It was at my old school, the sixth form college. The day was sodden with rain, the type that is more of a mist that surround you than falling raindrops. It was also cold that way which cut to the bone, even though it was October. The sky had the colour of wet concrete with streaks of soot in it. Ben and I had walked down the bike path from the school to the town centre because the lunch served that day didn’t strike our fancy. When we arrived at the town, I thoughtlessly headed for a café without thinking, until Ben held me back. “I can’t afford that place”. Even more thoughtlessly, I countered. “Don’t worry, I’ll pay.”
I ate alone that day because this was during a time where Ben and my friendship were strained. I had spent time trying to rebuild it, and to get back to what it had been. However, the spectre of his parents and my exposure to them lay between us. Ben is very ashamed of his parents, and his instinct when they embarrass him is to withdraw. Like he was withdrawing from us at school at the time. When I offered to pay, his pride got another little dent, and he just turned around and walked back to school without saying anything. I could see he was cross with me from the way his shoulders set in a rigid line. He didn’t respond when I shouted after him, trying to understand what was wrong. I just watched his back as he disappeared around a corner.
That incident was one of the times when the fact that I’m not quite like my friends stood out most starkly. I am a trust fund kid, and while few of the people at my old school – or this new one – were poor as such, there’s a very large difference between me and them. They don’t have the cushion of capital that sands off all the edges of life for me. And that cushion of capital makes me, sometimes, very insensitive and thick. In the politicking that goes on between people and groups, I sometimes don’t understand that waving money around is not a good strategy to get what I want.
Sometimes later, maybe a few weeks or a couple of months, my dad is visiting and I’m sitting in a small stuffy office with him and an accountant, listening to them going on about bonuses and stock options and savings. Because what they’re talking about is how to dispense that capital to me on my eighteenth birthday. I don’t say anything because this is not my domain, and my role there is to sign whatever paper they put in front of me.
Ever since I was born, my parents have lived below their actual means, and they put a large part of their earnings and options and dividends into savings for my sister and me. When my sister died, they didn’t take all her savings and use it up to console their loss. They merged her savings with mine.
My parents have a very good monthly salary, the both of them, and they could never justify to the echoes of their youthful socialist selves why they would waste that income on consuming material goods. They also had bonuses and options and such. Both had their indulgences, of course. Dad allowed himself to take long trips through France and Italy, visiting vineyards and such. He bought bottle after bottle as he talked to wine makers and grape growers. But at home, he only bought a flash car once my parents were divorced, and once I was securely in England with my aunt. While I grew up, he drove a safe dependable Volvo family car. We lived in a normal house in a normal neighbourhood. Looking at us, you could never guess that we were not merely middle class, but very upper economical middle class.
Now I sat there with dad and the accountant, listening to their grunts and short terminology-laden comments as they went over paper after paper after paper. Pens scratched out this, or added that. And that’s when I thought of the incident about Ben. I remember it distinctly, and I felt ashamed for being insensitive and stupid. I should have learned my lesson with the problems that came from these savings with regards to Mark. Waving money around gets people hackles up. It is understandable why too, but sometimes I just forget.
Yesterday, Mark is going back and forth a few steps in front of the sofa I’m sitting in, and his brow is fixed in annoyance, as he keeps repeating “You have to talk to me about these things. How do you think it makes me feel when you just go off and decide shit on your own?”
The point of conflict is that I bought a new computer, instead of the ageing one I have. This time I didn’t buy a laptop. I don’t think he would have had any issue with that. Instead a bought a full desktop, with a new screen and keyboard and mouse and everything. Our outlay was a couple of hundred pounds for it. And it will sit at the very centre of our house, our life, and remind Mark who he is actually married to.
Usually my savings live in a safe-space beyond our relationship, and he insisted on a pre-nuptial before we got married. It’s not a part of my marriage, my savings. It lives in a legal limbo, in a pretend-world where my marriage doesn’t exist. If we ever split up, those savings will become real again.
I am a trust fund kid. I have money that I have done nothing to earn, and I have it because the laws of probability and chance put me into the womb of my mother 19 years ago. Almost regardless of what I do, unless I start to fritter it away, it will grow and grow and grow. My dad handles this, and he’s really good at what he does.
Mostly I try to forget this, and live a life as if it didn’t actually exist. I try to be as normal as possible. But sometimes it’s not possible, and the division between me and the rest of the world rears it head and smile wickedly and with great Schadenfreude. I sometimes am ashamed to have it like this, and wished I could have it like everyone else. But my personal inconsistencies also make it so that I like having it like this. I am also aware how sick it is every time I start to complain about it. Everyone just rolls their eyes. “Boo hoo. What problems you have!” I don’t make any sense.