By Annie Fu
The American Dream was really starting to come together at the beginning of the 21st century, as I remember it: it appeared first as a few discarded bottles on a playground, then as clothes thrown out with tags still attached, flags rippling perpetually in the schoolyard at half mast, excess swinging from overcrowded coat-hooks, tied around mom’s shopaholic eyes, picking dad’s pocket, filling my nostrils, tangy and sour, like the spoiled dairy from the last night’s dinner, painstakingly untouched. Always growing, adding, in any way possible. From sunrise to sundown we were in an arduous race against time to use, use, use. These accumulating mountains of refuse were what kept us looking forward, churning, churning, working to our ideal reality and keeping our nation on track until that fateful day, when we woke up and realized we had achieved our wildest dreams: we were finally, thank God, literal pieces of trash.
Most people reincarnated as the slender, translucent, and flexible yet hard-bodied, your average plastic straws. Rumor has it you had to verbally say the keywords “Global warming isn’t thaaat serious” to even move up the social hierarchy. Plenty of people became aerosol cans and clouds of air pollution too, but once you looked up enough tiers, you reached the REAL trash. Scott Pruitt? That man reincarnated as the entire Great Pacific garbage patch on his own.
I had the honor of becoming a water bottle. I won’t lie, it’s probably because of legacy (my father had a key role in pushing for the Dakota Pipeline), but I didn’t take it for granted by any means. I still worked hard and was at the top of my class in both pointless and intentional waste. I’ll never forget that day when my homies and I had the big reveal party— we set up a stage with a couple of spotlights and a large black curtain, then individually unveiled our new forms to each other. I can’t lie, I was a little nervous to go when it was my turn, but when I thrust aside that curtain and showed them my transformed slender, cylindrical plastic body, I received nothing but support.
“Oh, my God, Steve, you look amazing.” Kelly said. “What brand are you?”
I smugly rotated to the side to let everyone see the logo on my new plastic ass.
N E S T L E P U R E L I F E , set crisply against a background of serene blue, caught the light and glimmered as everyone gasped in amazement.
“Oh shit, homie. That’s insane, congrats!” Connor said. “Nestle’s a huge company..damn.
I’m real happy for you…”
His voice trailed off near the end, and I caught a slight hint of resentment. In our past lives, Connor had always been the one that hesitated a little whenever we threw our Keystone cans onto the house lawn, so his lack of genuine support didn’t really come as a surprise, and nor did I care. I knew my banging body was something to be jealous of.
Afterwards, we all sat around and bonded over our new shared non-biodegradability. The talk got pretty philosophical, I can’t lie. We all agreed that to have our physical form finally match our existence in value was truly liberating. It freed us of our previous heartbreakingly painful roles of being both the most superior beings on the planet as well as having a finite lifespan. Facing the simple paradox of the immense power granted to us paired with the knowledge that anything we did was futile? Unbearable. It was ridiculous that we were placed on the Earth for a set amount of time and YET were still expected to choose the ludicrous option of preserving the so-called “natural beauty” of our planet over endless purchasing of items we didn’t need. No way— how I saw it, since I was going to die soon, this bitch Mother Nature was going down with me. First of all, I couldn’t have a woman beat me in anything, and second, my 708th frosted plastic bag with the stark red “THANKYOU” repeated on it five times used way too much non-biodegradable material for me to pass up. Looking back on those decisions and whether I would’ve done anything differently, I know that I prefer this passive, uninvolved and therefore not liable existence to the alternative of making small sacrifices any day. This is America, and the dream is undoubtedly alive and well,
THANKYOU very much.