The Cake >
I ate three slices. Then, I packaged the remainder and tied it up with a resolute knot.
Placing the box on a kitchen chair, I proceeded to sit on it. I bounced up and down a few times, feet hopping off the floor and chubby butt battering the thing, squishing it to smithereens. No way was that cake going to tempt me anymore.
Birthday cakes were my weakness. As a teenager, I adored the ones sold at Rich’s, an Atlanta department store. The bakers at Rich’s knew how to create a vanilla slab that rang all my taste buds and ding-donged my soul. They turned me into a closet cake addict, willing to go to great lengths to get my hands on their confections.
I hid my habit. When my parents would go out for the day, I’d toot over to the mall and buy the gaudiest cake I could spot through the glass display case. There were always several to choose from. The Rich’s cake decorating staff had a thing for lurid colors and a heavy hand when it came to applying the frosting. Icing roses in threatening beetroot reds and demented purples were spackled across the barely visible white surface of each cake. Pastels were nonexistent.
I’d moved to Atlanta from the North, and I’d never seen such gaudy cakes before. When I first saw the Gauguin palette daubed on an innocent white layer cake I wasn’t impressed. I gave my mother my best eye roll and prodded my slice of cake as if checking to see if it were alive. As I bit into the first forkful, with delicate application of front teeth only, I was prepared to put my cutlery down and walk away, scoffing.
But it was as if heaven had sent a chorus line of angels to dance on my tongue. Sugar, fat, and fluffy yumminess had somehow combined in a Hallelujah Chorus of delectation. As a self-respecting teen I couldn’t show enthusiasm, but I did my best to conceal it as I hoovered up every last crumb.
I became well known at the Rich’s cake counter. The staff there must have thought I was the most popular girl in town. I always had them add a name to the “Happy Birthday” message on whatever cake I was buying. Most often I chose a girl’s name, but every now and then I’d make it a fantasy boyfriend’s.
Then, I’d take it home. I might not have the boyfriend, but I had my cake, and I’d eat it, too. Well, not all of it. Just a few pieces. Then I’d put it in the box, sit on it, and throw it out. And that would do until the next time the craving hit.
Intervention, in the form of leaving the South to go to university, saved me. After Rich’s cakes, nothing ever tempted me as greatly. And the next time I put a boyfriend’s name on a birthday cake, he actually existed.
published 18 September 2016