This is the first part of a piece that I had planned to submit for the CBC short story “Creative Non-Fiction” contest… Until the deadline came and went, and it was not quite finished.
I call this “Part 1,” but whether I’ll ever get around to posting part 2 is anybody’s guess.
Blue Raspberry Lollipops
I remember eating my lunch in the elementary school cafeteria—it was as far away from my classroom and locker as you could get, and settled right across from the East Gym (not to be confused with the West Gym on the opposite side of the school, which I could look forward to using during assemblies and my high school physical education classes).
I used to save up my two-dollar-a-week allowance, and then spend it on sour candies and curly fries, which were perfectly brown and crunchy and potato-y (as proper fries should be).
The 25 cent lollipops were a favourite amongst my group of friends and I, where the challenge was to get through the hard candy layer of sour lemonade or bitter blue raspberry in order to get to the bubble gum inside; “Warheads,” too, where again you were sucking and sucking to get the sour flavoured dust off the outside, your mouth watering insanely the whole time, waiting to get to the sweet candy underneath, before you are surprised again by the hard candy shell breaking open to reveal a liquid blast of pure sour on your tongue. In shock, you make a face, although you always try not to, and your friends laugh, because they know: you’ve reached that final layer. The final challenge of the sour blast.
They weren’t just candies, really—they were a trial, a test.
You could go for the win with these candies in two different ways. You can amuse everyone with a terribly over-acted reaction to the sour, or you keep your cool by holding your face steady and not letting your eyes or mouth contract with the sour. This was always my game—the game of keeping control, of keeping a straight face. Don’t show how much the sour is affecting your taste buds and nerves, as your tongue comes up with more and more saliva in a desperate attempt to counteract the battle being waged on its territory. Keep your lips relaxed and loose, and your eyes calm. Don’t look panicked, don’t look shocked. In fact, try to look as if you’re enjoying the sensation. It’s not a lie—on some level, you really are. Let yourself feel the triumph as the sour finally gives way to sweet, and you know that you’ve won. Sure, your friends will only be impressed for a second, but you get to add this moment to your list of victories, which, at the age of nine or ten, are surprisingly numerous.
This is important.
Later in life, all you will remember are the losses, but at least you will have this store of wins lined up behind you. All of the times you managed to face the sour enemy with composure and strength, and won.