Friday, December 01, 2006

Three Very Short Assaults on Character

As far as deathbed confessions go, this one was pretty bearable. I leaned in, further and then further, following the directions to her mouth given by her almost dead finger, which was both slyly wobbly and fingernailless, like those were the symptoms of her disease.
When I was close enough—close enough to give her CPR or clean her spotted cheeks with my tongue or dirty them with my nose—she said, “I’m terrible. I really am.”
“I know, ma,” I said. “Who isn’t?”

My wife gave me an eating disorder for my birthday. A disease materialized in the form of a bread machine. A breakthrough of science that allowed me to toss a list of things she bought at the store, things that were not bread, into a machine and have them, sometime later, come out bread. I’m not sure how long, because my wife always did the taking out because she insisted I’d never do the cleaning. And she was right. That was how he we saved time.
Then for a month, all I ate was bread and dinner. Just a huge dinner of bread. Usually, no garnish. Sometimes cheese, but never melted. My wife pleaded with me to reconsider. Every bite caused her the kind of secret shame that forced her to love me—I hoped. But bread was all I wanted.
And since then, I haven’t had a slice. No piece. Nor chunk. Now I don’t make bread, and I don’t eat it. And my wife insists that that makes me very, very strange and inordinately hungry.

To me: fudge is barely a food. It’s almost like a crime against food. It’s an argument in favor of moderation or self-starvation in the form of irony. It’s a substance as unlikely as marshmallows, but honest, since it actually fulfills its wicked guarantee of richness by drowning your mouth with flavor and bliss. While marshmallows—unless melted by an open fire or submerged in a pond of heated chocolate—taste like sugar air. And regular air is better.
But, no one agrees with me.
No one I’ve met.
And each time I share my theory—see it slip from my mind to theirs, digest down through their gut, coagulate in their puffy cheeks and come out a mouth in frowning words—I believe what I think less and more at the same time. I eat doubt, which tastes like sugarless air.
To go on, I have to reinvent fudge. Then I test to see if it matches what exists in this space, this agreed reality, this shared perception, mutual dream—this strip mall of collective passions, which you are sitting in and reading. Then I take a bite and renew my agonizing cause of convincing the whole world all over again. Because if I can’t save them from death or hunger or marshmallows, I can make one gracious point: Fudge is barely a food.


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