I feel out of place at banks. Granted, I feel out of place in most public establishments, but especially at the bank. It feels as though I shouldn’t be there. It’s an environment catered toward people with money, which isn’t me. And rarely ever has been. They say if you can really believe it, you can manifest it. So I try to “stay positive” by giving myself encouraging affirmations about how, one day, I will have money. More than just barely enough to “get by,” whatever the fuck that means anymore. But enough to feel like I belong in a bank, as opposed to perhaps coming across as someone there to rob it (delusional though that may be in our current cashless, Big Brother society—Bonnie and Clyde had it so fucking easy, no wonder they were titillated by their spree). I imagine the tellers sizing me up and assuming I couldn’t possibly have any other reason to be there apart from foolishly trying to case the joint. Some might call it insecurity, others a realistic view of how one is perceived based on their exterior appearance.
My “aesthetic,” as people like to call it “nowadays” (instead of just saying “look”), had been something akin to “frumpy schlub” ever since I could remember. Even when my clothes were being paid for in the glory days of parental support, they never quite made me come across as “put together” or “stylish.” Some people were simply born to be dowdy, and I was one of them. A fact that didn’t help my chances of success in life in that “chic” people—or at least people who appear to be chic—have a better chance of radiating the affluence that automatically prompts them to be treated well by others. Not just bank tellers, but everyone, working in any industry. All assuming there’s some monetary payoff to treating such types with excessive and unwarranted amounts of generosity. In short, the belief was: lick enough asshole and maybe some shit will come out.
The only reason I was at the bank was because I had sold some records (yes, people still buy them) at one of the last music stores in town and had managed to secure a princely some of ninety-four dollars and eighty-six cents. Most of the value had come from selling a rare mint-condition Beatles album that probably would have sold for at least a thousand on eBay, but I was too lazy to deal with all that fuckery. I needed the money now. The album had gone underlooked for decades in my aunt’s garage, the place I usually scoured for ways to secure a quick fix of cash. She had no awareness of the treasure trove that was in there, and didn’t seem to notice whenever I filched something after assuring her I just wanted to “take a look around,” “admire the wares,” etc. Aunt Gertrude only cared about one thing: having her cigarettes brought to her, which was the service I provided in exchange for her allowing me to cadge valuable items without her saying anything about it.
In front of me at the bank, there were three elderly clients about my aunt’s age. These were the sort of people who still did IRL banking. The last of a dying breed—a thought that, I’ll admit, infused me with sadness in that moment. I don’t really know why. What with all the contempt my generation had been conditioned to have in terms of blaming baby boomers for all the world’s current ills. Though probably, not too far from now, the last remaining lot of intelligent people will blame millennials and Gen Z for making social media such a deeply-ingrained part of daily life. The three clients were obviously regulars at this branch, an assessment easily gleaned from overhearing snatches of conversation about this, that or the other relative they had mentioned in passing during these many jaunts to the bank.
“How’s Nancy doing?” I could hear one teller asking a gray-haired man wearing the type of sunglasses usually given after an eye surgery. “Oh, she’s got her aches and pains, but she’s doin’ just fine.” Another conversation between Teller #2 and an old lady with a bouffant hairstyle included, “Anything new, Beverly?” “Just a new mole to be removed, that’s about it,” she replied. And something about it all warmed my heart, like I was in a banking commercial meant to represent the importance of maintaining “the human touch” of personal relationships in the banking industry instead of reducing everything to apps and chatbots.
Feeling such goodwill toward humankind after bearing witness to these banal but affecting exchanges, I was starting to feel less uncomfortable. Less out of place in the bank setting. Maybe I should have just used the cash without bothering to deposit it. Looking back now, I can see that some overwhelming part of me wanted to get caught by leaving a paper trail, no matter how minimal. Later, when the teller I had interacted with—Teller #3—was interviewed by the police, she would recall the odd dialogue we had exchanged, for it was far more sinister than anything Beverly might have said about her moles or her squamous cell carcinomas.
As I approached the counter, my faith in human decency and empathy was naively restored long enough to believe I could be a more authentic version of myself. That all who handled their money here were welcome to the same use of the teller as a kind of confessor. So when she asked me chirpily, “Making a deposit today?,” I confirmed, “Oh yeah. I’m just depositing some quick cash ‘cause I need to buy a shovel. Some bleach. Stuff like that.” Looking at me in horror (particularly because yet another girl had gone missing this week), I quickly added, in flimsy explanation, “Home repairs.” But the damage had been done. She could tell I was doing something freaky. That I was, in effect, a freak. And freaks don’t belong in the bank. Long-standing customers and pillars of the community do.
It was obvious to Teller #3 that I was more unwanted and disdainful than Vivian Ward at a Rodeo Drive boutique. And she was certain to make me comprehend just that using what little power she had, complete with her disgusted expression. That’s the thing about people in such marginal positions: they want to do everything in their limited power to make someone else feel even more powerless. Especially someone they arbitrarily deem as “other.” For all I knew, my overt state of poverty (combined with the amount deposited that affirmed it) was what really inspired her to be such a key witness to the police. Because the transaction at the hardware store wasn’t enough to fully pin the murder on me. It was Teller #3’s merciless description of what I had mentioned to her that gave the authorities enough probable cause to get a search warrant for my house, specifically focusing on digging up the backyard.
But I wasn’t that dumb—I used my aunt’s house as a graveyard instead, and they would never think to search her abode. Call it the cushion of being respectable and elderly. Better known as: the most common type of person found at the bank.