One of my favorite things to do after school or during the summer as a kid was to roller-skate. My Papa had a long concrete driveway shaped like a capital “P”. The stick of the “P” was flat and the curve sloped down and then back up, so it was a great place to pick up speed and practice screaming around the curve. I also once convinced my little sister to stand still and let me kick my roller-skated foot over her head, and accidentally hit her square in the mouth with it instead. But I digress.
One particular afternoon, I’d walked over to my Papa’s house to go skating and had taken an icy cold can of grape soda with me. Skating is hard work! I set the can down on the concrete, near the house, beside some ornamental grass and proceeded to work up a thirst.
Maybe a half hour later, I screeched to a stop next to my drink, grabbed the can and tipped it up to take a huge gulp.
Did grape soda come out?
Did something else come out?
They POURED out of the can, riding the flood of purple sugar solution like tiny little Samoans in the Pacific. Except instead of landing on rocks or beach, they landed on my FACE. I don’t think I got ants in my mouth. Carpenter ants are BIG and you would have to really WANT to get one in your mouth in order for it to actually happen. But all I remember was a horde of ants pouring out of the can ONTO MY FACE. I recognized them immediately and knew, on some basic level, that they don’t really bite but I completely lost my biscuits. I spit, I yelled, I wiped my face in a panic and I cried. I remember staring at the can as if it had betrayed me. As if it could have somehow warned me and DIDN’T.
And I didn’t drink grape soda again. I couldn’t do it. Every time I looked at a can of the stuff, I thought “ANTS!” and it made my stomach turn, even though I knew there weren’t ants in every can of grape soda. I mean, Freddy, Chucky or Jason Vorhees hiding under my bed at night? Absolutely a possibility. Potential phantom ants in every can of grape soda? Ehh. That was a stretch even for my heightened neuroses. But I still couldn’t bring myself to drink it. TOTALLY RUINED.
That is, until today. Today I had what might be my first can of grape soda in 25 years. And you know, it’s okay. I feel like I finally conquered a childhood fear. Granted, I’m not going to be buying cases of the stuff. But it wasn’t too bad.
Some “growing up” milestones are just weird.