Cherry Coke Triptych

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February 18, 2020

“I got you a Cherry Coke,” she says with a smile.

I’ve only been seeing this woman for a couple weeks, and this is the first time I’m over at her apartment. She got us lunch, and I was shocked when she placed the bottle in front of me. Had I even mentioned how much I loved Cherry Coke? Maybe she had seen the bottles lined up on the kitchen counter and just assumed? Either way, there it was. I already knew I liked this woman a lot, maybe even loved her, and this was definitely adding to that feeling.

If I did mention Cherry Coke in one of our conversations (and there’s a strong chance I did), it wasn’t something I said intentionally. So if she remembered enough to make sure there was one waiting for me at her apartment, then that means she was listening to me when I was talking. Really listening. It made me feel good to know she was listening.

By making sure there was a Cherry Coke waiting for me, she was trying to make me feel comfortable. We were still learning about each other; we’d only been hooking up for a little more than a week, and things were moving very quickly. I don’t always do well when I’m not on my home turf, but she was telling me not to be scared because she was trying to make me feel at home in her home, too.

I didn’t get a chance to finish the Cherry Coke before I had to leave. But I stuck it in the fridge, and the next time I went over, it was still there waiting for me. It was flat, and I poured it out, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that it was still there.

November 28, 2017

55,058 words. Somehow I’ve done it — I’ve written an entire novel in 28 days. I take a swig of the Cherry Coke sitting on my side table. I can’t remember if this is the first or second one I had tonight. Everything became a blur as I got closer and closer to the end, a goal I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to reach. I certainly didn’t think I’d be done with two days to spare.

This isn’t the first time I’ve attempted to do NaNoWriMo, but it is the first time I’ve successfully completed it. My novel for the year before never made it past the initial idea phase. Now that I’ve done it, my life can begin to get back to normal. My late nights will no longer be a furious race against the clock to make sure I’m hitting my daily word count so I can go to bed before the sun comes up (and with it, my son waking me up.)

I drain the bottle of Cherry Coke and take it to the kitchen. One small square of the counter is where I pile empty bottles for recycling. I feel like I just filled the recycling bag, but yet again, the counter is near full. The meticulous rows of empty bottles are there to remind me I accomplished something really big. I wrote a whole freaking novel in 28 days.

***
Sometimes, it wasn’t about finishing the book so that I could pursue having it published, although that was a big reason! 2017 was a year of doing things for myself. I had FINALLY left New York, where I was living with my parents for almost four years, to move with my son back to LA. We were struggling a bit, but we were doing okay. I needed to prove to myself that I could write a book, and the story was scratching at the back of my mind until I got it out of me.

There is no way I could have done it without Cherry Coke. It wasn’t always about the caffeine, though that certainly helped. After writing all day for work, I needed something to keep my brain busy when it was time to work on my novel. The slow hiss of opening the cap was the call to arms to get ready for the night. Sometimes, it was the physical act of drinking that kept me awake and focused. With each sip, Cherry Coke became my cheerleader, telling me, “you got this, just one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more page, then you can rest.”

September 17, 2013

CRACK. The can pops open as I push down on the silver pop top. I take a long swig, and it burns so good as it goes down my throat. This is the stuff, I think to myself as I place the can down on the coffee table. I haven’t had a Cherry Coke in over six months, and it was TIME. I look at the sleeping baby bean in the car seat next to me and rub his little head before taking another swig.

Giving up caffeinated soda was one of the hardest parts of being pregnant. It’s true. Cherry Coke is my lifeline. I started drinking it in high school; I had one every day with my cinnamon raisin bagel for lunch. When my period was coming, I’d always eat peanut butter M&Ms and chase them down with a Cherry Coke; it helped my cramps. When I was having a bad day, I would buy a Cherry Coke on the way home. Once, my coworker needed me to switch shifts, and she did it by bribing me with a Cherry Coke.

But when I see that little face, it feels worth it. Cherry Coke may have been the way to my heart, but it had to make room for this little guy to move in.

Decaffeinated sodas like Sprite and Orange Fanta do not scratch the itch when you need a Cherry Coke. I know as soon as I give birth that the first thing I want to do when I get home is have one. And let me tell you, it’s everything I wanted it to be.


Bubble Trouble is a series helmed by Autostraddle Managing Editor Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya about the nostalgia, effervescence, and never-ending appeal of carbonated beverages.

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Sa'iyda Shabazz

Sa'iyda is a writer and mom who lives in LA with her partner, son and 3 adorable, albeit very extra animals. She has yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie she doesn't like, spends her free time (lol) reading as many queer romances as she can, and has spent the better part of her life obsessed with late 90s pop culture.

Sa'iyda has written 122 articles for us.

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