Let me tell you a little story about when I went to Philly last month. I was there, as mentioned before, for work, and staying near the waterfront. I decided to walk around the city the morning of my last day before heading back home. I wandered into Shane Confectionery, as I’ve done so many times before, and browsed all the incredible handmade chocolates. I admire the craftsmanship and the tradition of their candies from a very artistic and aesthetic perspective but I just really hate chocolate so on a culinary basis the place does nothing for me. I don’t like chocolate. I find it needy and cloying. That’s beside the point but would be a fun extra supplemental just so you understand the nature of the beast that is Man.
For now, the only thing you need to know is that I purely and unhesitatingly despise chocolate and do not partake of it in any forms. Yet here I was in a confectioner’s renowned for their chocolates filling up a beautiful decorative gift box with all sorts of ganache, milk and dark chocolates, buttercreams, and caramels. The shop charges for the size of the box, not the weight or the number of chocolates inside. So I was on a quest, striding from one display to another, inquiring about the flavors of one, the ingredients of another, and the popularity of something else. I wanted to build a bouquet, an assortment of flavors and styles and techniques that would showcase the best that Shane Confectionery had to offer. I was conscious of size and shape and made the most efficient decisions to maximize my gift box and when it was all said and done we wrapped it up in a pretty white bow and I was on my way.
The situation at the time was this: Beautiful had broken up with me about a week ago and I had just met Bird and we were talking and exchanging messages daily and excessively. At the time I did not know about Beautiful’s real, hidden feelings still for her ex, or that she had barely left the still warm corpse of our dying relationship to pine after someone who did not want her anymore. I did know that Bird was single and looking and active on Tinder but I did not know that she had set up a date for that weekend with a cute Japanese podiatry student who lived in the city and liked to make puns and play Fire Emblem. The only thing I did know was that I had a beautiful box of exquisite chocolates and an equal reason and desire to give it to either of them.
See I could give them to Beautiful, remind
her of the times we spent in Philly, and maybe try to change her mind and convince her there was something here worth wanting, worth working for. I could surprise her at her place on my way home and overwhelm her with chocolates and a rose I could pick up along the way. I was always sweet to her, always the romantic, always wanting to surprise her with unannounced visits. I never did, never have, and probably never will stop loving her. What better way to show her than with this gesture. That I was thinking of her even when she wasn’t thinking of me, and that I see her beauty in everything I do and every place I visit. I wouldn’t make a big show of it. Just show up at her door, hand her the chocolates and the rose, and leave. Acknowledge that we are no longer together and therefore have no obligations to each other. Let her think about the weight of the gesture and her decisions.
But that wouldn’t change the reasons why we were separated. And even though at that time she was hiding the most egregious and painful reasons why, what she fed me was still relevant, still bitter enough, delivered still with enough sting. I could not share in her interests, and aside from a passing involvement for her sake I would not be able to invest myself as much as she has already invested herself, and in the pursuit of her interests I knew there would be a point where I could no longer even condone or support her decisions. In our time apart she had become an avid hiker, rock climber, thrill seeker. I could accompany her on local hikes, even entertain backpacking and camping with her for a weekend or two. But I had neither the interest, the time, nor the resources to devote much more than that. And yet still I knew there was more she was seeking. She wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, a months-long process that would have her out in the wilderness unaccounted for and untracked. She wanted to climb up frozen waterfalls in winter. Rock climb upside down in the canyons. I’m a man of creature comforts but I can rough it and enjoy it still. I still enjoy the idea of retreats and simple living. I want to hunt and be in the wild and learn to forage for myself. But I know I wouldn’t be able to maintain, nor would want to maintain, that lifestyle. And I know that eventually when she goes on one of these off-the-grid ventures she won’t just be leaving me, or her family, or her friends behind for some thrill. Eventually she’d be leaving the home we built together. And the child we’d be taking care of. And I could not condone that kind of risk-taking, that kind of absence, when we should be trying to build something back here, at home, where everything we care about still is. Eventually she would either relent and agree and learn to resent me for it, or I would have to let her go and worry and feel abandoned every time she left. So no, perhaps this was really not meant to be, and maybe I would be fighting for borrowed time, and maybe I really did not want her back. Had I really thought about what it was I wanted to save. Was it her or the relationship or just me from being alone? I hadn’t started this blog at that point and I was not used to asking myself these questions.
