Until last night.
My mom and I were in the midst of some serious shopping at the local dollar store when I saw it. It's curvaceous figure lured me in from the checkout line, light fog emanating from it's dark, sleek form. The two cherries on the bottle's label locked eyes with mine, and in a monotone, trance-like voice, I said:
"I'm getting a Cherry Coke."
My mom turned to me with utter shock upon her face. "Well, I can't even believe I'm seeing this."
I couldn't believe it myself. I'm morally opposed to everything soda stands for: high fructose corn syrup (the evil above all evils) and edible garbage.
But at that moment, all I could think of was how badly I wanted that prickly cool sensation in the back of my throat, and that syrupy sweet finish afterwards. Fact is, I was thirsty, and not just any kind of thirsty.
I had "the bbq thirsties".
Rewind about two hours before my downfall, and you would have found my mom and I pulling into the modest parking lot of an even more modest-looking restaurant nestled on the shoulder of a completely dull section of highway 74 just outside of Shelby, NC. I could think of no more fitting place to spend my last evening in the Tarheel State than sitting in a booth at Bridges BBQ Lodge with my mom.
A bell tingled as the door closed behind Mom and I, and before my eyes appeared the same decor that welcomed me the first time I entered this place over twenty years ago: dark wood paneling coating each wall, half a dozen metal tables with chairs encircled by vinyl-covered booths (once brown but now a punchy teal color, the only upgrade I've noticed in two decades), dusty family photos hanging rather haphazardly on the walls.
Mom and I seated ourselves in a clean booth and waited about 10 seconds before the petite, brunette waitress hurried up to our table.
"Can I get you ladies something to drink?" she asked in a deep Southern drawl. Mom ordered sweet tea; I'm pristine so I ordered water.
"Are you all ready to order your food now?" she asks. Of course we are. We don't look at the menu at Bridges...ever. We get the same thing every...single...time.
"A small chopped tray with extra sauce and hush puppies."
And, that, my friends is what led to my downfall two hours later: the tangiest crimson-red BBQ sauce drizzled over small chunks of smoked pork keeping company with a nice peppery scoop of Bridges' homemade red slaw chased by a golden-crisp-on-the-outside and buttery-sweet-on-the-inside hushpuppy.
Was it worth my demise?
Probably not, considering that I'm writing this post at 1 in the morning as my caffeine sensitive body works that double serving of Coke through my system with no intention of sleep on the horizon. My mind feels like that small metal ball pinging through a pinball machine when my fingers are hot and limber; it keeps darting and bouncing in every direction.
So today's lesson: by all means, enjoy the bbq, but don't get caught in the line of vision of a bottle of Coke when the bbq thirsties hit. Consider yourself warned.