BRIGETTE VAI WASE
An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony
‘PING! Ping! Ping!’ The text messages came one after the other. They all said how much he loved and missed me.
I had to find credits and text him back, otherwise he’d think I was ignoring him. I opened my purse. A 10 toea coin and 20 toea coin. All the money I had left until my next trip to Lorengau 30 minutes away.
I looked at the time, almost 5 o’clock, time to go to the room. I had spent a full day in the office on a Saturday. I made a mad dash to my room, the ‘pings’ did’t stop. I knew he would start asking, “Are you there?” if I didn’t respond sooner.
The air-conditioning hits me the moment I opened my door. I stared at frantic search for money I might have left lying around. I needed K10, the minimum credit purchase.
My search was futile. There was only one thing left. I walked to the desk drawer and reluctantly opened it. The small cylinder was shaped like Benjamin Franklin. I felt dismayed because I knew I was about to shatter the self-control I had displayed over the last 10 months.
It would be gone in a poof (well, more like a phwack). You see, Benjamin Franklin was my penny box.
I had a problem with saving money. I just couldn’t. My philosophy in life is ‘money is meant to be spent’. Thus, I lived in debt and had no savings.
I was working whilst attending university but had nothing to show for it. My sister loved to inform on me and my mother basically despaired of my inability to save.
“You must learn how to save, if something happens to you, how will you pay for an emergency?
“Save up and you can look after yourself and your parents in our old age. If you have savings, you will not worry whether your husband gives you money or not.”
And the worst: “Look at your sister, she has so many different accounts and savings, you should try to follow her!”
Well, good for her, she works in a bank which makes it easier. The rhetoric over the years frayed my nerves. This year, I made a stand. I decided to get a penny-box.
The penny-box is for my unborn child, which I am yet to conceive. I put in an amount reflective of the number of weeks in a year. The first week, K1. The second week, K2 and so on until the 52nd week I put in K52.
I had just put K44 and felt proud because at times I had tried to prise the notes out of the slit at the top using a tweezer, but to no avail.
Eventually I simply forgot those endeavours and inserting money became second nature. But today, I was desperate. I needed to text him back.
I furtively pulled out the penny-box. I had this strange feeling I was stealing. I wracked my brain about how to open the box before a moment of clarity saw me rushing outside to search for a rock.
The rock had to have the right shape and right density to break the underside of the cylinder. I raised my hand and brought the rock down with a resounding phwack. I then burst into tears and each phwack had me crying harder still.
I felt I had broken my own heart. My self-control was left in smithereens. In order not to cut my greedy, fat fingers, I cried as I tweezed out four K5 notes.
A quick splash of water to my face and I was off running to get those phone credits. I texted back, ‘I love you too’.
The continuous flow of messages made me soon forget the broken penny-box.
I texted, ‘I have something important to tell you’, and then, from him, nothing.
I called him later to recount the story. And he laughed!
Tomorrow, I vow, tomorrow I will to get a new penny-box at Papindo in Lorengau and replace the K20 I took out to buy credits. Credits I used to call him and tell my story which he found so amusing.