My boss and I were ranking chocolate: Ghirardelli, Godiva, and Whitman’s, when a friend of hers came into the design studio where we worked.
“Brenda* loves cheap chocolate! She actually likes Brach’s!” my boss exclaimed, like this was the most fascinatingly esoteric thing she had ever heard. Brenda’s eyes had that pre-cry wet look, her mouth had a tightness at the edges of her smile.
Brenda didn’t say, “that’s right, I do.” She looked down and said nothing. I suspected that Brenda didn’t like Brach’s chocolate as much as she liked the good stuff, but she’d been backed into a corner by an excuse she’d mumbled a few years back and couldn’t undo.
Maybe Brenda couldn’t afford anything else and the kids wouldn’t leave her alone and her husband was giving her crap about overspending on interior design and her mother was in the hospital, so when she filled her car up with gas she grabbed a bag of Chocolate Stars at the minimart and hoped they’d make her feel better, just for an instant.
Perhaps her husband only bought her cheap chocolate because he spent all his money on golf and fantasy football and she (like always) came last on the list of priorities. But she was grateful he brought her home anything, even cheap chocolate that left an aftertaste like anise, only laced with poverty.
Maybe Brenda didn’t feel as if she was worth the cost of a Dove Bar, and she used cheap chocolate the way I use kale—a food I only eat when I want to wallow in self-pity.
Or perhaps Brenda ate Brach’s nostalgically, the flavor reminding her of home in a way nothing else could, and she was only embarrassed to have been caught and outed in front of me—the lowly assistant—the confession giving her too much in common with a girl who obviously couldn’t afford top-shelf.
*name has been forgotten long ago.
Copyright © 2023 Lara Lillibridge
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