Instead, there is a promise. That for the next four years I will have a voice.
As you go through life, you are constantly taught about the evils of greed, and how easily it can destroy someone. But when you're a child, the line between good and bad can be blurry and, if you're not careful, greed can turn you from a bubbly, polite kindergartner into Gollum in a matter of minutes.
When I was five years old, my brother and I were at my grandma's house playing with the child-sized Ghostbusters Fire House set and having the time of our lives. The black ranger and April were mid-celebration after finally defeating Skeletor and his army of robot Ninja Turtles, when we got called downstairs to get ready to leave. Before saying our goodbyes, we all went down to the old bedroom that my grandma was using as a storage room, so that she could give away some clothes, toys, and whatever else was taking up too much space. But while the rest of my family was climbing over boxes of junk, making their way to the dresser, I opened up the closet door and froze in place.
There, laid out before me, was a pair of the most beautiful trinkets that I'd ever laid eyes upon. At once I knew that they held immense value, perhaps even more-so than my finely curated collection of beanie babies. How much could each of them be worth? One million? Ten million? My tiny mind couldn't parse it, but the allure of the objects drew me closer, unbeknownst to the rest of my family. There were two, one green and one pink, and it was the latter that seemed to call my name. As I came upon it I reached my hand out, almost making contact when a voice called out.
"Hey!" My older brother came bounding up beside me. "What're you looking a-...?" his voice trailed off and his eyes widened as he looked upon the treasure. With no hesitation he reached out and grabbed the green one, holding it like a diamond in his hand.
"What is it?" I asked, my eyes still fixed on the pink one.
"It's... It's a Care Bear Pencil Topper."
"Oh my god..." My voice turned to a whisper. "It's beautiful." My brother put the green care bear down to admire it from afar again, and I finally made contact with the pink one. It was surprisingly heavy in my hand, like pure gold. My heart raced and I felt an instant connection with the object, as if my soul had been bound to it. As if this object had been searching for me for years.
"Michael! Ryan!" This time the call came from my mother, around the corner, and the suddenness of it made us both jump. "We're leaving!" Michael took one final longing glance at the green bear and set off after my mom and grandma, but I lingered. I knew that I should put the care bear down, but something stopped me. There was a nagging, brain-breaking thought inside my head. I belonged to this care bear, and likewise, it belonged to me. And how cruel would it be to leave this precious artifact down here, hidden from the world? Shouldn't it be on display somewhere where its beauty could shine? Shouldn't it be with someone who would truly appreciate its value? Shouldn't it belong to someone whose secret favorite color was actually pink even though he told everyone at school that it was red? I scanned my surroundings for any sign that someone might be watching as I slowly lowered it into my pocket. Then, as soon as it hit the side of my leg, I sprinted out of the room and up the stairs like a frantic raccoon, terrified of being caught in the act.
It hadn't been more than 5 minutes before the guilt began to weigh on me. My grandma gave me a hug and said goodbye, but my embrace was cold. I was no longer her loving grandchild, I was now the thief that stole one of her valuable possessions. The pink care bear seemed to burn like a tell-tale heart in my pocket. And during the hug, which seemed to last for decades, I was absolutely sure that I would be caught. It had all gone too perfectly, and the trinket felt flaming-hot against my leg. Surely she could feel it too?
My grandma let go and shared a few final words with my mom, and an even worse feeling overcame me. As she buttoned up my coat and walked us to the car I suddenly became sure that, instead, I would actually never be caught. I knew, as plain as I knew my name, that I would get away with it completely. And as the burning of the bear turned white hot on my thigh, I broke down on the sidewalk, falling to my knees.
"I AM SO SORRY! I AM SO SORRY FOR WHAT I DID TO YOU!" I screamed, with tears streaming down my face. "I BETRAYED YOU. PLEASE FORGIVE ME. PLEASE, PLEASE FORGIVE ME." My family stared in horror as my mom came face-to-face with me.
"What did you do?" She asked. I sobbed, unable to form the words beneath the weight of my emotional pain. "Ryan, what did you do?" I took a deep breath and slowed my choppy breaths, trying to gain enough composure to confess my crime.
"I-... I stole from grandma," the words felt like swords through my throat. And when my mom demanded that I hand over what I stole, I reached into my pocket and produced the small, pink bear. My mom and grandma shared a look before breaking out into laughter. I felt a pang of annoyance. Why were they laughing? What was so funny about my descent into what would surely lead to a life of crime? But the more they laughed, the better I felt. And soon I was laughing as well, though I didn't understand why.
My grandma offered to let me keep it, but that broke my laughter and I uttered a stern, "NO." I had experienced the evil sway of this bear for too long now. I'd spent almost an entire 15 minutes under its sickening hypnosis, and I knew that there was only one way to break free. I ran back into the house, down the stairs, and back to the storage room. I put the bear down, and gave it one final look before closing the closet door. And just like that, a wave of relief washed over me. It's worth noting that, although this was the first time I found myself insatiably attracted to a top bear, it certainly would not be the last. But my life of crime had ended there, and I finally knew peace once more.
Ryan C. Robert is the writer of multiple comedy blogs, most of which are satirical and self-deprecating. He writes about his life in his personal essay series "Before Color," parodies cooking blogs in "Trish's Dishes" and posts writing prompts every single day.