[This is the second of two stories created for Significant Objects by participants in Thumbscribes, a collaborative-writing platform. Thumbscribes is auctioning this object here, and will give proceeds to a charity or nonprofit of its choosing.]
I had a friend who once gifted a SPAM jigsaw puzzle. It’s the kind of gift that lets a person know how you feel. It says, “You’re a compressed mystery meat conundrum and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty.” My gifts rarely speak so candidly.
My mother doesn’t eat sweets anymore. The doctors told her they were killing her. It used to always be so easy to buy her presents. Cakes, pies, cupcakes. I’d just go to the nearest bakery and choose the most delicious-looking thing. Now when I see her for holidays, we share a silence of sweets. And so, the absence of sweetness in my gifts pained me. It threatened to sour our family time, for the memory of sweetness is the sweetest of all things, until custom and overuse curdles it. And then I found this. A void encased in a prison of pastry: a metaphor for life. A savory joke.
At first glance, memories of Katie’s plum-colored face, wheezing, struggling for air as she convulsed on the floor with her hands on her throat, filled my mind. Diabetic shock: overbearing sweetness can be so bitterly destructive at times. After her attack she would often remind me that stressed spelled backwards is desserts. In fact, she went so far as to divide the whole world into people who like desserts, and Maoists. After a few glasses of wine she would sometimes shout with righteous indignation, “Let them eat cake.” Being in the people-who-liked-sweets category was inherently better than being in the Maoists’ camp. That said, I was still a little hesitant about how she would respond to my most recent purchase.
As I was about to give her the present, the New Yorkers arrived like a bumper commercial during the cliffhanger of my gift-giving moment. The dogs raced to the door as my mother rushed gushing to meet my brother and his girlfriend. “Baby Cakes, all the way from the East Village,” Serena exclaimed. “Baby Cakes indeed,” I thought gleefully as my mother reluctantly refused the sugar-coated gift. Keith insisted she try one, saying the cakes were sugar-free and made with Agave. I looked up startled as I watched my mother slowly bite into the forbidden; that of which we had for so long not spoken. I rushed over, chastising my brother for his ignorance. “Mom can’t eat ANY sweets. It makes no difference if it’s extracted from cactus or corn.” She seemed fine, although visibly unhappy that I’d robbed her of her pleasure. That was when I decided not to give her the pie-shaped container.
Written collaboratively by Thumbscribes users Alex Rendon, Carly, Chris, Jacqueline, lickicon, and Rafael. For a breakdown, view the story on Thumbscribes, and click “view details.”