Vanilla No Vanilla

Do we know what we want
when we say I want? Of course
we don't. Of course we'll say
stupid things that will make
the Starbucks server call out
Venti vanilla with no vanilla?
while doing her best not to eye
roll. I do it for her, trying
to make side-eye contact,
a way of saying I sympathize
completely. It's not even noon
yet. Sigh. Is that like when
you ask for salt but really
mean NoSalt, NuSalt, or Mrs.
Dash; or one of those aminos
instead of soy? Not that those
aren't legit, because I'm sure
there are plenty of people
who have good reason
to substitute. But venti
vanilla with no vanilla?
Please. Is that like saying
I love everything sweet but
I'm only allowed to feed my
diabetes Stevia or monk fruit
extract? Is that like saying
I want sex but without the
actual sex? Don't tell me this
is some millennial version
of going up to the fast-food
counter to order one large
diet drink with large bacon
fries and a double cheese-
burger with everything on it.
Don't talk to me about
the greater virtues of kale
versus vanilla, though I'm sure
anyone could find enough scientific
evidence to back up such claims.
And if this is some weird version
of celibacy or abstaining, please.
Just fill your water bottle
at the tap and go home. There,
no one will know except you
if you cheated and ate all
the malted chocolate balls
in the box, if you rooted
around in the refrigerator
at midnight, looking for
something—anything—sweet,
cold, and white; something
that wouldn't leave unsightly
green threads between your teeth,
and whose synthetically bound
flavors almost but not quite
capture the ambivalent textures
of childhood: perhaps not
all good, but perhaps also
not completely terrible.

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