I was sitting with my feet dipped into the pool at the Radisson, while the sun drastically changed my skin tone from bronze to bronze.

“No mom, you don’t get it, I literally have no money for food,” I said.  And I wasn’t lying. I had ten dollars in my bank account and about 20 bagels to last me after that ran out. Yet, there I was, tanning at the pool in my Marc Jacobs bathing suit and my Balenciaga sunglasses. The pool was the one at the hotel down the street from me. I wasn’t staying there, but no one would stop me if I walked in. They even offered to bring me water or a snack sometimes.  My life was a paradox.

Twenty minutes later, as I was walking back, a homeless man came up to me and asked me for five dollars. I told him, “Sorry, I don’t have any money.” He continued to push.

“I told you that I literally don’t have money,” I forced out emphatically. This was a mistake. He was angry now.

“People like you don’t understand what it’s like to be someone like me. Look at yourself. You don’t have any money? Try being like me for a day.”

And he walked away.  I considered stopping him to tell him that half an hour ago, I was begging for money for food as well.

Nikki, age 18