“You never told me to bring anything.”, my friend proclaimed this in front of a small group of people I actually like who were all by this point inebriated and a few were high as well. I took a pull of the small bong packed with some unknown strain of weed and smiled to my concerned friend with this response. “It’s all good. Here, take a hit”. As he pulled the fire into the weed turning it into smoke then inhaled it, there became a resurfacing of truth. He pulled from his pocket a ten-dollar bill and said,” here you go, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t chip in.” We had been smoking off a forty-dollar bag that was generously sold to me. Not generous because of the sale itself but because it was a friend of mine who sold it so of course it was more than forty- dollars worth.
The green paper note looked at me with this stare of recognition of one’s control over another and it tried to claim dominion over my dealings and doings. In that moment I reached for it, took it into my hand and spoke freely to the group. We were only 5 so all eyes were on me in acknowledgment when I said, “This means nothing, this is just a piece of paper.” My friend agreed that the 10 he just gave me meant nothing and had no power over us. To symbolize our freedom suggested we burn it. Setting ablaze the capitalistic philosophy that has created our economic and social structure, from its great heights of industry and entrepreneurship to its freighting and soul crushing depths of poverty, classism, and isolation. This is what would go up in flames when I unleashed the fire of reckoning. The look on the face of my lady friend said it all. She was shocked and vaguely horrified at the the thought of seeing the Federal Bank valued bill turn to ash as if it were nothing but paper.
That is where the fascination came into focus. This bill, this piece of paper that was colored and held a numeric value would burn like any other paper I own or any book filled with knowledge and memories. It would burn and leave nothing behind except for a fantasy of what could have been purchased with it or to what extent it could have been used. Her eyes showed me the source of all power. And as I watched Leroy Thompson and Creflo Dollar dancing on the money the congregation had tossed upon the pulpit steps in sacrifice and listened to Leroy Thompson speak about his daughters new Benz, his sons new Mercedes, and the family $16,000 dog I realized how trapped so many were in the enslavement. I envisioned the ten-dollar bill being consumed and a wraith being freed from it, screaming and carrying itself into the shadows. With the lighter in hand I played with the idea until the number value of the bill turned into a 10-ton oppressor and I too thought of what I could use it for and the waste it would be to turn to ash. I put down the lighter and took another drink from the choices of vodka, whiskey, and Scotch. The next day that same ten-dollar bill would be sacrificed for me to do laundry.