I was nervous walking into the bank. While I wasn’t sure what would happen, I had a feeling something would. Alarms would go off or I’d be arrested by a secret police officer who I hadn’t noticed despite his obviously-fake mustache.
The bank was busy that day. A man with a plaid hat and a striped shirt went towards the teller, and I took a step closer to the front, feeling like there were tiny hands in my chest, folding my organs into origami.
There were three people in front of me, then two, then I blinked, and it was my turn to step forwards. I glanced over my shoulder at Em who was waiting by the door. She nodded at me, and I tried to be brave for her.
I couldn’t really believe that I was there or that any of it was real as I smiled and looked the teller directly in the eyes.
“Hello,” I said. “I’d like $4,600 in cash please.”
The teller nodded, but I had no doubt that she was pressing the panic button under her desk. Surely, it must be illegal to take out $4,600 in cash, and I’d be taken down by the SWAT team at any second.
“What sort of bills did you want?” the teller asked. She was calm when she asked it. I assumed the SWAT team was stuck in traffic, and she was trying to distract me until they made it.
I stayed calm, too. If I pretended I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong, then maybe I would get a gentler sentence when I was inevitably hauled off to prison.
“What kind of bills do I want?” I repeated. Was there such a thing as a one-thousand-dollar bill?
I looked from one side to the other, then opened my mouth, but nothing else came out.
“Are hundreds okay?” the teller asked.
I nodded and the teller went to the back room. She was pretending to get the money out of the safe for me, but I knew she was really going there to check in with the police, the secret police, MI6, CSIS, and the NBA.
While I waited, I tried to keep my face forward and assume what I hoped was a natural expression, but that probably made me look deranged.
No one was looking at me straight on, but I felt eyes all over me. The paintings in the walls had eye holes cut out, and there was a secret microphone in the plant to my right.
I pushed the hair out of my face and wished I’d dressed up like an important business woman or something. What other kind of person aside from a criminal takes $4,600 all at once out from the bank?
The teller came back faster than I’d expected, and I was surprised to see a stack of bills in her hand. She counted the cash twice, then set the whole wad in front of me. Seeing all those hundreds stacked up like that, I thought I might faint.
“Do you want an envelope?” the teller asked.
I nodded, but braced myself for Ashton Kutcher to jump out of the bushes and shout that I’d just been Punk’d.
The teller put all forty-six bills into a little brown envelope and handed it to me.
“Was there anything else?” she asked.
“Was there any other banking you wanted to do today?”
I shook my head.
“Have a great day then,” the teller said, and I walked out of there like a car crash victim stepping unscathed from the broken teeth of a mangled vehicle.
When I was nine years old, I discovered a secret of the universe that changed how I thought about everything I did from there on out.
I was lying in the snow in my snowsuit, and my mom was calling me in for lunch. I was comfortable, and I was warm, looking up at the blue sky that looked like it would be blue for forever, and I didn’t really want to move.
My mom was calling and calling, and I realized that while I technically had to go in and eat lunch, nothing was actually stopping me from lying perfectly still for as long as I wanted. Sure someone could pick me up and drag me inside, but even then, I didn’t have to move.
I didn’t have to listen to my parents or go to school or do my homework. I didn’t even have to eat. If I didn’t do those things, bad things would happen, but the exhilarating truth of being alive was that everything I did was a choice. I owned my body and what I did with it was up to me.
Twenty years later, I stepped out of a bank in Scarborough and handed an envelope containing $4,600 cash to a man I’d just met on the internet. As I did so, I thought back to being nine years old in the snow, and I felt the same essential fabric of the universe unraveling around me.
Em had waited to the side, and it was her and I now, the man from the internet, and the $4,600 which had taken Em and me almost a year to save. I thought we’d put that money towards a down payment on a house, but here I was handing it over to a man I’d just met.
As much as we think there’s structure to our lives, guiding our choices towards specific goals, any order that we think we have is made up and easier to step away from than we might want to admit.
While we may believe we have to do certain things for certain reasons, most likely, there’s nothing physically stopping almost anyone from taking all the savings out of their bank account and handing it over to a man they just met in exchange for a short school bus.
This was the fourth school bus Em and I looked at. The first one was too rusty, and so was the second. The third was too big, but the fourth was perfect, or at least Em and I hoped that it was. While we’d paid a mechanic to look over the bus before we handed our money to the man from the internet, we still didn’t know shit about buying a bus, and there was a chance we’d just thrown away most of our savings.
“Are we dumb?” I asked Em in the car on the way home. “Is this the stupidest thing we’ve ever done?”
“This could be the stupidest thing we’ve ever done,” she said, and then we were quiet for a while, staring at the road ahead and wondering what the hell our lives had just become.