Kristine leaves the ‘Money Room’ until last, curious about its purpose. She’s inordinately amused when I’m finally coaxed into mumbling the reason for it.
It came about as a simple enough weakness. For a while I grabbed whatever cash I saw lying around. Force of habit. Couldn’t resist its old world importance. I packed a wallet with bills until it was too thick to fold and propped it on a side table. A materialistic statement opposing the way we value ourselves. Myself anyway.
Stepping up a notch, I robbed a bank. Went to the effort of finding a balaclava and BMW getaway car for the hilarious parody. The high-speed getaway ended when I took a corner too fast and side swiped a row of dusty cars. Shakily, I transferred the plastic wrapped bundles, easily snatched from a wide open safe, to a more pedestrian van and drove with more care. I’d broken open the packs and thrown the crisp plastic into this spare bedroom.
And rolled in it.
To see what it felt like, that’s all.
The novelty wore off after a few giggling, drunken minutes, and I’d never bothered to clean it up.
Kristine gives me a faraway look before slipping inside and closing the door in my face. I hear a bit of thumping and rustling then she demurely exits.
“I’ve always wanted to do that too.”
I brush a hundred-dollar note out of her hair. She laughs then gets busy stuffing garbage bags. I stash the money in my closet, still unable to accept its worthlessness.
As days pass Kristine feels secure enough to argue about little things. What video to watch, which CD to play, what to have for dinner. Nothing with any consequences behind it.
We settle into separate existences at close quarters. Kristine constantly realigns her routines to suit my sloth-like comings and goings. Requests to do more around the place taper off when she realises I create more work for her by helping.
Relieved at not having to stay alert enough to avoid exertion, I sink deeper into a state of perpetual fuzziness. Besides, I’m positive she enjoys cleaning, and is clearly unable and unwilling to relax in the manner I’ve accustomed myself to.
Seeing as she’s benefiting from all the hard months I’d put in setting up this place, biasing the labour her way is acceptable.
I come to regard Kristine as the ‘help’. The house maid who’s ghostly presence drifts around the periphery of my tunnel vision, treading on eggs lest she upsets Us, the flaky King of this realm.
Certain vices remain strictly taboo. She offers no criticism or guidance after a single, aborted attempt. The inner addict jumped down her throat, rejecting her considered opinion. She passively objects from then on by not refilling the fridge with beer when I forget. This is a nuisance I tolerate.
I have several episodes of deep depression but no more rages. On these dejected days I view Kristine with a jaded, hateful eye, cynically reducing her sympathy to a survival ploy. These harmful thoughts bounce around, clouding an already wonky judgment.
She learns I seek oblivion not coddling. I’m fed and watered and left to stagnate at that low ebb for days.
Then everything gets a lot worse.