Sorry I Ate Your Face
Being mortified was just the icing on the cake
Ever have one of those social mishaps you’ll never forget? Ever become so mortified you think you might die from it? Yeah, me too. In fact, this little episode was so humiliating that I thought I might literally die. Yes, literally. I could have choked to death, but in that moment, I felt dying might very well be the less awkward option. But now, two years into COVID, I find I’m nostalgic for those discomfiting moments that can only occur when we meet in person. And this truly embarrassing tale is from ‘the before times’, when we could participate in ‘meet and eat’ events.
So anyway, I ate paper today.
Not a small piece...not a piece of a paper candy wrapper...no. Not at home, where no one would see it happen. I ate paper BIG time, I ate it in public, and I had to hide the fact that I did so.
I was at a corporate orientation seminar today. I’m a professional mediator and adjudicator, and I’ve worked with the same organization for years. My role involves protecting the public from ‘the bad guys’, and I take it seriously.
As members of this organization, we’d meet regularly, both in hearings and for ongoing training. I’d worked alongside long-serving staff, and after we wrapped up today’s session, there was to be a retirement party for someone who had been with the organization for as long as anyone could remember.
The event brought in corporate leaders and government officials from all over Ontario, and it was an opportunity for me to meet individuals I hoped to impress.
I was offered a lovely piece of cake; special, I thought, because it had a marzipan image of the retiring individual on it. This cake was gorgeous—I really like the idea of transferring photos onto a white slab cake. Great technology. Very festive. And how lovely this cake was, with a vibrant color image of the retiree. I was excited to accept a piece, not just in honor of my long-time colleague, but because I adore marzipan. Marzipan isn’t as popular as it once was, and so I welcome every chance I get to consume it. (And, incidentally, I also adore the person who was retiring). Yum on all fronts.
As I balanced my cake on a paper plate, I found myself chatting with the wonderful, professional, retiring individual. I cut a piece with my fork and popped the morsel of marzipan with an image of her face on it into my mouth.
It wasn't marzipan.
It was a paper image that had been glazed onto the cake.
It was in my mouth. Horrified, I was chewing it, all the time thinking, is this really, truly paper? Does she notice I'm eating a paper image of her face? Does she even know it’s paper? Is my expression giving it away? Am I going to choke? Am I going to need someone to Heimlich maneuver me, which will no doubt result in my hurling her masticated and undigested image across the room?
Aghast, I chewed and chewed, hoping the paper fibers would begin to dissolve. Oh shit, oh shit. Apparently not. This is not breaking down, I realized. The fibrous wad rolled and rolled inside my mouth.
What was I to do? I couldn’t spit it out! I swallowed the paper saliva-soaked lump of paper whole. Picture a snake swallowing a mouse, you know, that throat bulge as it slides down? That’s how I perceived myself, and my eyes bulged too, with fear and effort. I swear I can still feel the remnants stuck a third of the way down my esophagus.
If this wonderful woman knew I’d just consumed a golf-ball-sized spitball with her countenance on it, she didn’t let on. She merely thanked me for my service, wished me well, and moved on to speak with other guests.
This smart, dedicated woman has now retired, and I will no longer see her regularly. She's going to be traveling the world. But I can guarantee I'll never forget our last moments together. In fact, I've got it on paper.
About the author
I live with a broken brain and PTSD--but that doesn't stop me! I'm an author, artist, and qualified mediator who loves life's detours.
I co-authored NOT CANCELLED: Canadian Kindness in the Face of COVID-19. I also publish horror stories.