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What Matters

After a night of drinking we were talking about freedom, and wild abandon … something we’d both thought of as our life’s work when we were 10 years younger, and didn’t know each other:  when I was in Russia getting drunk at a different club every night, and she was in Sweden making love to an older woman who’d promised to show her the world.

The difference was, she’d let go of  herself all that time … and floated away from every limit, while I had been searching, hunting for that thing that would take my boundaries away, the holy grail of bliss through amnesia, and never found it.  The further away I went from my home and hearth, the more deeply I sank into the man who’d sat in front of them.

“Did you ever find it?” I asked her as we walked down the cool Oakland street, almost at midnight, almost at the hour when the trains stopped.  “Did you ever find freedom in wild abandon?”

She pursed her lips, and wiped her brow, still sweating from dancing at the last club, whose house music we could hear faintly echoing from far back down the street.  “For a little while,” she said.  “For short periods of time, I mean.  But … no.  No.  I’ll tell you where I found freedom.”

“Tell me.”

“I started this year $10,000 in debt, trying to run a small business.  I’ve watched every penny, cut every coupon, followed every financial guideline.  Thank you for buying dinner tonight, by the way, so that I didn’t have to watch my pennies.  That meant a lot.  And now, the year’s almost over, and I’m almost debt free.  I’m not carrying any of that around with me, I’m my own woman:  debt free is free.  Following the rules made me more free than wild abandon ever did.”

I nodded.  I looked up at the moon.  Big, round, and full:  the kind of moon things happen under.

“I think the last train’s going to leave soon,” I said.  “You’d better drive me back to the station.”

She looked up at the moon. “Yeah,” she said.  “I guess so.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I guess so.”


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media,, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at

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