Pocket Change

Natalie Meyer

  1. Because of the pandemic, the U.S Mint declared an official coin shortage. Stores put up signs asking for payment in exact change or credit. A few even offered free products for people to bring in a few dollars’ worth of coins as others gave away gift cards instead of the leftover cents from a transaction.

I didn’t even know until I went through a drive-thru one day and saw a half-sheet of paper hastily taped up to the window by some underpaid worker. I counted out the proper amount of coins and handed them over, a decent enough excuse to get rid of some of the change lining the bottom of my car’s cup holders since I started driving.

  1. “Come on,” my dad said, his finger resting on the button of the remote, “we’ve got somewhere to be.”

I opened the door and hauled myself out of the car, reaching over to pick up the jar of change that had been sitting by my feet. It glinted copper in the sunlight. He pressed the lock button and I closed the door behind me, the weight of the jar pressing against my chest. I would be rid of it soon, at least.

We walked into the bank. My dad held the glass door open for me and we went over to where the coin-counting machine should be. It was there, but a thick slab of cardboard was set up over the top, blocking it from use. An out-of-order sign was plastered over the buttons.

“Dang,” I said, turning back around and pretending not to be disappointed. I think my dad felt bad because he pulled out a $20 bill, the amount that had been in the jar, and handed it to me.

Surprised, I told him it wasn’t necessary, but I offered him the jar of coins to make it even, since he had a jug of his own sitting by his bed. He shook his head and I shrugged. Once he makes up his mind on something there’s no getting him to budge.

I carried the change back to the car and took it into my bedroom, where I let it collect dust instead of interest.

  1. One-third of the workforce changes jobs every single year.

Twelve months. That’s a tenth of the time it takes a singular tree to grow, and tens of thousands of times less than an entire mountain range takes to form.

The average person changes their career four to six too many times throughout their life. Most of them say it’s because they hit a dead end. I say it’s because they never really knew what they wanted.

At least they were brave enough to admit it.

  1. get dressed


1. a colloquial term used by marching bands to indicate putting on a uniform; unlike the normal usage of the word in which one changes from pajamas to another set of clothes, nothing is removed or exchanged, only added on top.

  1. “I knew he wouldn’t talk to me ever again. I called it, last year at senior rec.”

“I remember.”

“But like, our relationship has always been built on just being around each other. We never talked, just like, watched TV or something. And I was fine with that, but I don’t know. I miss him.”

“You should tell him, then.”

“I can’t do that! Like I said, we don’t talk to each other, and it’s not like I can start now. No, he doesn’t need to know.” I checked my phone. There was only one notification, from YouTube.

  1. After metamorphosis, a butterfly is unable to use its new wings until they are fully dry, which can take up to two hours. That doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize butterflies only live for about two weeks, and the human equivalent would be almost five months.

Five months of being essentially trapped in place until you finally recover your bearings and are fully born anew, at which point you might realize you never wanted to be something wholly different in the first place, you only did it because you’ve always been told it was the only way.

  1. I passed the paint roller over the wall again. A soft shade of green was already beginning to blanket the off-white walls the room had always had. Pencil marks, words I woke up at three in the morning to write down, paint splatters, bumps and dents and cracks, all covered up by the new color.

This room is my childhood, I thought, passing my hand over the dry area on the right,  running my fingertips over its texture. Staying up late, laying in bed across the room from my brother and making up stories to help me get over my fear of everything. Counting past the thunderstorms while my dad slid a penny or two into the piggy bank on my dresser that plays the tune of “Oh My Darling, Clementine” when you put a coin in. My brother’s Buzz Lightyear clock, ticking by the closet.

And then we were too old for those things, so my parents turned the playroom into a bedroom and he started sleeping there. I wanted to paint my room then, but my dad had started a new position at his job and no one had the time.

Six years later, my brother had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to go off on a trip to Europe for a month or so. He left the same day my best friend had her graduation party. I cried and pretended it was because I was listening to sad music. I wanted to do it then, but my room was too messy.

Up, down, up again. Fill in the white space.

The next year more of my friends graduated. I fell out of contact with all of them. The following year was the same story, except everything else changed too because I couldn’t even go to school to see the friends I had left. Instead I sat on a computer in my unpainted room and tried to learn anything while my mom got laid off from her job and the world burned or coughed.

“Did you know every time you paint a room, it gets a little smaller?”

“I guess that makes sense,” said my mom.

My brother was accepted to a school six hours away. I didn’t get to help him move out because there wasn’t enough space for me in the car.

I kept painting. Does it matter?

I’ll be next to fly from the nest. Why bother painting now, nine years later?

I applied more paint to the roller. My dorm room won’t be this color. A smile stayed on my face and I told myself it didn’t hurt. Who would I keep in touch with? What about my family?

“If you don’t want to change it, why are we doing this?”

Because I have to, I wanted to say, because everything is changing and so am I.

“I do want to,” I said instead.

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