Notes on Coins

Ordinarily, I love foreign coins: their strange inscriptions, their unfamiliar weight, their sometimes odd sizes. But what’s interesting about foreign coins is the way, after enough time, they also fool you. Rummaging around in my wallet, my hand grasps a coin I think is a quarter or dime, but turns out to be a 5-peso or 200-shilling piece.

At first, I was amused — I got a little feeling of secret pleasure when I picked it up or if I didn’t notice and accidentally gave it to a cashier who handed it back to me, confused — it was my proof that I haven’t always been here, a responsible, rooted member of New York society. Now, however, the coins have become annoying. Despite how many times I try to purge all of my purses of the foreign money, it still emerges: in hidden pockets, ripped seams, anywhere I could look for change to pay a bill. And when I’m in a hurry the last thing I want is 30 pesos instead of $2.25 for my subway pass. I clean and I empty, yet again, and the coins glare back at me, shiny and resilient. You can’t get rid of us that easily, they seem to be saying.

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