Money Isn’t Everything, But Everything Is Money
– Fiction by Garrett D.G. & Photography by David Hails –
I was scoffing down breakfast when the unexpected happened. My friends were on their way to pick me up for a road trip to D.C., and I decided to check my bank account to see how much I had to spare for the weekend. I budgeted in my head while the app loaded. Setting modest limits for eating out, souvenirs, and any unplanned activities. When the app loaded, my heart sprang out of my body.
That can’t be right, I thought as I refreshed the app to see the five-figure sum load up again.
I refreshed the app again and again and again, before checking the stock ticker on Google. My eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. A stock I bought on a whim rose over 8000%.
F***, I hit the jackpot. The corners of my mouth lifted. I was in such a swivet that I dropped the spoon from my fingers, splashing milk from the bowl onto my face. For me, this windfall was enough money to change my life’s direction.
∙ I could quit my job and backpack through South America.
∙ I could go back to school and study a subject I care about.
∙ I could put a down payment on a condo here in Brooklyn.
Like an oyster, the possibilities of the world opened up to me.
I spent the whole car ride grinning from ear to ear, head in the clouds as visions of “what could be” played out. I figured this is how overnight sensations felt, beamish with joy and saddled with decision fatigue.
In high spirits after arriving in D.C., I agreed to get dinner at a steakhouse. We strolled around the waterfront establishment, with its white-clothed tables and jazzy beats bustling in the background, before sliding into a booth. The waiter handed us our menus, gave us a spiel on his favorite dishes, and left us to order.
I should’ve looked at the menu online because the prices shocked me. I have always been conservative when it came to eating out. So, imagine my face when I saw that each entrée was over thirty bucks, not including sides. What did I get myself into, I thought while scanning the menu from top to bottom. I never had a ribeye, nor did I know what a Branzino was. Hell, I’ve never been to a steakhouse before. But, for these prices, the food must be good, real good.
I contemplated ordering only a side dish, so I don’t blow my whole food budget in one sitting. But then I remembered, I made a whole bunch of money this morning and I was on vacation for the first time in months. So why not be a bit decadent and treat myself to something nice? It’s not like I can’t afford it.
The waiter came back. I ordered a hefty entrée, a side, and an appetizer. Was it worth it? Maybe not, but it sure did fill me up. When we got the check, I didn’t go through the charges like I normally would. Instead, I pulled out my card and told my friends we’ll figure it out later.
The next day, my friend and I went for a stroll near the White House. We talked about the usual woes of those in their twenties living in New York City. He complained about the high rent and the amount of taxes taken out of his checks. I rambled about how I hated looking up to the sky to only see tall buildings piercing it; how quarantine made me realize how important nature is; and how there are at least two for-sale signs on every block in Bed-Stuy.
We compared New York to other cities that were cleaner and affordable. Cities that gave us less stress, a better quality of life, and in most cases, more bang for our bucks. We halted at an intersection. A gust of wind scraped against my face as I adjusted my scarf.
“I’m going to do it,” he said.
“Do what?” I asked.
“Pull the trigger. I’m moving to Austin next year.”
“Damn bro, so sudden.”
“Yeah, I mean it’s been on my mind for a while. But now with my new job being remote, I have nothing holding me back.”
I nodded. “But why Austin though?”
“Why not? It’s cheaper, all the tech companies are moving there, and I could accomplish more of my other life goals without doing sixty hour work weeks.” He scoffed. “It doesn’t make sense to stay in New York. I’d be better off, financially and mentally, moving.”
“I feel you. It’s hard to have a balanced life in New York.” I said. The cars stopped and we crossed the street.
“You think you’ll ever leave?” He asked me.
“I think about it sometimes.”
“Well, you have some time. I know you’re a few years younger than me, but you should start thinking about the future. And If you ask me, I don’t think New York has a future left for us.”
His words bounced around in my head as we strolled up the empty street.
“Well, if I do leave, I just want to have a place there, you know? Just to always come back to, whenever.” I said.
“You got your parent’s place.”
“No, I meant more like a condo or studio. My own thing.”
“Pfft.” He turned to me with a puzzling look on his face. “Property in New York? How are you going to get the money? Sell drugs?”
I laughed at his comment and left it there.
We spent our last evening roaming the streets in our silver sedan. My eyes peered out the misty passenger window as we drove past some landmarks and universities. I thought about how fun it would be to go back to school and have a couple of years to focus on a subject that I’m actually interested in without worrying about its earning potential.
Sometimes I regret going into business. I followed the advice of friends and family telling me, “you won’t make money writing.” And that the only way to make money was a business degree. Now I spend most of my days shoving ads in front of people, hoping to sell them crap they don’t need.
We turned onto another street that led to a residential and suburb-ish district. Each house draped with modern-day elegance: ring systems and wide floor-to-ceiling windows. Their blinds gaped open, flaunting the sparkling chandelier hanging above their fancy home décor, as if to say I got money and I want you all to know it.
The actuality of being able to put a down payment on a condo back in Brooklyn crossed my mind again. I pictured myself walking in after signing the paperwork. How I would jazz up the place with photos and memorabilia from all my travels, a pool table, and that hammock I always wanted in my room. Making it truly a place of my own.
That night in bed, I went on Zillow and viewed properties for sale. I browsed MFA programs across the country. I looked up language schools in Germany and backpacking hostels in Southeast Asia. All the opportunities that now seemed feasible with the money in hand.
I attempted to sell my shares first thing Monday morning. And each request was nullified. I rang the brokerage company and after a few minutes of holding, a wheezy voice answered.
“Why can’t I sell my position? I want to get out.” I said midway through the conversation.
He puffed before saying, “sorry sir, we don’t have the new stocks yet.”
“What do you mean? I bought it through your platform. How do you not have the stock?”
His fingers tapped away in the background. “The company did a reverse stock split, and since it’s a foreign security, we have to wait for them to send over the new shares. What you’re seeing on the platform is the inflated amount of the old number of shares you had.”
I paused for a moment, trying to grasp his words.
“So, if everything is inflated, that means my gains are inflated as well?” I asked.
“Okay thank you.”
“is there anything—”
I hung up the phone. I sat there while a state of gloom seeped into me. All the opportunities I pondered about over the weekend seemed more like fantasies than realities, all becoming out of reach and impractical. Of course, I could still accomplish some of those things with the little money I did have saved. And if I work hard enough, earn enough, and save enough, then the rest are still possible to achieve. But then I’d be back to zero and the thought of the time needed to make it all back pained me. No one wants to be a slave to the dollar.
I slid my fingers to my account balances: my checking, my savings, my investments, hoping that the sight of some dollars would strike me with a bolt of optimism. For a quick second it did, and just as quickly, it faded away like the joy of waking up on a Sunday only to remember you have to work on Monday. People say money isn’t everything, but it seems like everything comes down to money.
Garrett D.G. is a Brooklyn-born writer based in Amsterdam. When he’s not writing he’s either partying, working out, or having a conversation over dinner with friends. Follow him on Instagram at @geeversal.
Born in 1971 and raised as a Colorado creative, David Hails graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts at CU Denver. David was a Founding member of IOTA, Revoluciones Collective Art Space, and a member of The Construct. Early on, David was a self-taught painter. After years away from creating, David has re-emerged. David is passionate about documenting his surroundings in the woods of the Arapaho National Forest and the nearby wilderness. Follow him on Instagram @hairlesssasquatch.