So I was in the elevator pretending I was alone when the guy next to me offered me a rectangle of gum. Technically he offered me a “stick of gum”, but I think the flat rectangle that gum usually comes in stretches the definition of “stick”. I took it even though I don’t like gum because I felt guilty about having spent several seconds of the elevator ride pretending he didn’t exist. And I was pleasantly surprised to see it was an old-fashioned brand of gum, one of the ones I remember from childhood, and not one of the more recent, modern brands of gum that come in black packages and have commercials that associate gum-chewing with free-falling in interiors designed by H.R. Giger and other surreally dangerous activities. It’s strange to me to see so much gum and even candy advertising aimed at adults, treating it as something risky when everybody knows the most dangerous thing you can do with gum is fall asleep with it in your mouth causing it to become animate and crawl into your hair, second only to swallowing it because it will stay in your stomach for seven years unless removed by Donald Pleasance and Raquel Welch.
Anyway I swallowed the gum after it had lost its flavor which, with any gum, takes about thirty seconds. That’s also what I always did as a kid because I never had the foresight to save the wrapper so I could dispose of it cleanly. And it brought back a lot of memories. I’ve never liked gum but when I was a kid I always took it anyway whenever it was offered, mostly because I was polite and didn’t think I should say no to grownups, and even though I’d been warned never to take candy from strangers I wasn’t being offered candy. I was being offered gum which technically isn’t even really food. At best it’s an artist’s medium like paint or clay or dirty laundry—in other words things that you should never put in your mouth. That’s how I treated gum when I was a kid, anyway. When I didn’t swallow it, mainly because I found someone else’s gum on the ground of course I picked it up because it could be molded, stretched, and shaped. There’s a now infamous bit of family lore about the time I stretched strands and strands of gum across the back of my mother’s car because I imagined I was building spider webs and she was too busy driving to notice what I was doing.
Maybe I only remember that because the story’s been repeated so many times but I also remember that whole day building gum webs on trees and bushes and under the neighbor’s deck and in an art gallery where one sold for five figures. How I managed to find so much gum on the ground is still a mystery and maybe it’s all been exaggerated in my memory because when I was a kid time seemed to stretch out so much longer. An hour could last as much as three days. There are probably genuine psychological reasons for this. When we’re young every experience is not only new but we have so little in the way of other experiences we can relate it to so it’s a lot to take in. That flood of information can be overwhelming and make it seem like time is moving more slowly, especially to a developing brain. And I find I miss that feeling. Is there any way of getting it back, and does it require interiors designed by H.R. Giger?