Today, I need to write about something different.
It’s about a darker time in my life. A time I’m not proud of; a time where I’d use an “undo” button if there ever was one.
But as I work on recovery, I feel the need to purge my soul of this. I don’t pretend that simply writing it out has any impact whatsoever in undoing any hurt or pain I may have caused. I acknowledge that it’s probably selfish of me to post about it at all; I really should carry the pain to my grave.
I hope in reading this that you will be able to continue to accept me, warts and all, as a flawed, damaged human being who royally screwed something up.
And perhaps – just maybe – I can reach someone else who’s toyed with making the same mistake. And if I ask the universe for forgiveness, maybe I can finally start to forgive myself.
Affairs are like this: Imagine that you love cake.
Cake is sweet and moist. It comes in a variety of flavors. It’s a treat. It’s something you have for special occasions; on days worth celebrating. Cake highlights and underlines events, transforming them from “ordinary day” to “celebration”.
And the reason we eat cake? FROSTING. Gooey, sweet, decadent. It comes in many colors. It adds beauty, flavor, and pleasure to your cake experience. Let’s face it: Cake is the avenue by which it’s socially acceptable to eat spoonfuls of sugar and fat mixed together. Casually nosh on a stick of butter rolled in sugar, and people will raise eyebrows; whip it and place it artistically atop three layers of cake, and you’re a genius.
And you love frosting so much that not only do you covet the corner piece with the largest frosting flowers, you also, when no one is watching, run the spatula just a little bit to the side to pick up the frosting borders that others have left behind, saying, “It’s too sweet, it’s too much.” You also pick up that super-thin, extra-moist layer of cake often left on the serving board. That smear of cake, mixed with forkfuls of frosting, is absolutely heavenly. It’s the very best part of cake.
Imagine now that you have heard, through a friend of a friend, that there is an elaborate tea party planned at the fanciest local hotel. Many prominent members of the community will be attending; it’s rumored that some well-known celebrities will be there. You know the venue well; it’s a glamorous space, replete with luxurious, graceful silk drapes and chandeliers rich with sparkle and shine.
You didn’t receive an invitation, but your friend says that he knows someone who is working the event, and he’s quite sure he can get you in. There will be cake, he says, and he knows how much you love cake.
The day of the event, you don your prettiest dress. You fuss with your hair and carefully select jewelry and shoes that communicate sophistication and quiet glamour.
When you arrive at the event, you notice the other attendees. Ladies are dressed in their finest frocks, complete with pearls, slingbacks, and even gloves! You look down at your outfit and wonder if you’re underdressed.
You glance at a passerby and notice, in her hand, a richly embossed invitation that exudes understated refinement. A bellman, impeccably dressed in a crisp uniform, begins to admit the patrons. The attendees start to enter the hotel, handing their invitations to the bellman.
You glance around wildly. You don’t, of course, have an invitation of your own, and you can only stand outside for so long before others start to stare. After most of the guests have gone inside, you finally see, out of the corner of your eye, your friend waving to you from the side of the building. Relieved, you go to him.
Your friend takes your elbow, and walks you around the side of the hotel. He guides you down a side alley, which is littered with an empty fast-food bag and a few abandoned fries. You notice a skittering as a small mouse scampers away from the scattered crumbs.
Your friend turns the corner, and you find yourself at the back of the building. The wall is the same gray, stained, industrial concrete as the stoop, beside which is a dumpster.
“Wait here,” your friend says, as he enters the back door.
As he enters the building, you stand outside, waiting. There’s a window in the door, and when you peer through, you first see the kitchen on the right. It’s clean and bustling, as servers and chefs perform their elaborate waltz.
You continue to watch, taking your gaze to the left. You gasp. The hotel is elegant, beautiful, refined. The chandeliers are shining, sending glittery twinkling sparkle all around. And the flowers! Copious volumes of the whitest, fattest blooms are everywhere, adding to the gorgeous, glamorous picture.
It’s magical. It’s breathtaking.
You watch the guests as they are seated. The staff gracefully begin to serve tea. You notice the ringing of spoons stirring sugar into delicate fine teacups; you hear the sophisticated laughter of happiness and delight.
And then you see the cake.
The cake is absolutely stunning. It’s at least four feet tall, and eloquently decorated. Opulent layers of rich, pearl-white frosting cascade over the many tiers.
You watch as the cake is cut. One by one, the slices are distributed. You can see the guests’ faces light up in sheer pleasure as they take delicate bites of the decadent treat. You watch, longingly, as the cake slowly begins to disappear, piece by piece.
You shift your weight from one foot to the other, noticing the pinch in your heels. It’s hot out here. You suspect that your makeup is beginning to melt a bit; your hair is surely wilting. An unpleasant, decaying odor hits your nostrils. You turn and see the dumpster just a few feet from the door, sticky puddles underneath it, oozing into the sidewalk.
You continue to wait. You hear the clink of plates as the serving pieces are cleared. You desperately want to sit, but you’ll surely get dirt on your dress, and it can’t be much longer now, can it? Has your friend forgotten that you were here, waiting in the alley with the mice and the dumpster?
Finally, your friend emerges. Relieved, you step towards him. He holds up a hand to stop you from entering the building. You pause, confused. But he’s smiling.
“I have something for you,” he says.
He hands you the nearly-empty serving platter. You recognize the hotel’s logo on the heavy, expensive tray. On the plate is one small slice of cake, broken from handling and travel, and a thin, filmy layer of cake from where the pieces were incompletely served. Around the edge of the plate are several abandoned lumps of frosting.
“It’s your favorite. I brought this out just for you!”
A dark wave washes over you; the air escapes your lungs as your stomach clenches. You swallow back bitter disappointment as you attempt to smile bravely.
He hands you a fork, and returns inside to the celebration.
Resolutely, you sit on the stoop, no longer caring about your frock. You take the fork and begin to eat, tears rolling onto your feast. You realize you have absolutely no right to cry, because you’ve received exactly what you thought you wanted, and nothing that was ever yours.