“I want it!” My mom won’t let me get any candy because she says I’ll get hyper in the movie, but I won’t. I’ll eat my gummy bears and M&Ms one-by-one, so I don’t get sick. I will too be good, I said. Other kids are filling little sacks from the big glass tubes of candy. It makes a happy sound falling in the trays. The other kids have piles of color in their hands and are laughing. I bet they didn’t have to promise to be good. Mom said maybe after the movie. If I’m good. But she’s lying. I know that maybe means never. I want to pick my candy from the tubes like the other kids. I deserve it.
“I want it.” I realize I sound like a little kid, but dad needs to know. He’s not very good at buying Christmas presents, so I have to spell it out for him. Seriously, this is the Lego Hogwarts Castle! None of my friends has one, so I’d be the first. It has over 6,000 pieces! It even has the Chamber of Secrets and Hagrid’s Hut and all the characters. I tug at Dad’s arm because he’s not listening. He’s looking at some lame STEM kits. He thinks everything should be educational. When I point out that building with Legos is also educational, he says the stupidest thing ever: “Did you know those blocks won’t fully degrade for 1,300 years???” I cannot believe how my dad can ruin everything. He’s going to give me a wooden puzzle or a Make-Your-Own Compost kit or something. I need to convince him. He’s a teacher, and they like to talk about critical thinking and twenty-first century learning. That’s what I’ll say about the Legos. I try to get his attention, so he’ll get the Hogwarts Castle and not the worm farm he’s looking at. I deserve it.
“I. Want. It.” WTF? I cannot believe I am having this debate with my so-called friend. If I want to dye my hair this fantastic color, that’s my business. He’s sticking his nose in to lecture me, “hair dye products get into the water supply and harm the algae.” Where does he get off? This shade of blue matches my eyes EXACTLY. Aquamarine hair with my eyes would totally pop. It’s not enough anymore to just take selfies of my hot self; I’ve got to take my whole presence to the next level. If I look good enough, maybe Got2b will even sponsor me. But my friend won’t let up. I’m starting to wonder why I hang with him if he’s got a stick up his butt about everything. So, I’ve gotta lay it out there for him. If I want blue hair, I am going to have blue hair, and it’s none of his business. None. I’ve worked hard to get a following and I need to be able to keep it fresh. I deserve it.
“I want it.” Who the fuck does this salesman think he is? Just because I came in with a beat-up old Ford pickup, he has me pegged as some low life who’s going to waste his time working up the financing on a new truck and then not be able to afford it. He’s trying to show me “lightly used vehicles.” Lightly used, my ass. I want the Ram 3500. This thing is big. It’s got a 6.4-liter V-8 engine, 410 horse and can carry a hell of a load. Monster tires. Maybe only 11-12 mpg, but what the hell. I will own the road in this thing. Not to mention the ladies. Usually, salesmen are falling all over you to sell you the priciest car they’ve got, so I don’t know what’s wrong with this guy, but it chafes my chaps, I tell you. I mean, he’s not wrong. I can’t afford it, but who does he think he is, looking down at me like that? Making assumptions. Anyway, that’s what financing is for. I have a job. I work hard. I deserve to be able to tool around in this powerhouse. Yeah, that’s right. I deserve it.
“I want it.” This is the cruise package I’ve been looking for! I hold the laptop out to Alex so we can scroll through the Viking Cruse site together. The cabins are luxurious, particularly if we spring for a suite with a balcony. “Look!” I tell Alex, “There’s seven restaurants, swimming, spas, a full gym, a climbing wall, zip lines, shopping. There’s so much to do! I think it’s worth it. After covid and not being able to go anywhere for so long, the kids stuck in the house zooming all day, plus all that trouble at your job. A week of this could be rejuvenating, a way to bond as a family by having fun!” I’m getting a skeptical look that says, ‘Yeah, but a cruise line?’ like it’s a dirty word. Well, they are kind of. They are super bad for the environment, I know that. I can see Alex gearing up to tell me about their carbon footprint. “Honey,” I interrupt, “We haven’t done anything as a family for ages. Just think about it. OK? You deserve it! We deserve it!” I pause to let that sink in and add under my breath, “I deserve it.”
“I want it.” The doctor is looking at her monitor, not at me. Pretty typical. She looks like she’s still in high school. Kids that young, how can they be expected to understand what it feels like to be in a failing body, with failing children, a failing job, every goddam thing failing. Of course, I get anxious. Who wouldn’t? She’s telling me to try meditation and yoga, but she’s still looking at the computer. Jesus. What do they teach people in medical school nowadays? I need medical help here. Valium, Xanax, something with an equally weird name. Not yoga. She says because of my age I need to be more careful. Well, I could be if I wasn’t so stressed out all the time. That’s what I came to the doctor for. My kid’s no help. She found this article about how drugs are making the fish sick, so it would be “morally irresponsible” to take them. I’ll tell you who’s sick. I am. I’ve worked all my life, raised my kids, and now I am old, tired, and my heart feels like it’s about to detonate. If I don’t calm down, it will. And here’s this snot-nosed doctor telling me she doesn’t think drugs are a “good idea.” You know what I think is a good idea? Give me what I’m asking for. I deserve it.
“I want it!” I stare at the shiny picture I found when I was scrounging in the storage rooms of the library. Food is so scarce now. Anything from before the Cascade is pretty much gone. If I’m lucky, I find some place no one else thought to look. I found a faded brown package of candies once on a shelf in a shop full of dead flowers and broken containers. I ate the colored beads one by one to make them last. Each crunch exploded like happiness in the back of my mouth. They gave me the runs but were so good for just a little while. It makes my mouth water remembering. Anyway, that’s what I was looking for, but instead, I found this book thing. It’s a little bigger and floppier than most books. I can read pretty good and the front says National Geographic. Not sure what that means, but the pictures are like something you could only dream about. No, I couldn’t even dream it up if I tried. My world is grey and brown, and either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. But when I opened this book thing, one of the pages folded over and out, so it was extra big, and it was like a whole new world fell open in my hands. The sky is a blue I have never seen, and it spreads over land that is wearing nothing but green. Every kind of green. All the greens of growing things, I guess. I haven’t seen a lot that grows. There’s animals in all the green. I don’t know what kind, but some are big and heavy-looking like those cars parked on the roads getting turned into rust. I’ve never seen an animal bigger than a cat, which aren’t all that good to eat. Or that easy to catch. These big things look like so much food. My stomach growls thinking about it. It growls a lot. I look at the picture harder to distract myself from my hunger. I can see there's a river running through the green. It's also blue, like a path reflecting the sky, but there isn’t any garbage tangled on it. If one of the other kids catches me with this, they’ll take it. That makes me feel anxious. They might rip it or get it dirty. It is too valuable for that. I tuck the book thing into my shirt and head back to the cineplex where I live in the space beneath a wall of clear tubes. I don’t know what they were for, but there is a little tray under them where I can store this book thing to keep it safe with my other special possessions, like the colored blocks that fit together into different shapes. I open the picture again, though, and look at it in the grey light that comes from the big hole in the roof. My eyes water at the brightness of it all. I am really tired. I think maybe I wouldn’t be so tired all the time in a brighter world with all that green. I should have been able to live like this, like people lived before the Cascade. Even me. Don’t I deserve it?