“When my life is through and the angels ask me to recall the thrill of it all

Then I will tell them, I remember … you.”

— Johnny Mercer and Victor Schertzinger

Today, numbed by political hysteria, at loss for even basic words, I find myself longing for the simplest, even silliest, happier time. In a fog of weariness I dream, who knows why, of that much defamed and melancholy trio — sugar, salt and fat.

I remember them all: sugar, white and grainy like the beaches at Ipanema; and salt, like the silvery kind that graced the lips of my first margarita in a bar in San Francisco, or the salt on the chips on the taco truck in Pasadena.

And there was the great seducer fat, the lip-smacking kind of romantic fat in the juice left behind by a pan of bacon on that first cold morning at camp. Happy days they were.

Then things changed. I became an actor, and my ego reared its ugly head. In my Hollywood years, I sipped grass juice with the health-crazed elitists; I subscribed to “Healthy Guy” magazine; ate platters of asparagus, broccoli, kale and chard; and washed down brown rice with even greener drinks. Those were the “Harry Handsome” years, the years of black hair, flat belly and glistening teeth.

Then years passed, and I moved to Maine and was gobsmacked by my first real winter. One day a few years in, I looked in the mirror and saw splendor had left the grass, grace and charm had faded, elegance had waned.

I was no longer the Adonis I was widely known for. I liked being Adonis, having young women send cabs for me, walking on the beach without a robe, knowing all eyes were on me. It was the song of life, of love and youth, and I knew all the lyrics.

Gripped by panic, I hit the brakes and reverted to “The Program.” I went viral on veggies, banned chips and cookies, glazed doughnuts and cream-filled cannoli, and slammed the pantry door on fats, sugar and salt. And once again, went green: Kale, broccoli, asparagus, Swiss chard and arugula filled my plate.

Once again I was healthy. I looked healthy. Compliments came my way. People wanted to sit next to me at parties; strangers on the street wanted me in their selfies.

Then one day this summer — not sure exactly when — something deep inside emerged. Something primal.

It had a voice.

At first it began with a soft weeping. I knew that voice; it was the boy in the yard. It was me at 9 sitting in the shade behind Schneider’s drugstore guzzling Pepsi-Cola and munching a Milky Way bar; it was me after my sister’s birthday party, where I consumed everyone else’s share of cake, grabbing penny candy with sweaty hands.

The voice, now strong and demanding, produced visions: I saw myself sitting in the Velvet Freeze Parlor on Chippewa and Grand, sharing a banana split, a cheeseburger on a white Wonder Bread roll and double orders of fries, licking the salty catsup from my fingers.

I saw myself with Laura Bower, pinned against the lockers, popping pure sugar candy corn into my mouth one at a time. First a kiss, then a corn, kiss, corn, kiss, corn. It was a sugar-sweet game, and my heart danced.

Now, as winter approaches once more, as the knees ache, the hair grows whiter and the eyes dim, the voice entreats me, “Come home.”

It cries, “Come back to the old neighborhood, when life was sweeter than you knew, come back to Dr Pepper and chocolate fudge brownies.”

“We missed you,” sugar cries.

“We want you back,” salt purrs.

“Let’s party,” fat whispers.

“You only live once,” someone once said, “but if you do it right, once is enough.”

“Whipped creme on your pumpkin latte?”

Yes, please.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: