In the early spring of 2004, I was twenty-two and had just received my first tax refund. I didn’t have any money, but I was close to money all the time. At the slick corporate publishing offices on the Upper West Side where I worked, the profit-and-loss statements were for hundreds of thousands of dollars, which it was my job to calculate, and I fetched coffee for established authors and agents—daily interactions that reassured me that my modest circumstances were only temporary. The hazy future would deliver me a big payday, so there was no need to save. I spent every penny I earned, which was easy to do: rent took most of it, food pretty much covered the rest.
When I unexpectedly got a check in the mail from the federal government for $342, I went out to buy a large, rectangular, pale pink Marc by Marc Jacobs handbag.