I bought a can of cherry soda today.
I just wanted a water, really, but there was a nice little row of shiny red-purple cans sitting in the case next to the cashier and, on impulse, I bought one. Swiped my card, found a table, set my things down.
When I was little, I used to beg my parents for a soda from the machine outside the grocery store. It wasn’t a particularly attractive machine–an uninspired sign that simply read “soda,” dingy black siding, the whole tucked against the side of the building next to the smoker’s bench–but the cherry soda was heaven to me. I didn’t ask for one often. We drank a lot of a lot of soda when I was a kid, but maybe I just felt like there was something inherently special about this. Besides, it would have been soda for lunch, and that was something we just didn’t do.
But when it seemed right–when I felt like my parents were up for letting me have a treat, or when I was particularly thirsty–I would ask my parents and get two quarters, drop them into the slot, press the sticky button, and wait for my generic-brand black cherry soda to tumble down to the bottom of the machine. It’s been years since I did that. The better part of a decade, probably. I don’t even think that machine is still around.
I try a cherry soda every so often, but it’s never quite as good as the ones from that machine. I suspect, sometimes, that there’s no such thing as a cherry soda like the one in my head, that I’m simply imagining the Platonic ideal of a cherry soda but have no hope of ever coming close to matching it.
I shrugged off my coat, popped the soda open. The scent of sugar rising up to meet me. Took a sip.
Close, but not quite. Maybe the next one.