are not equipped to handle the business world this way.”
“You felt like you had to hustle people to get ahead. This whole time, the way you’ve described how you behaved in Vegas - you put on a front. You pretended like you had more than you do. You lied.”
“I have to lie.”
“It’s the only way you get ahead in society.”
“That’s not true.”
I looked at her, exasperated. After living in this world at least 20 years longer than I have, how could she think honesty gets anyone anywhere? I frowned and sipped my tea. “You’re one of the few people I don’t lie to.”
“You need to take a look at that. You can’t go through your whole life putting up this false persona. It’ll eat you alive. It’ll hurt you.”
I grimaced; stared at the floor.
“You can’t keep hustling people.”
Four weeks later, I quit my job. And, thus, I lost the benefits that allowed me to keep seeing Tabitha.
“So…What’s new with your life?” my brother asked. He said it awkwardly, in a way that sounded rehearsed, as if he had just recently learned how to show interest in people. I knew he cared. And he was making progress.
“I quit my job,” I said through a mouthful of burrito bowl.
“What?” He let it process. “You quit your job.”
“So…what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know. Apply for others, I guess.”
“Well, how are you going to pay your bills?”
“Don’t know. Maybe I won’t. It’s not like I have been.”
Sidenote, debtor’s prisons are still illegal, right?
He looked at me, running the scenario through his brain. “If you get in trouble with the government…I don’t think I can bail you out.” He was referencing every other time he had bailed me out financially. My younger, soon to be 19-year-old brother.
I nodded. “I don’t think it’ll be like that.” I had no intention of asking for him to bail me out if I got in trouble. I was finally free. I was done taking advantage of people just to tread water. If I was going to use people, I was going to make sure we both got ahead.
I shoveled another mouthful of steak into my mouth.
“Hey,” I said, bits of corn salsa falling out of my mouth. “Do you want to start a website?"