>The can of Fanta popped open without much fanfare, but Heinrich still licked his lips in anticipation. This was a taste he had not afforded himself in as much as ten years away from home. There was no sweetness in his new life. Only the bitter slap of artificial sugar on his tongue every morning after a coffee, the occasional pasty store-bought cake for someone’s birthday, eaten from paper plates with plastic forks. Otherwise, it was carefully balanced meals of light grains, legumes and vegetables.
And O that first sweet sip of pure orange sugar was like orgasm, the thin cold aluminium and the fizzing cool liquid trickling joy down his throat. His head buzzed, his dietary denial finally upended in one swift movement. He had to sit down. He actually had to put the can down for a moment on the Formica table and lower himself, weightlessly, to a chair. His eyes swam with visions of summer afternoons, in that very same chair, swinging the fridge door open and seeing those rows and rows of brightly marked cans: beautiful colourbars of possibility.
Heinrich was about to take another measured sip when he heard the creaky complaint of the back door swinging open. Damned anathema. The other end of sweet childhood memories: the indignity and cheek-roasting shame of being found out. His mother’s squeal made it down the corridor well before she did. Heinrich had foolishly left his satchel on the hall table.
Heinrich’s mother rolled into the room, as if on casters, hugging her son and removing the precious can of Fanta in one fluid movement. “Who left that out there, then?” She upended the can into the sink with one hand, the other still rooted to her son’s shoulder. “One of those neighbourhood kids, I don’t doubt.”
Heinrich watched that gorgeous catastrophic orange disappearing down the drain, and suddenly felt all the worse for having had so little of it, to have been brought full circle back to the fat wax of a full life, a childhood of nothing but possibility.
“I will fix us some nice herbal tea,” said his mother.
Heinrich felt a great hot tear run down his cheek and into his mouth. As he tested it with his tongue, he thought of the four tastes. Mostly, it was sweet.