Her generosity seeps out of her in waves, over the crowd of swaying teenagers in line for the cooler. “One for you, one for you, one for you.” Her tongue is loose, buzzed; she keeps it that way. She’s waiting for someone to suck it up with her soul—a two-for-one kind of deal. She tastes like lime: not quite sour, but tangy and tropical like the places she can take you if you ask pretty please with sugar on top.
I look down at my drink, waiting for someone to tap it with their own so we can both mutter something about a “good time, not a long time”—you’re supposed to laugh after, then take a swig. But what I’ve got is nothing special, the same old flavor in different packaging. I try to read the ingredients, but they’ve been scratched out with Sharpie. Oh well, I know the gist: too much sugar and too much noise; it’ll kill you but not as fast as cigarettes. To die is to finally jump in and start dancing—it’s always been the neon lights that make us want to conform.
Eventually, someone does come along, and I realize it seems like I’ve been staring at my crotch even though I’ve been staring at the can.
The drink itself is the kind that will never be treated like real alcohol. It gets passed on to all the fake, fruity, girly people in the world (though second-hand sips seem all right). I’ve noticed people don’t mind it so much in this setting. Maybe it’s the lighting that makes it appear that much more unobtrusive.
“I was looking at my drink,” I say. And it’s her.
She smiles at me. “Cheers.” There’s a dissatisfying bong as our cans collide. She spins hers so I can see. “Cherry,” she says. It’s got on it a fresh-looking, enhanced-reality burning, silver metallic cherry with shades riding toward us on a wave of blood.
I spin mine. “Blue raspberry.”
“Any good?” I shrug, and she lowers her face to my hand, and laps up what’s left in the rim.
“I thought you might like it,” she says, “That’s why I gave it to you.”
“What made you think that?” I realize I’m staring when my eyes go all watery on me. But there’s no looking away, and my lips spread stupidly into a smile even though there’s nothing to smile about. Even a car wreck seems amusing right now.
She peers up at me, and I see the myriad of flavors dancing in her irises. Every drink she’s sipped is locked behind them. They wobble across the floor of their cell. They’re all happy enough to be overdosed with ecstasy.
Our eyes meet and her gaze binds mine. “Because it’s just not real.” And I barely process her words. My breathing is quicker now—she’s sucking up my breath from afar. She looks excited. “There is no such thing as a real blue raspberry. Sure, people argue about what’s what. But what we see as blue raspberry is nothing but a manufactured amalgamation of selling fantasies to dopes who’ll believe them.”
She closes the distance between us, and suddenly she’s tasting blue raspberry. I want to push her away, but my arms are listless at my sides. When she kisses me, I know she’s reading my mind. And there’s no lying to her now. All that’s left for me to do is moan about how terrible I was at hiding it. And wonder how long she’s known.
Heidi Elder is a second-year English major from Ottawa. She is largely inspired by clowns, dark alleys, and colored smoke.