Anonymous Short Story on Living Below Middle Class
Hi, I’m a 16-year-old Latinx American who lives in California.
I was in third grade when I realized I wasn’t in the same social class as my classmates. My mother had bought me these two-second hand shirts from a local swap meet. I vividly remembered the way the shirts looked. One was pink with glitter and a cross-search on it and the other was a lime green that had some saying on it. I remember I wore those two shirts for the whole week. I wore each [one] every other day. I didn’t have many clothes for school and I was content that my mother had gone out of her way to buy me those. This whole situation arose when my mother noticed I had been biting my fingernails. Biting fingernails is a sign of anxiety and I felt that all the time when I had to go to school. I saw my classmates with new outfits that they bragged about, and I looked at my hand [me] downs and wondered why I never had nice clothes like them. My mother asked me why I was biting my nails so much and I broke down. I couldn’t really explain because my tears and sobs didn’t let me get many words through. After I calmed down my older sister translated to my mother that I was always nervous about my clothes. The next day my mother brought me those two shirts and I was so happy. It all went [down] hill again when my classmates teased me and asked me why I never wore any other clothes. I had realized that this wasn’t a common thing for others and I struggled till now because of my social/economic status.
Then there was a time when I [was] sick with the flu and I had to stay home. I had been throwing up and my mother was taking care of me. I was sleeping when she left after seeing an ad from Target. They were having a sale where they had converse tennis shoes on sale for $10 each. My mother knew I needed new shoes and this seems like the perfect opportunity to get a good deal. I was so excited to wear them when I could return to school. [But] I was teased because of the style of my new shoes. They were off-brand and looked different than everyone else’s. Eventually, they got tears on the side and I was embarrassed. None of my other classmates understood the embarrassment I felt. I couldn’t have nice shoes like everyone else.
It was 2009 and my father was going to receive his last welfare check. I could tell by everyone’s sour mood that something was wrong. I knew my father didn’t have a job but I was young so I didn’t think much of where our income was coming from. My mother told me to shower after I came back from school because we would be going out. I thought this was a weird occasion since we hadn’t eaten out in years. It was revealed by my older sister that we were going to Olive garden. To others, it may not seem like much but to me, it was the fanciest restaurant I knew. My mother did my hair and dressed me in my old easter dress. I remember the drive there. My two older sisters [were] squished on each side of me in the back of our small grey sedan. My sisters were 10 and 18 therefore much bigger than me. This car didn’t have a functioning radio or ac and the May breeze stumbled in the through the cracks of the car windows. The drive was quiet and in a strange way, peaceful. We sat down and my father smiled. He told us to order whatever we wanted, that it was no big deal. What he really meant was to feast because it was the last time we were going to eat out at a restaurant like that in a long time. I don’t remember what I got but I remember when it was time to leave and mother looked at the check. Tears brimmed her eyes and she took out the envelope with the remaining money [from] the check. They paid and we left, and at that moment I realized once again how much we would struggle in the years to come.