Death by Chocolate Cake
A Lover's Conundrum
I opened my eyes to the golden light of the Saturday morning sun streaming through the cracks in the curtains. I rolled over in bed and placed my arm across the space where she used to lay, but all I found was empty. The tears flooded down, and I couldn't stop them. I shoved my face violently into the mushy pillow to release a mix of muffled cries and screams. It had been three weeks since the funeral, three weeks of waking and waiting, but she wasn’t coming back.
I threw my legs over the edge of the bed and reluctantly used my own two feet to stand. In a trance, I replayed the memories of her scooping me out of the bed and carrying me to the kitchen table every morning where we’d sit and drink our coffee together. I walked myself to the kitchen instead, in a bit of a drunken stupor, closing all the curtains as I went to avoid the light. The empty bottle of Gin on the counter reminded me of the pounding headache that I had gotten used to ignoring. I popped a couple Advils and started some coffee. I couldn’t sit in the kitchen for too long without remembering how I had found her there.
It was like that time when I was seven years old. I had a guppy named Gusto. He was mostly purple and lived in a bubble shaped fish bowl. I came home from school one day and found him on my bedroom floor, lifeless and dry. I screamed and cried and held him in my hands until my dad took him away from me. Dad told me that sometimes fish get too ambitious, that they want to experience the outside world, but they didn’t know that the air would hurt them. Was it my fault then? I was the one who put him in the tank after all, when he probably belonged inside a vast ocean or some great lake.
Jasmine was twenty eight when she left, far too young for her fate. She was good at everything and full of dreams, this house being one of them. I remember the first time she brought me here. That spring afternoon, we stood in the foyer and watched the children ride bikes in the streets. There were butterflies flocking to the flowering bushes on the other side of the glass.
“This is going to be our home,” she said with a brilliant smile and gleaming eyes. “Do you like it?”
I looked up at her and smiled back. She didn’t need an answer, and we kissed in the afternoon light. A few weeks later, we were all moved in. Everyday felt like a dream, too good to be real life. We woke up together, read together, went to work, and came home every day at the same time. We ate dinner together, we laughed together, and we loved together.
But now, I stood in front of the same bay windows engulfed in the darkness of the blackout curtains I had purchased just a few days ago to hide my mind from the light. My brain was foggy from the night before, and I didn’t want to feel the weight of these thoughts. I went back to the kitchen to sift through the pantry, hoping to find a bit of vodka or gin left over to splash into my morning coffee, but I had run through our whole collection. With nothing else to do, I decided that restocking was the only option. I ran back to the bedroom and threw on some sweat pants and tennis shoes. My shirt was stained from the night before, but I didn’t care. I grabbed my bag from the coat hanger by the front door that she had sanded and polished herself after picking it up from the goodwill down the street. Fuck, why did everything have to be a reminder?
I opened the door, determined to do whatever it takes to forget these feelings. I stepped outside with purpose and shoved my sunglasses over my face. There had been issues regarding the transferring of the car title and insurance from her name to mine since we weren’t technically married. I couldn't drive the car until all was settled, so I prepared for my journey to the store by foot.
I descended the stairs of the porch, one, two, squish. I looked down to find my right foot sunk into a small slice of chocolate cake. Confused and distraught, I panicked. I hurriedly wiped the sweet muck from my shoe to the grass. I was flailing my leg through the air, flinging icing about, and cursing the cake when the neighbor stepped out onto the front porch. He stared with concern and maybe even fear. I froze, made eye contact, and offered an awkward wave. He didn’t wave back.
The neighborhood was never very thrilled about two lesbians moving in next door, so we hadn’t made many friends in the community. I’m sure they’d all heard the news, despite the fact that I hadn’t spoken to a single one of them personally. Nothing seemed to be a secret around here.
I offered the neighbor no explanation for my behavior and carried on down the street. My hands trembled at my side and my legs moved like overcooked noodles beneath me. As I walked, I envisioned that night. Jasmine had gotten a promotion at work, and we were celebrating. I baked her my special chocolate cake, the recipe shared with me by my late grandmother. She said it was my best creation yet because she knew I was insecure about my cooking and baking skills. She wasn’t wrong. The cake was delicious.
What we didn’t know was, Jasmine was an undiagnosed type 1 diabetic. We ate the cake that night and went about our routine as usual. The next day, she called me from work to tell me she was leaving early. She had an upset stomach and was feeling particularly tired. I told her I’d come home to take care of her, but she insisted everything was fine.
