The government misspending money we pay toward taxes is huge. I have five kids, four in college, and I think people should be paying me, pretty much, because they’ve taken a good path. It shouldn’t be that colleges are costing so much. They’re like, “Too bad, you have to come up with the difference.” There should be a little help for people like me. For the longest time I was a single parent. My kids are not shooting houses up, my daughters aren’t prostitutes or drug addicts … But not just my kids, all kids. Us helping the youth is helping our future. It’s not the old people, all the old people who are in office now, they’re gonna be dead. It’s the kids. Who are they gonna be tomorrow? Education, educating our own, but then we can’t pay for it why? ‘Cause we’re spending our money on war? We send all this money to other countries, but how many kids go hungry here? How many people are homeless here? We should help ourselves first, and it starts with educating our children. Who are these people going to be if we don’t educate them now? I keep telling my kids, don’t worry, it’ll be okay, I’ll pay for it even if I have to panhandle or pole dance–I’m not really gonna do that. It should be easier, not harder.
Let’s break it down together, you and I (Y said the next day), let’s have a family meeting.
Are we family? Jalyndria at the bank said.
That’s what your sign says, Y said, pointing at the sign in the window, bright sun outside backlighting a model’s smile, like bad stained glass.
Mmm, said Jalyndria at the bank. So what can I do for you today?
Y said, I want my kids to go to college so they can get good jobs so they can earn money so they can survive without doing scary, ugly shit.
Mmmhmm, said Jalyndria at the bank. And maybe you want some acknowledgment that what you did so far was work. To get them to this point.
Yeah, said Y, surprised. Yes I do.
And you came here instead of the State House because–
–Because this is where the money is, Y said.
Jalyndria at the bank laughed. Okay, but lemme call someone from there, because this is their problem too.
So let me ask you this, Y, said David from the State House when he got to the bank, unrolling his pant leg and wiping his forehead. If your kids didn’t need to earn money to be safe, would they still want to go to college?
Probably, said Y, but I don’t know, but isn’t that like if they didn’t need air to breathe?
That’s true and not true, David from the State House said, and we want to make it less true.
The following year, Rhode Island began phasing in the basic living stipend in reverse order of current income*. For the two years until they were eligible, Y and her children studied and worked and ate and texted and cried and argued more or less as they had before. Y and her older daughter received their first checks in the third year, with room in Y’s check for her younger daughter too, and Y’s two sons received theirs in the fourth year.
Five years later, Y’s youngest signed on for her own basic income and semi-disappeared. Y thought she might be in one of the groups of wild kids who called themselves families and took over disused structures, painting them and planting them with vines. Were they having parties in there? Doing drugs? Performing rituals? Rumors abounded. Y’s older daughter, her girlfriend, and her girlfriend’s baby’s father, who were all living with Y at that point, tried to reassure her: She’ll be okay, Y, she’s smart, she got her shit together. You raised her well, Mama. Here, Stinky, go to your abuela, tell her your tía’s gonna be okay. The baby gurgled and stuck out her tongue.
Look, seriously, Mama (Y’s older daughter said, when they were alone setting tomato seedlings in the old bathtub), I know you’re worried she’s doing things you think are bad. But I don’t think she’ll do anything that’s bad for her. That’s the difference it makes.
If I could tell her that, Y said, hating herself a little, would she come back?
I don’t know, Mama. Family is still strange.
Seven years later, when all the money for the basic living stipend came from renewable energy because there were no more carbon and methane emissions to tax; twelve years after that, when Riverside finally became uninhabitable; a year following, when the grandbaby received her first check, she heard about her tía who had disappeared. Because she knew that no one and nothing really disappears, the year after that, she went to look for her.
*Doctor’s note: these are instances/explanations, NOT watertight plans.