BY NAILA SALEEM
Copyright is held by the author.
IT STARTED with a drink. A tall, iced, green-tea latte. It tasted so odd yet exquisite like a cool summer breeze. After that, it became a habit — grabbing a green-tea latte before class. It perked up her day when the barista would write her name on the cup beside the mermaid. Or was it a siren? The barista gave her the alluring cup filled with heavenly liquid. It called to her, just like a siren’s song. The siren started to hum and released a rewards card. Ruby had to get it. It made sense. She could be getting free drinks with the amount of lattes she bought. But the daily trips started to double: before class, after class. Then the siren started singing her song with offers of new free drinks, like the Sparkling Berry Sangria or the Caramel Ribbon Crunch Frappuccino with its sweet drizzling caramel and crunchy bits on top of fluffy whipped cream. Ruby knew she shouldn’t succumb to temptation. But Ruby could not just turn away free drinks. They were FREE.
So she went again. And again. Now it was before, after, and in between classes. She loved exploring their new drinks. Tasting the different bursts of flavour that would dance on her tongue and delight her belly. She was amazed by how she could customize the drinks. It opened new realms of sensations. When she drank the siren’s liquor, reality would fade. She forgot about assignments, bills, commuting, and the fact that the drink had cost her five dollars.
But of course, reality was a cruel mistress that would not let her forget forever. The siren’s song was only temporary. One day after class, Ruby got home and opened up her mail. Reality dropped a cold bucket of water on her. Her credit card bills were too much. At the rate she was going, she would not be able to pay for her commute or college tuition. A decision had to be made. It was time to cut ties with the siren. It was a struggle. The siren would not let go; she would tempt Ruby with discounts and postcards to come again. Every time she walked to college, she could hear the siren singing to her. Ruby would cover her ears and run to the college building.
Eventually, it became easier. The siren’s song started to become a soft hum. It started to be overtaken by the sound of honking cars and the chatters of pedestrians. Then one day, Ruby passed by the siren and it was silent. She saw the siren as usual, but could hear nothing. Ruby smiled and continued to walk. She stopped as she felt a sudden jerk on her wrist. Ruby looked at her Fitbit. Oh my! She better keep walking. Five thousand more steps till she got her Urban Boot badge!