One. Two. Shh, she's counting. Ariel runs, tiny legs waddle across pavement. Her chubby fingers barely able to grasp her daily Pepsi, she runs. Poison in hand, smile on face, brown eyes wildly looking for hiding spots. Three. Ariel stops. She takes a sip. She's already drank 1,460 Pepsis in her lifetime. She's five. She runs, inhaling deeply as her lungs try to catch up with her feet.
Kayla's 35. Four. Five. She counts the lights hanging from the hospital ceiling as the doctors rush her to surgery. They flicker above her as she tries to remember every memory she's ever had involving her feet. But her mind won't let her wander from this moment, this second, this flicker of lights just hush whisper. The last moment she'll have with her feet. She blames it on her diabetes as if this disease had a mind of its own. Doctors blame it on the 12,410 Pepsis she's been drinking since childhood. Little Ariel can barely spell. She's six and knows nothing about fructose or dextrin, but neither does Kayla. Beaten, living in broken homes, she just keeps trying to find pieces of herself at the end of that bottle.
Ariel only knows the sizzle of bubbles, the ache she feels in her tummy, the big words doctors use to describe her condition to tell her mom that her kidneys are failing and her blood sugar's too high. The pain she feels that mommy can't fix because mommy's been surviving off Top Ramen and soda because mommy can barely afford to live. Kayla sits back in her wheelchair trying to look over her stomach but she can't. She can't see the stumps, the spaces where her feet used to be. She can't see herself when she looks at the reflection staring back at her, just the person she's turned into.
But she can't stop. Bottle after bottle she can't stop. Six. Seven. When Ariel turned seven they found her dying behind over-stuffed teddy bears and deflated balloons. It was her birthday. Eight. Nine. I've heard death before, but I swear there's something foreign about the way it creeps through the lips of a seven-year-old. Ten. Every ten seconds someone dies from diabetes, and in the time it's taken me to recite this poem 15 people have died.There may be small errors in this transcript.