The autopsy revealed an unusually high level of glucose in her bloodstream. They told me that her body had been unable to process insulin for some time, and that her energy had instead been collected from fatty tissue. This caused a buildup of toxins and acidic ketones to be released into her blood. The condition was somewhat rare, but without immediate attention, could result in sudden death. I never should have made that cake.
Who would do this to me? Who could have known about the cake aside from the coroner? Was the slice of cake on the porch a sick joke? Maybe it was the mailman who always gave us strange looks, or Garry the asshole next door, or maybe even the fucking neighborhood kids who travel in packs around the block. Now, I was angry. I stomped my way through the double doors of the nearby Fresh Market. Though most people of the town only stopped here when they realized they needed a single egg or a carton of milk, I was here for the wine selection. I found the aisle and picked out four bottles without even reading the labels. I marched myself to the cash register without greeting any of the employees who spoke to me with kind smiles. I plopped my bottles onto the conveyor belt and approached the clerk. He didn’t look familiar.
“Nice to see you again so soon,” he said, seemingly sincere.
“Umm… uh yeah you too.” I murmured, trying to dismiss any attempt at conversation.
“So how’d the cake turn out?” He asked with gleaming interest.
“That cake you were making...?” The stranger boy chuckled while brushing his hand through his hair. There was a long silence and the ringing was finished. ”Um, you okay today?”
“Uh, yeah, fine.” He didn’t ask any more questions. I quickly paid, snatched the wine bags from the counter, and ran out the door. I found a bench nearby some secluded trees and cracked open a twist off bottle. Nothing like cheap wine in the morning. I chugged and I chugged until half the bottle was gone, and I started to cry. Nothing felt important anymore. Thoughts of Jasmine coming home to any empty house and vomiting into the kitchen sink flooded my mind. I imagined myself doing the same thing, how it must have felt to fade away all alone. I wanted to switch places.
I left the empty bottle on the bench, popped open another one, and headed down the street. I sipped from the paper bag in my hand as I went and tried to think about something different, but it didn’t work. By the time I finished the second bottle, I was staring at my home from the street. I tried to remember what it felt like to walk through the door for the first time holding her hand, but the remnants of the chocolate cake were still smeared across the stoop, pulling me back into what I didn’t want to feel. Unable to avoid reality, I marched back onto the porch and went inside. My now cold coffee was still sitting on the counter.
I lifted the mug in my hand and took a sip. It tasted old already. I walked to the sink to dump the liquid, but what I found was a basin full of vomit. I didn’t remember getting sick the night before, but it seemed my memory had been failing me lately. I reached for the faucet to rinse the basin, but the porcelain mug slipped from my hand and crashed to the floor. Why? Why was everything I touched destined to break?
In a fury, I began emptying everything from the cabinets and dumping them on the floor. Cups, plates, pots, pans, china, silverware, cereal boxes, and rice all strewn about the kitchen in piles and pieces. I went to the refrigerator and dumped strawberries, eggs, a carton of milk, old sushi, and a gallon of water onto the floor. Next was the pantry. Paper towels, the oatmeal that Jas used to love, pasta noodles, and grains flew across the room. I felt like the villain in any story who started off as the good guy, but now here I was, destroying everything that I thought I loved.
I sat on the ground amongst the wreckage that I had created. I held my head in my hands and wailed. I was losing my mind, and I was sure that I wouldn’t be getting it back. Jasmine had taken it with her. I pressed one side of my face against the cold tiles and laid on the floor like a lifeless corpse. I closed my eyes, exhaled, and opened them to find I was face to face with the trash can I had knocked over. Inside, there were eggshells, an empty box of Splenda, and bits of wet cake batter stuck to crumpled up paper and old vegetables. I felt like I was drowning, like someone had shoved me into a heavy current against my will, and I wasn’t strong enough to fight back or come up for air. I drifted off to sleep.
The dream started like clock work. It was always the same. Jasmine walks through the door leaving a trail of sparkles behind as she enters. I’m home already, baking a cake in the kitchen when she arrives. She grabs my hand and electricity flows through me.
“Jas,” I say. “I made you something special.” We eat the whole cake, leaving only one slice for later. We lay next to each other in bed that night, bellies full and hearts warm. Instead of going to work the next day, we stay home, wrapped in each other’s arms. We watch the sunrise from the porch and eat the last slice of cake together for breakfast. This time, it was sugar free.
About the author
Hello, I enjoy writing stories about life to encourage folks to think outside of themselves, to relate, to understand, and connect. Thank you if you’ve taken the time to read. Please know all stories shared may contain triggers.