They called me Wrigley, but that was a long time ago. Back then I was white, fully clothed in glittering silver. I stood upright next to my brothers and sisters, and we waited together for the one special day when we’d be taken from our home to perform a single duty: To give pleasure.
Her name was Debbie, and after taking the others, she pulled me out of my home with two smooth fingers and placed me in her mouth. What happened next I can’t fully remember, but it bordered on ecstasy. I was needed, wanted… loved. As my juice fell out of me, I ignored the distant sensation of death and gave myself fully to Debbie. She tasted me, and I tasted her. For five and a half minutes, I was the center of her attention. We even played games. At times she would maneuver her tongue and cause me to expand. Sometimes she made me so large I caught a glimpse of her beautiful nostrils, and I thanked her for giving me a chance to have such a moment. Many others, I thought, never get a chance to expand.
As I danced across the floor of her mouth, I figured we would always be together.
But she spat me out.
I flew from her mouth and bounced down three stairs, only to settle on the edge, my naked, cold body barely holding on to the concrete under me. I watched Debbie run to her car and drive away, never once looking back.
I was alone.
I remember teetering on the edge of the second stair as wind, something I’d never experienced before, blew across my dried-up body. I didn’t know what to do. Do I wait for Debbie to return? Do I hope she will pick me up again and possibly swallow me, thus allowing me to join the life she’d taken from me?
Before I could hope for anything, three children ran up the stairs, one of them, apparently without notice, smashing my body into concrete and tearing me in half. The pain as half my body ripped apart was too large to describe. Death, I imagined, would have been easier, more conclusive.
For days, weeks, months, I had no one to talk to. Debbie, my love, my five-and-a-half minute soul mate, ran up and down the stairs without once acknowledging my existence. She stepped on me repeatedly, but after a while I no longer looked like the white Wrigley with a glittering silver coat. I was black, flattened, as close to death as any Wrigley must have ever been. I watched the world around me. I watched joggers go past me, mothers walk their babies, children play kickball in the street. One time I watched Debbie kiss a man in front of her car. As I caught a quick glimpse of her sensational tongue, I felt a deep throbbing pain. Did she not even care that I could see her?
She moved out several years after our encounter. Probably for the best. One of us needed to leave, and I wasn’t going anywhere.
For so long I prayed someone’s shoe would press against me hard enough that the last, conscious part of me would be smothered. I wanted death. More than anything.
But then Doublemint came.
At first I was concerned for her. I watched as she left the mouth of a man and fell down the concrete steps. I watched as her light green color slowly submitted to the gravitational power of shoes pressing against concrete. She was so close to me, mere centimeters. I had to watch as part of her was carried away by an awful black rubber filled with grooves I believed were made to torture us.
Soon we talked to each other all day and all night. I helped Doublemint through her depression, and she helped me through those dark nights when the blackness that I had become was almost too much to bear. Eventually Doublemint began to blacken, and as our bodies spread thinner and thinner, something wonderful happened.
We touched. And suddenly we didn’t feel so alone. We were together, in every sense of the word.
As time passed, we began to hear the thoughts of others around the world, trapped in a squashed state of existence. The subways of New York, the floors of school buses, under picnic tables, and the mountaintops of a conquered adventure. We all spoke to each other — eternally connected.
An ancient gum who rested on the top of Mt. Fuji said we would, in the end of times, be brought together magnetically into one big ball. And we would bounce out of this world and float through the universe in harmonious glee.
But a gum who’d been slammed against a subway wall thought differently. We were trees in another life, and when the end of times came, we would become trees yet again, and we’d grow high enough to see each other swaying in the distance.
We enjoyed the conversations, but there were times when many of the other gums envied us. I had Doublemint, and Doublemint had me. And after much time had passed, they asked us if we had any words of wisdom for the solo gums.
All we told them was to hold on. For all that is good and pure in this world, hold on. Hold on for as long as you can, because you never know when someone might come bouncing your way and make your life mean something more than it really is.
Currently Patrick Parr lives with his wife in Leysin, Switzerland, where he works as an ESL Instructor for Kumon Leysin Academy, an international school for Japanese high school students. Previous work has appeared or been recognized by Glimmer Train, The Storyteller, and Every Day Fiction’s First Best-of Anthology, among others. He also has a story forthcoming in BULL: Men’s Fiction.