There’s just something about stick gum. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s unwrapping it. Maybe it’s how it always ends up folding into thirds, collapsed by the roof of my mouth. Maybe it’s that my grandmother always had some when I was a kid, a sugary pack for us, and the other, nicotined, for her. Maybe.
Popeye sticks brought the same unwarranted guilty pleasure. My older cousin and I would stuff them inside old Tic Tac boxes, stocking up on “cigarettes” before we ran around the house wagging our plastic guns. Oh, the days!
In many ways, I will always be this kid.