Sometimes I buy lottery tickets. I know it’s dumb but I do it anyway. My ex-husband calls it the “Losery.” No, that’s not why we got divorced. Back when we were married, I bought lottery tickets far more frequently—weekly, sometimes even twice a week. I can quantify just how many lottery tickets I bought because I saved them all. I hoarded these tickets because, in part, I was afraid that one of them was actually a winner—that I had somehow misread the ticket. I think I also held onto them because I absolutely hate the idea of wasting money. The act of throwing away the losing tickets seemed to highlight the idiocy of playing the lottery. I didn’t want to admit that I was pissing away money every week, which is something very contrary to my nature. I am a cheapskate. For example, I refuse to buy clothes at full price—my wardrobe is comprised of ill-fitting hand-me-downs or thrift store “treasures.” I never leave lights on around the house unnecessarily or run the water with reckless abandon. My poor daughter is racing the clock every time she is in the shower, with me periodically yelling up to ask if she’s almost done. These are all symptoms of my fear of wasting my money to the point of not having any.
I’ve always been frugal, but my thriftiness increased in severity after my divorce. When I moved out, I was practically destitute, renting rooms from strangers and struggling to meet my most basic needs. I had been writing for a magazine for six years and had been supplementing that income with odd jobs. While I was married, my income was of no real significance. My husband was the primary breadwinner. I worked mostly because I wanted to, not out of necessity. However, as a separated woman—this income was required. Ironically, as soon as money became a necessity, it promptly disappeared. The magazine folded with no notice. Contributors were left with no explanation and in my case, with no back pay. The magazine owed me $6,000 which I never saw a penny of. The current supplementary odd job was as a helper at a woodshop, which in some sick twist of fate also went under, owing me a considerable amount of money. I was forced to find another job and also forced to be really careful with money from that point on.
If losing lottery tickets could pay the bills, I would have been straight. I had jars stuffed full of them. In order to put them to use, I started to try and make “art” out of them. This would make them feel more like a useful expense. I was buying art supplies—not deluding myself into thinking that I would strike it rich. The art became a commentary on my relationship with the lottery. I folded and assembled the tickets to make a picture of Jesus and another of praying hands. These stupid tickets were to be my Salvation from the fear of failure.
I don’t really buy lottery tickets that often anymore. Every once in a while, when the jackpot gets grotesquely large, I buy two. I still hear my ex-husband’s voice as I buying them and feel moderately ashamed. The kind of shame that you feel when you are buying tampons or Imodium AD. The purchase tells someone else a little bit too much about who you are and what you are going through.
The funny thing is that I don’t immediately check them after the drawing is announced. Sometimes I will wait weeks before I confirm that I’m still not a winner. I guess I don’t want to be woken from the temporary fantasy that the lottery provides. I like to sit in the daydream of financial security for as long as I can, imagining how my life would be different—what I could do for myself and for others (yes—I would be the most benevolent lottery winner ever). Eventually, I do wake up and stuff those tickets into the jar with all the rest. I’m only left to imagine how they can be useful.