Saturday, September 16, 2006

Requiem for a Cookie

It was chocolate.
To be more precise, it was a chocolate chip cookie at Barista. A big, crumbly, gooey, melt in your mouth type cookie. I stuck my hand in the glass jar and took one out. Shall I take another one? Ah, no, I will have just the one. I will savour this one like it was the last cookie on earth. I will break it into bits and I will eat it slowly, relishing the taste. I will feel the intoxicating swirl of biscuit-crumble and chocolate melt on my tongue. I will squeak with delight when I bite down on an unexpected chocolate lump warmly nestled in a secure cushion of crumbly sugary flour; like nuggets of gold hidden by a mischievous imp and intended to be found by me and me alone. When I am reaching the end, I will take longer and longer to eat it, slowly savouring each piece and breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces till they turn into the thick, sticky, dark chocolate that coats my fingers. Then I will slide my chocolate-dripping fingers into my mouth and I will run my tongue all around them and lick them clean.

It was nine pm on a Friday night and I was with a friend at the coffee pub on beach road. We met up over coffee and conversation and well, yes, chocolate. She wasn’t in the mood for a full-fledged dinner. I was famished. But ah, I could hear the sea roar from over here and we both only really wanted to be out of the door and by the shore as soon as we could. Takeaway please! It had to be chocolate. Dark as hell and sweet as sin. It may not fill your stomach, but it can at least engulf your soul.

We settle down just a few feet from the sea and nuzzle our feet into the sand. Bag? Check. Phone? Check. Biscuit and Coffee? Check. Let’s move the shoes here, a little away from the playful waves and we’re set! We’re talking about life, we’re talking about people, we’re talking about sparkling orange lights that float in a distance over the sea, which just might be ships that are docked for the night or more likely, mischievous little night-goblins that blow salty breeze into people’s faces and bubbles into the ocean to make it froth and foam. I cast furtive glances at my biscuit. Ah, it is safe. I will save it for the end.

Enter beggar woman. She is, like any ordinary beggar, scruffy and unkempt. She sticks out a withered limb from underneath the layers of dirty smelly torn rags and asks if you could spare some change. Anything. Fifty paise maybe. May you be blessed with a good husband.

You turn your head and wrinkle your nose. Maybe she will go away. Maybe she’ll understand that we are not interested. You purse your lips and gaze glass-eyed at the orange lights in the distant. You clutch your bag closer to your body. Why doesn’t this old hag just leave us alone? How she ruins the evening! You wait stony-faced and silent till she leaves so you may resume your conversation.

‘I haven’t had anything to eat in two days’

You frown. Two days? Well, that’s very tragic indeed but as a general policy I don’t condone begging for alms you see. You don’t say anything to her though. You pretend you don’t hear.
‘Please. I haven’t eaten in such a long time. Spare a thought’

You look at your friend. You look at the bag sitting innocently between you. Your beloved cookie lies inside it, fate unknown. You think, she’s only going to harass me anyway if I don’t give her something and get rid of her. You think of black and white images and Phil Collins singing Another Day in Paradise. You think of your one cookie, your highlight of the evening, the one cookie that you chose, the one cookie that was singled out among all the other cookies in the jar to be consumed by you. You think of what high aspirations you had for your cookie. You think of how you would have eaten it the way it deserves to be eaten. You would’ve relished it, you would’ve devoured it, you would’ve loved it, you would’ve consumed it, you would’ve engulfed it and made it part of your very being. You look at it with pain and longing. She hasn’t eaten in two days.

You whip it out of the paper bag with a flourish. You hold it out like a large, gold coin and drop it into her cupped hands with a clink of satisfaction. You turn back to the sea with a look of serene benevolence. She would have rarely tasted anything quite so decadent. She probably never had such rich chocolate in her life. She will guard it zealously, hiding it between her clothing, breaking it off into small pieces and chewing on it with her hardened gums. You held the dials of her happiness and sadness in your hands and in one deft move, you decided what you shall enable her to feel. You decided to end her hunger. You decided she will long no more. You feel like God.

‘Could you open this packet? I can’t get it to open’

You take the plastic-wrapped biscuit from her pruned fingers with a look of infinite patience. You grab the wrap on either side and tug lightly. It rips open in one sharp move. You drop the opened packet in her hands and dismiss her with a slight wave of the fingers. Do not bother me with your trivialities; I have more important things to discuss.

‘One biscuit?! I stood here for so long and you give me this one measly biscuit?! Haven’t you any money?! BAH!’

She totters off, muttering and cursing under her breath while you look at her rapidly-receding silhouette in wide-eyed disbelief.
I should have thrown it into the sea. At least the night-goblins would have liked that.

I mourn.

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