Did you ever notice that Benjamin Franklin has this smug little smirk on the hundred-dollar bill? Like he knows that’s the biggest piece of currency we have and he’s lording it over all the other dead men who were actually president. I know he was supposed to be brilliant and all that but it kind of makes me think he might have been an asshole. Then again, that’s exactly how other people judge me.
I have a condition commonly referred to as resting bitch face. If you don’t think it’s a real thing, it’s probably because you don’t have it. Everywhere I go, complete strangers come up to me and ask if I’m alright, if I’m having a bad day, or just make some generalization about life being too short to spend being miserable. They call me beautiful, or sweetheart and then flash me a big smile, trying to coax one out of me. I usually end up giving it to them. I used to get angry and embarrass myself by shouting “I’m not upset, my face just looks this way!” and then they’d turn away and mutter something about my period.
Now, I force my cheeks to contract until they cramp from the strain, then wait for them to turn away so that I can relax. I’m sure some of them mean well. They see a wretched looking girl riding the bus and they heroically swoop in to remind me that I’m not allowed to be sad. Do I want them to think I’m stuck up? Pretty girls like me should be bubbling with happiness at all times, or else what hope is there for the rest of them?
When I was in high school teachers used to ask me if things were alright at home. My own mother once signed me up for depression counseling because I slept in past ten. That was depressing. My friends were used to it. They trusted me to let them know if I was upset and even managed to provoke a laugh here and there.
I never smiled so much as when I discovered alcohol though. My first apartment was two easily walkable blocks away from a bar that had half off ladies nights every Tuesday. I’d wake up with a splitting headache, cottonmouth and numb cheeks. Also sometimes the bartender, who’s name was Dave.
My first job was at a diner, but it didn’t last long. I worked hard, covered shifts, and did everything I could to prove my value. None of my customers ever had problem with their orders or saw the bottom of their coffee cup but Judy had a big smile and bigger tits so at the end of the night her book was double mine. In the end my manager ‘had to let me go’ because he’d received several complaints about my being rude or unfriendly. I decided to give the depression councilor a call.
After that, I slouched my way through a few other jobs but it was always the same. Not a go getter, not a team player, not nice. This last job was supposed to just be a temp position. Something the unemployment office set up, just till I could get back on my feet.
“Anyone can do it,” they said. “All you need is a drivers license.”
On the first day, I was so nervous I was sweating. I spent an hour staring at myself in the black uniform, neurotically rolling the sleeves for lint. I took the bus down to the address the unemployment office gave me and picked up the keys to the car. I was worried that it would be difficult to drive but it was surprisingly easy. The car had leather seats, air conditioning, heat (though they warned me to keep it cool) and even a built in GPS.
I drove it to the church and waited down the path for them to finish. I wasn’t sure how long it would take. I suppose it was up to the family. It didn’t take long. I’d been parked less than an hour when the church doors opened. Six men, dressed in black carried a mahogany box down the narrow path. One of them was singing. I leapt out the door in my rush to open the back. I had a moment of panic when I couldn’t get it open before I realized it was still locked. I grabbed the keys from the ignition and opened the hatch, allowing the six grieving men to load the casket into the hearse. There were rubber clamps built into the car to keep it from moving around. I latched them tight. I couldn’t bear the idea of the box knocking around the back of the car.
The rest of them followed me in a long file of cars to the cemetery. I didn’t say anything when they unloaded the casket. I didn’t speak a word to anyone for the entire procession. After the body was in the ground, an old woman in a black shawl came up to me. I braced myself for what she was going to say, terrified that I’d somehow offended this grieving woman, but she didn’t say anything. She hugged me and then walked away. The man who was with her, I think he was her son put a hundred-dollar bill in my hand.
“Thank you for being so respectful,” he said.
He was tall and grey haired. He wore his suit like he was used to it and his grief like he wasn’t. Warm tears of relief streamed down my face as I thanked him. He shook my hand and followed his mother back to the whole that was slowly being filled. I went back to the drives seat of the empty hearse, looked at the bill in my hand and smiled.