Mary Janes, Bit O Honey, & Other Penny Candies
by Tameko L. Barnette
Back in the day, I used to walk to Bernard’s Corner Store across the street from the Southwest Housing Projects where I lived. During the Summer, I would save my weekly allowance until every Friday so I would be able to purchase whatever I wanted when my friends and I took our usual trip to the store before playing intense games of touch football, softball, and kickball.
One day, I decided to walk to the store by myself. I was almost ten years old. So naturally I figured I was a big girl and could handle the trip all on my own. It wasn’t a long trip away from my mom’s apartment building. I walked across the huge freshly cut grass field that was surrounded by all the apartment buildings in that particular area I lived in and headed across the street. And there I was at Bernard’s Corner Store. I purchased my usual bag of treats of Mary Janes, Bit O Honey, Chick O Sticks, and an assortment of Now Or Laters. Bernard gave me the usual strange wink of his eye and threw in an extra piece of candy for free saying, “You so cute, girl. Be careful going back across the street, okay.” I mumbled a pleasant yet shy, “Thank you.”
I never saw anything cute about myself with my chubby round face with a belly to match and my not-light-enough brown skin. I saw little Jay standing on the other side of the street next to his apartment building smiling and waving at me.
Little Jay was a special kind of cute. He was a scrawny boy with a small head and little feet, but he had what I’ve heard older people call ‘good hair’, which was dark black, silky, and wavy cut close to his scalp. Little Jay came over to me and put his arm around my shoulder escorting me back to my apartment building. He pulled into the clothesline area of the my building, which was surrounded by the three walls standing six feet high made of red bricks and cement. Everyone in the neighborhood called that area, The Pit.
Little Jay took me in his eleven year old arms and began to kiss me on the lips. Suddenly, I became frightened and pulled away. “Little Jay, if you kiss me that means I have to be your girlfriend,” I informed him. “I know, Tonya,” he responded and started kissing me again. I had absolutely no idea how to kiss a boy. Yet with every minute Little Jay kissed me, I began to understand what to do and I liked it a lot.
“I’ll see ya later at the park, right?” Little Jay smiled.
“Yeah, see ya.”
I walked back home chewing on a few pieces of the candy I had bought noticing that they tasted sweeter than the week before.