Prompt: When was the last time you cried?
“You sure you want to do this, man?” The grizzled government employee looked at me uncertainly. I knew why: I was young, agile, fit, attractive, had a PhD and a great job. I was not the kind of person that they were used to trading in so much time.
“I’ve been planning this for a year,” I said. “I’m sure.”
“Alri-ight,” He said, again hesitant, hanging onto the i as though I might change my mind mid-word. He pressed the spot just above the crook of my elbow with a sterile white scanner, heard the sharp beep, saw the balance on the screen and whistled his disbelief. He gave me another you’re sure? look before hitting a couple of buttons, his eyes darting to and fro on the screen, and printing out my receipt.
“Have fun,” The man wished me as I plucked the receipt from his hand and quickly turned away.
“Thanks,” I said over my shoulder when I was already ten feet away, knowing that he wouldn’t hear me.
I sat in my car, staring at the small black number on the white slip: $1,000,000. I’d thought about doing it for so long, I hadn’t actually thought about what I’d do next. Suddenly, I was crying. I wish I could say that I didn’t know why, but of course I did. I was thinking about her. Lucy. The love of my life. My wife, my best friend.
When she died last year, I drove to the Time Bank and sat outside for hours, thinking about trading it all in. Instead I went inside and handed in her ID and traded in the details of my wife’s life in exchange for a small white piece of paper with small black numbers on it. She was healthy and young and had died in a tragic accident, which meant a larger sum. She also went to graduate school and was working as a university professor, which meant another large sum at the end.
I drove home and tried to keep hope for six months, I tried so hard to see past the grey that had enveloped my life. But every day when I woke up without her beside me, I lost a piece of myself. Eventually, I became sick, someone my friends didn’t want to be around anymore. I tried to go to therapy, but that bastard couldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about myself. I knew why I was acting that way that I was, I just didn’t care enough to change it. And how can you counsel someone to care when their whole life was taken from them?
I looked at my receipt again. A million dollars. It would have been more if I didn’t go to therapy. But beggars can’t be chosers.
“Amount withdrawn: a million dollars,” I read aloud, mostly to make myself believe it. Then the second line caught my eye. I knew that I would have to confront that part, but to see it so starkly printed made it somehow more harrowing, more real. I read that aloud, as well.
“Remaining balance: one year.”