When I was two years old I ate a little pink cake. It was the prettiest thing I had ever seen, like a cross between a piece of bubblegum, and a peppermint – but bigger. The cake was at the bottom of a sink in the men’s bathroom. It was not in the regular sink where you wash your hands. It was in the small sink.
My chubby fingers reached down and closed around the wafer as it began to fall apart in my hands. I quickly shoved it into my mouth before any grownups could see and try to take it away.
The taste was really unusual.
I took a few steps backward. My eyes watered. Drool ran down my chin as I worked to break up the chunks of pink grit with powerful toddler jaws. I stood my ground against the sourness of the thing, determined to get to the sweet, or syrupy, or peanut-buttery center.
It wasn’t gum, I knew that much. It didn’t stay together when I chewed it. It wasn’t candy, either. What the hell was this terrible, amazing thing I had gotten hold of? And what was it going to do to me?
I wondered these things while my eyes filled with, what? Tears? Impossible. You cry when you don’t get things, not when you find delicious treats in the men’s lavatory and keep them all to yourself without sharing with the other snot-nosed little jerks at daycare.
I reached for the door, but my eyes were useless. Stumbling, arms outstretched, I made my way down the hallway and back into the barroom of the VFW. This candy did not taste good. But, I knew I had a fresh Coca-cola in a can waiting for me, and probably a bag of Funyuns.
A lady yelped. Stools skidded across the floor. I still couldn’t see anything, but all this commotion gave me the sinking feeling that the game was up.
My legs started pumping and for a split second, I thought I’d gotten all the way out to the parking lot. But a squeezing sensation occurred. Like I was in the Amazon jungle being coiled round-and-round by an anaconda until my eyes bugged out and my tongue swelled and there was not a dang thing left of me but a soiled diaper and a longing for sugar.
Any kind of sugar.
I was upside down. I could have been anywhere.
But I wasn’t anywhere, I was back in the bathroom, underneath the faucet of the normal sink being drowned with pool water. The grownup splashed my face as the chlorinated, orange tap water of the VFW ran down my shirt onto my bare skin. Cold and awful.
Soaked, and enraged, I pushed against my captor with tiny balled-up fists, trying to get away.
“Nooooooo,” I gurgled, spitting salmon-colored foam.
Wriggling free, I lodged my body between the elbow joint of the sink and the tile wall. Wheezing and sputtering, I breathed through burning chunks. I wiped my face on the sleeve of my jacket, as strong hands closed around my ankles and dragged me out of my cubby-hole.
The grownup pulled me toward it and held me tight. It coughed and made gurgling sounds of its own as its eyes leaked onto my hair.
My bad candy was gone.