The first time happened in summer 2007. I was shopping at my regular supermarket. The usual commercial music played overhead, interrupted by distorted calls for help from one employee to another of their kin. The word “security” popped up a lot. Anyway. The bottle looked innocent, like they all do on introduction, and I figured its contents might cool me down when I got home. For various reasons I’ve never used alcohol, if you exclude sips from my father’s beer when I was 11, and neither did my mother, though she could go through two litres of Pepsi pretty fast. (She rarely drank Coke.) When I bought this concoction that day I had no idea how far things would go, and what started as an occasional variation on water became a craving that bordered on a minor obsession. Or maybe it is one and I don’t know it.
In June of this year, while on a driving vacation that took myself and my girlfriend through pei, nova scotia and newfoundand and labrador, I came across Steaz’s Green Tea with Lemon everywhere. No matter where I saw it (for saw it read: bought it), in st. john’s, corner brook (both in nl), or stratford (pei), the expiry date was the same: Aug 2012. In the car, around our luggage, we fit 25 bottles of a drink the company told me, by phone message while I was away, indeed has been discontinued. No wonder I’ve not seen it where I normally shop since early last year. Thus the frenzied purchases. Why was it lingering in other places, far from me, and not right at hand? At a health food store in wolfville, nova scotia, in September 2011, I scored three bottles that, I later noticed, had a best buy date of the month before. (What’s a health food store doing carrying expired product?) In May of this year my girlfriend, knowing my weakness, bought me four bottles inside security at the Toronto airport. They had the same expiry date.
Now there are 11 bottles remaining. Then, after a long good-bye, that’s it. It’s too expensive to visit stores in other provinces just for the chance of finding this drink. The representative from Steaz who returned my call (yes, I rang them, and would have begged for more bottles if the person who answered didn’t belong to an answering service) advocated the other flavours they sell. I’ve tried some of them. They’re not the same, not even close, they don’t have that zing. The last sip from the final bottle will be as fatal as the first, or more so, because in 2007 I was placed on a tasty path, enjoying a particular beverage during summer or winter months, with no thought of there ever not being another refreshing drink in the future. The last sip, scheduled for next month, will be the end of that path. There’s no turning back and, with all due respect to Steaz’s other drinks, no alternate route. I’ll be left at a thirsty dead end. What the hell will I do?
Jeff Bursey is a literary critic and author of the picaresque novel Mirrors on which dust has fallen and the political satire Verbatim: A Novel, both of which take place in the same fictional Canadian province. His newest book, Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews, is a collection of literary criticism that appeared in American Book Review, Books in Canada, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, The Quarterly Conversation, and The Winnipeg Review, among other places. He’s a Contributing Editor at The Winnipeg Review, an Associate Editor at Lee Thompson’s Galleon, and a Special Correspondent for Numéro Cinq. He makes his home on Prince Edward Island in Canada’s Far East.