I am mid-staring contest in the candy aisle. She’s a nun. I’m seven. Her habit’s black. My eyes are blue. I found her dissecting a roll of Lifesavers. She was looking for the green ones. She didn’t tell me this, but I could tell because whenever she found a green saver, she popped it in her mouth, sucking hard, but never biting. My mom says biting candy is the quickest way to make your teeth fall clean out of your head. When the nun was done with all those not green candies she shoved them right back into the shiny paper tube all sticky and crooked-like, and put them back on the shelf like nothing had ever happened. They looked sad that way, but there was nothing to say.
There are three green Lifesavers inside her mouth right this minute. She squints, but she doesn’t blink, instead she just makes a sound like slurping and spitting at the same time. Today, I got a 75 on my social studies test. But I haven’t told anybody that.
This nun is different than the nuns at school. They dress like old ladies. This nun looks like the nun from a book. She’s almost too real. I’m not Catholic, but my mom thought it would be better if I went to Catholic school because it’s private and not everyone could go there. One time everybody got to go to confession and I just got to spend the whole time praying that one day I would sin and be able to tell somebody about it.
Crunch. The nun breaks the Lifesavers with her teeth but she keeps looking at me. My hands are wrapped so tight around a bag of Rolos that I can feel the chocolate ooze in the plastic. If I blink now I will lose and then I will die — she swallows and blinks. Yes. I squeeze my eyes shut until I see yellow fuzz and count to ten. I open them, and she’s gone. I am holding the opened packet of Lifesavers.
“What are you doing?” My mom asks, breaking the quiet of the aisle. “Nothing,” I say, slipping the roll into my pocket. The only things in her cart are iceburg lettuce and boxed macaroni.
Later, when we’re at the Y for swimming lessons, my mom asks me why I keep messing with my coat pocket and I show her the Lifesaver roll. She slaps me. I don’t say a word as we drive back to the grocery store. My mom stays in the car.
I go up to the only open register. I look at the cashier. And he looks at me. He blinks. I blink. He blinks again.
“I’m sorry,” I tell him, and I mean it more than anything I’ve ever meant before. “I’m just sorry,” I tell him again as I drop the Lifesavers on the conveyer belt. “There aren’t any green ones left.”