Standing Around the Kitchen Table

Denise S. Robbins

Here we are, standing around the kitchen table. Here we are, pretending to be close friends, wondering how well we know one another. We ask questions we should have asked long ago, perhaps when we first fell into one another’s lives, like “Where are you from,” and “How old is your pet hedgehog.” We are really asking questions like “Who are you,” and “Why are we standing here together right now.”

Punctuality is my weakness. It is your going away party, but your true friends have yet to arrive. The two of us have probably thirty minutes to wait. The waiting is unbearable.

Our words dance around what our eyes gaze upon, in the center of the table. A decadent cake, all chocolate and more chocolate, topped with candles. The reason we have gathered around this table. The glaze is rich and thick and you can see without seeing inside that it melts into the spongy cake. The two of us barely look at one another as we discuss this and that. The topics of conversation fall deep into the depth of important questions. Anything to ignore what we truly want. The cake captures our real attention. The cake glares. We glare back. Or perhaps it is just me.

My stomach lurches. I suppress the hunger. I ask you another question. A big sort of question. A personal question. “Why do you want to move away and leave (me)?”

Then it happens.

The cake responds.

Its two rich chocolate layers lift apart and gape open into a maw and it says, “Because you don’t love me.” The cake layers close back on one another. Its candles are eyelashes, they converge in a crude wink.

“That’s not true,” I lie. “I want nothing more than for us to be together,” I say truly. I lust after its frosting. My tongue waters as I imagine the ganache delightfully stuck to the back of my throat, drinking a cool glass of water to push the remnants down.

“That’s not love,” the cake says, lifting itself up by its bootstraps, tightening its belt. Four little cake legs thrust out of its bottom, soft but sturdy brown little pillars, complete with chocolate shoes. The cake is preparing its getaway. “That’s just what you want right now.”

“What’s the difference?” I open the silverware drawer, pull out a knife. Perhaps a slice would make it shut its mouth.

“The difference is everything.” And the cake twirls away, jumps off the kitchen table, runs for the open door, makes for the street. A hungry dog the next porch over perks up his ears. This dog will soon learn what it means to love.

Denise S. Robbins is an author and climate activist who loves living in DC and hates fascists. She has a cat named Elliephant.