On Pennilessness

Charles Dickens would be proud.

At least I assume he would be.  I haven’t really read him.  I don’t know the man.  All I know is that he wrote novels and was paid by the word.  Probably a penny each.

And a penny went a long way back then, designed as they were with perfect balance and the grooves laid down by cobblestones to guide their path.

But, okay, this is not about the pennies of the past but the pennies of the present and the state of being penniless that we call pennilessness.

Though, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone who is penniless.  I have seen many pennies that are peopleless (and Megan teases me for saving them from the cold, hard groung).  I’ve seen many peoples that are penguinless, and all penguins are pencilless, at least that’s what they want you to believe.

Truth be told (as it is here with alliterative frequency), I’m afraid of being penniless.

Often I’ve thought that I could live the life of starving artist, working for the work alone, taking jobs only as necessary to keep me in macaroni and cheese and cheap red wine, living month to month with my unpaid bills papering the holes in the walls of my dirt-scoured garret.  Through the cracked and soiled windows I would watch the monied people below live their carefree lives, and my bitterness at my lot would be the fuel that drove my writing.  I would die forgotten and alone, but some relative or friend driven to find out why I hadn’t contacted them for money for days would find my work ensconced in a protected alcove to the side of my flea-ridden bed, and they would recognize my genius and unveil my glorious work to the world.

But always I’ve known that I wouldn’t be able to live that life.  When I’m concerned about money, my creativity dries up.  All I can think about is the time when my money will have run out and I won’t be able to, well, live anymore.

The part of the dream that I find desirable is the idea of working full-time on my writing, of being able to dedicate all of my energy towards it, be fully the artist.  In effect, I’m living that already due to a great and flexible job and savings.

The part of the dream that I find fearsome is the dedicating all my energy to writing.  I already have the problem where my social life is subject to the whims of my creative spirit.  If I end up working more, dedicating more time and energy, my friends may drop away altogether – not because they want to, but because we never see each other.

The dream rears its head whenever I think about moving from Houston.  No matter where I go, it’s likely to be more expensive than where I am.  A good job will be likely hard to find.  I’ll be in a small room or a small apartment trying to stretch my money and trying to live cheaply.  Houston, for all its faults, has been good to me, and it’s to my detriment that I want to move to a city that’s more city, intricately woven through with public transportation, filled with life on every block from the people walking the sidewalk to the stores crowding the lower levels of building.

I don’t know when or where to, but I’m leaving here.

New York City, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, you all call my name in a chorus, sirens pulling me towards dangerous shoals I’m not sure – I’ll never be sure – I’m equipped to handle.

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