I spend all my salary on food. I caught myself thinking that the last time I had bought something for myself (besides food) was before the war. That is two and a half years ago. And all this time I manage to live with my old stocks. It is good that I have shoes and clothes. But everything gets old eventually. Last autumn, I had an unpleasant discovery. My bags, which were hanging in the closet, swelled in the air and fell apart. Yes, it was not real leather, but I did not think that they would die like vampires in the sunlight. One by one.
That is too bad, because I bought them for future and did not even have time to use them. My clothes grow old. You can deceive yourself by the fact that you can wear them the next season too, but it all depends on the line of your self-criticism. If you do not notice that the jacket is worn out on the sides and cuffs, you can probably wear it more than one year. At first, I did not even think of shopping. They did not pay us at all. It was necessary to find an opportunity to survive, to eat. On the second year we already got used to have only what we could afford. Now it does not occur to me that my wardrobe actually needs an update.
You know, I noticed the worn out cuffs and sides of my jacket at the moment when I met my former colleague in the store and noticed that her sheepskin coat was also a bit old, treacherously diverging on her chest and looks like the remains of the former luxury of a prosperous past. What was fashionable, luxurious and expensive five years ago, now is clearly dilapidating. Shoes go out of order first, clothes last a little longer. But worst of all is that at some point you stop bothering what you wear at all. Everything depends on the mood.
Probably, if my mood was good enough, I would scale back the budget, save up for new things, not just for the necessary grocery shopping. But this does not happen. Hence, the whole scheme of my life, more or less harmonious, suits me. If it did not suit, I would be looking for a way out. But when I noticed a hole in my outfit, I blew it off – that will do. As well as boots that require repair and my usual sweater.
Bellyful gives a sense of well-being. When you open the refrigerator and see the food reserves for at least a few days, it becomes warm and comfortable. I do not remember that I was so concerned about food before. I was not concerned about that probably because I still wear those pre-war stocks of clothes and shoes. Then, before the war, an extra pair of shoes was the order of the day for me. Now a purchase of the badly needed shoes would be an excess for my lame budget.
Today I caught myself on thinking that my salary here is enough only to buy some food and to pay the utility bills. I do not buy books, I do not go to a gym or eat out. Excesses happen once in a couple of months in the form of going out to a circus show or cinema. And the food I can afford can be called modest – chicken mince, sausages, cottage cheese, sour cream.
Sometimes I buy candies, but I choose them by the criterion of an affordable price rather than by my own preferences. I do not buy chocolate sweets, I do not buy smoked sausages, and allow myself only anchovies out of fish at the price of $1.7 per kilo. If you look into my refrigerator now, you can habitually find all the same set of products – chicken cutlets, soup on a cube of dry broth, cottage cheese and sour cream.
Although I admit that the last two points are rather a luxury. We have a stock of vegetables, bought in autumn and stock of home storage. We do not incur inanition (although I know enough people who honestly admit that they are starving). But it is difficult for me to call my life normal. What is the norm now? If it is the food availability, then we are all right. If it is the absence of debts for utility payments, then we are also all right. But sometimes I catch myself thinking that if, God forbid, some kind of force majeure happens, we will be defenceless. And saying force majeure I do not mean a cataclysm in the form of a sudden operation or something else, but a banal breakdown of household appliances or a broken pipe.
Is not it nonsense? To provide yourself only with food. And, in fact, there are a lot of those among my colleagues, who went to seed long ago and do not even try to hide the poverty that coming out of woodwork. Old shabby clothing that lives not even its first life… I was handed over a package so that I could give it to the homeless – there was secondhand clothing. The cleaning lady, seeing the package I have, took it away for herself: "I am not far from the homeless with my salary". And she did not have any constraint. I was there when she fit men's sweaters and old skirts and was happy as if she received a parcel of haute couture. Of course, I probably look a little better against the background of this woman.
Yet another colleague from my past was absolutely happy. We met into the store. He smiled all the time and I regretted leaving him – I feel myself comfortably with his sunny smile. Lowering my eyes down, I noticed that he hardly holds a basket full of beer bottles in his hands. This always surprises me – how can a person so easily give up money, pouring them down the drain for boozing? Probably, I will never understand it. But this was just the first of my surprises.
Just when he was leaving the cash register, I noticed that his down jacket was somehow sewn up almost across the back. And judging by his sunny smile, he was not to give a damn about it. He lives and does not give a damn that it would inappropriate to go in such a jacket for his position (senior in his old life). But he, as well as I, seems to thumb his nose at his appearance, probably putting clothing for some far from the first place on the list of his desires. And what is the difference between us? I spend only on food, and he cuts down his food ration on the basis of alcohol purchased for wage.
And I know a lot of people like he, who justify themselves by the fact that "the only way with such a life is to drink". Although even acknowledging my mistakes in budget planning, I still honestly confess that my salary in the "republic" is only just enough for food. I eat to work and work to buy food. I am not talking about the plans for vacation or savings. I begin to count the days to the next salary and divide the remaining money by the number of days left about two weeks after my salary.
And I think convulsively, what if something will suddenly go sour and wage will be delayed? And what if something unforeseen will suddenly happen or products, habitually, will rise in price again?
Olha Kucher, Luhansk, for OstroV