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My mother hid money from my stepfather, whom she deemed spendthrift.  She’d lie about the total in their account.  Kept a wad of twenties stashed in a compartment of an old purse at the back of her closet.

I’ve given up balancing my checkbook.  I maintain a fuzzy notion of what’s in the bank, but can no longer provide a precise figure.  This began last winter when I had no work.

My friend J. received an inheritance when her uncle died last year.  She made extensive renovations to her home, but refuses to reveal the amount of the bequest.

Everyone is ashamed to have too much or too little—the ones who buy diamonds for their dogs and those who pick through garbage for a morsel of food.

As a child, I filched coins from the top of my parents’ dresser.  The splatter from my stepfather’s pockets.  If he ever noticed the diminished pool of silver, he never said.

My friend D. spends much of her free time in pursuit of sales and discounts.  She’ll invest hours of time to save a few dollars.  I’ve seen her buy and return a pair of shoes three and four times as they are progressively discounted, until she gets the rock-bottom price.

My friend M. who works in finance, who brokers multi-million dollar deals, is predicting a market crash within the year.  She’s quietly advising all her friends to convert their assets to cash.

Everyone is afraid—the ones who worry that their portfolios will tank and those who harbor fears of ending up pushing a shopping cart beneath the freeway overpass.

My friend W. was born into considerable wealth.  She tells me she’s never ridden a subway in New York.  When in Manhattan, she goes everywhere by limousine.

Several of my friends work in cash businesses—hairdressers, manicurists, masseuses, sex workers.  They do not report their full income to the IRS.  Before expressing outrage, remember, sixty percent of U.S. corporations pay no taxes.

Yesterday a man stopped me on the street, “Do you got a little sumpin’ for a homeless brother?”  I fished a dollar from my wallet.  “I like that hair,” he told me, “That must be a Beverly Hills haircut.”  “I’m not a Beverly Hills kind of girl,” I told him.  Only afterward did I remember that my hair cutter does in fact work in Beverly Hills.

Everyone feels aggrieved—the ones taxed at the rate of 35% and the 14% of Americans who live below the poverty line.

One picked strawberries at age nine to support her family.

One has a butler.

One was never given enough to eat when she was young.

One is retiring in his forties.

One borrows $500 to buy a car.

One has holes in her clothes.

One spends $400 on a pair of shoes.

One owns four homes.

One walked away from the top job at a film studio.

One goes to work in a private jet.

One puts off going to the dentist.

One died at County Hospital.

One works for $10 an hour.

One’s father cut off her inheritance.

We are all alone with our secrets of money.

Earlier this year I had no work.  I lived on what I’d saved until that was gone.  Then I lived on credit cards.  I was afraid I would lose my home.  It was at this time I began experiencing shortness of breath.