I sat through the whole singing Happy Birthday business with a smile on my face. I was an emblem of self-control and will power, my brothers and sisters said so. I watched with secret longing as my mom licked the frosting from the knife with each piece she sliced. Those pieces made their way to plates that passed under my nose or over my twelve-year-old head on their way to everyone else but me. Any hope I’d had of having cake as a special treat was dashed that afternoon when I stepped off the scale at the diet counselor’s office. I was down thirteen pounds which was cause for celebration, but not cake. The weight loss was mostly attributed to the stomach flu which my mom called, “a blessing in disguise,” and not the expensive diet program my parents had signed me up for. She was so excited about my success she squeezed my hand several times on the car ride home and told me how proud she was. Maybe my mom noticed the longing on my face as she passed around the cake because she reminded me, with a wink, that, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.” I didn’t feel thin, but I knew how good chocolate mint ice cream cake tasted.
I had no plan to go to the kitchen after a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I liked how it felt to have made my mom so happy with my diet success, but there I was, barefoot in the dark with a knife in my hand. I shivered for a moment when I propped the freezer door open with my elbow. I stood on tiptoes to reach the cake which was tucked on the top shelf between the frozen spinach and extra-thin wheat bread. I poked around the edges of the Baskin Robbins box with its distinctive pink and brown polka dots, to see where I could lift the top enough to get in. Taking the cake out was too risky. Even though it was dark, my slices had to be precise; equal shavings off each side otherwise my mom would know. I choked up on the knife handle and made my first cut. The ice cream cake slid gently and quietly into my mouth; fudgey, minty perfection. I had barely swallowed before I’d reached back in for another taste. That was when the light came on.
“What are you doing?” my mom’s arms were folded as she stood in her light blue robe and slippers. I considered telling her I was just getting a diet soda, but the fudge-covered knife and the chocolate on my lips told the real story. The disappointment on her face was familiar. It was as if she was saying, not again without saying a word.
Los Angeles-based writer and native Angeleno, Trish Cantillon has published personal essays on Brevity, The Fix, Refinery 29’s “Take Back the Beach,” The Manifest Station, HERSTRY, Brain Child Magazine Blog and Ravishly, among others. Her fiction has appeared in Gold Man Review and Berkeley Fiction Review. She works for Dream Foundation, the first and only national organization providing end-of-life dreams to terminally ill adults.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/Tomaz Stolfa
I loved everything about this.
Trish’s writing is so evocative. Her prose takes you right into the kitchen. I felt the cold on my face from the open fridge door.
I related too much to this one. Beautiful and powerful story. Thank you for writing and sharing it.
A beautifully written piece; albeit heartbreaking. I will eat ice cream cake with you any day! Xoxox
Beautiful writing! My heart sank at ‘That was when the lights came on.’ You put us in the room.
Your writing is so strong- I felt like I was in the kitchen with you when your mom walked in. Thank you for sharing that story. Great job!!
The pain and struggle of this young child is palpable. Thank you for sharing with us.
Thank you for giving voice to that quiet/loud/angry/sad buried Self that many of us live with – so many hopes and fears! I look forward to reading more of your work.
What a moving and powerful story. Well done!