The American Dream
“The happiest times of my life were when I had no money at all. We’d take our Chef Boyardee box pizzas to the drive-in and that was like…a luxurious date,” my mom randomly told me when I was complaining about not making enough money at my first job in college. I am pretty sure I either rolled my eyes or pretended like she had just said the most earth-shattering thing. A typical spoiled 19-year-old.
We were 21 and 23. We moved into that tiny shack together in the backyard of some newlywed Coral Gables couple. Every time it rained we had to put pots around to catch the leaking water. The door only opened a foot before it hit the end of the bed. We’d spend weekends getting coladas at Versailles, right around the corner, and then I’d write and write while the rain fell and you’d work on your med school essays. We’d go to my mom’s every other weekend to wash the stench of the mildewed shed out of our clothes. We could scrape together enough money from our poor college funds to celebrate our monthly anniversaries at dinner, and that was it. And, man, I still remember each and everyone one of those monthly dinners because they meant the entire world to us.
We’re 30 and 32. You live in that gorgeous high-rise on the bay in Miami, while I live in a new three-story house in suburbia. We’ve built the careers that we dreamt of having as two college kids in South Florida. You can go to dinner at the Fontainebleau whenever you want, and I frequently meet friends out at this beautiful bar that overlooks the entire city. You barely see her because you work on opposite schedules. I see him in hour increments when we can fit each other in between our work schedules.
No more pans full of leaking water, no more monthly dinners, no more day-dreaming afternoons spent writing. No more smelly clothes and sucking our stomachs in to get through the front door.
And this thirty-year-old remembers what her mother told her half a lifetime ago, and yearns for just one more night in that shack eating tuna salad sandwiches and watching ‘New Girl’ on an 11-inch computer screen.