So I could instead give them to Bird. I’d show up at her store, stroll in, leave the chocolates at her desk with a cleverly written Post-It ‘don’t let the others give you flack for eating like a Bird’ which she would love because it worked on so many levels and I was such a clever bastard for coming up with it. See the office would make fun of her for loving to eat and always having food and snacks around, which is torture for a self-conscious young woman who has to live under the constant watchful judging gaze of a Korean family and community. And her name is a type of bird, hence her nickname, and it’s ALSO a play on the fact that people say ‘eating like a bird’ means you eat very little even though factually speaking birds eat like, twice their body weight during the day to handle the intense metabolic load of flight. It would have been a tactically brilliant move to undercut all the digital suitors after her and remind her that I was here, physically, immediately available, and clearly interested. The chocolates would segue into future interactions. We still had to plan DC (this was back when the original plan was for us to share a room and explore the city together) and I wanted to take her to a Filipino restaurant (she had expressed interest in trying Filipino food as she had never had the opportunity before). I would drop off the chocolate, give her the note, and she would of course mention it and thank me later on that night when we would normally start exchanging messages. She would mention she owed me, and I would tell her she could buy lunch. Filipino of course, and then we could discuss DC, and I would take her to a homemade ice cream stand near the restaurant that was built in an old train stop in a park.
Bird represented a new start. A chance to get over old pain by opening up the potential for a new wound. My father used to say that the best way to get over a stubbed toe is to cut your finger. The idea was new pain helps you get over old pain quicker. I was ready for another mistake a la so many Taylor Swift songs. She was attractive, into video games and anime (Beautiful never was, and I never pushed her into it), was an adventurous eater, and had a similar sense of humor. When I first met her I was single and too self-conscious and self-deprecating to do anything about a very strong initial attraction. So I was my usual cold and stupid self, which she verified once we actually got closer and started talking. She thought I hated her for some unknown reason. We discovered that we had lived in the same town our entire lives and even went to the same elementary school, but she was four years my junior so I had never noticed her (as is appropriate, I honestly wouldn’t want to have thought about a sixth grade me going after a second grader). We had the shared experiences of youth and the present, working for the same company. We both loved jazz and swing and planned on listening to that and singing and dancing in our own after-party after the DC company ball. I appreciated her frankness, which is refreshing when dealing with Asian girls. I was attracted to her and I knew she was attracted to me because she had said so. You never forget that rush you feel when someone you like tells you they like you back. Well, to be fair, she admitted that I was cute and attractive and that if I weren’t she wouldn’t have been talking to me anyways. I can dig that.
But the timing was just never right. When I first met her we were both single and available but I couldn’t make the move because I wasn’t confident enough. By the time we met up again and actually got to know each other she was still single but I was in a relationship that (I thought) was going to last the rest of my life, so this was an attraction that would go unreciprocated and unpursued. When I was ready (I thought) to pursue her, I was just out of another relationship. Whether my interest was honest or not, whether my feelings were legitimate or not, it did not change the fact that I was superseding honest, genuine interest with a desire to cover hurt with more hurt. I was just running away and doing what I usually do hopping from one to another and despite how honestly and intently I felt these feelings, it would have no chance to blossom or grow under those circumstances. And did I mention Bird was also incredibly smart and emotionally intelligent? She saw right through my attempts. In her gentle but frank manner, she made it very clear that though there may be something here, my wounds were too fresh and needed proper dressing. It would have been awkward and unfair. And though I thought I was ready I really was not, and though there may have been something, there was no reason for her to wait around and so she pursued something else with someone else to leave me my space.
So what happened to the chocolates?
They melted. They rotted. The box was never even opened. The ribbon turned gray. The box is bent and creased. The insides have long lost their appearance, their sheen, their appeal. I wasted money, time, effort, and valuable commodities. I pondered and considered my options the entire drive back home and couldn’t come to a satisfying solution. I had bought these candies for the sole purpose of giving, but I had no one to give it to and no one who would want it. So it went bad, unappreciated and unenjoyed. Neither of them even ever knew I had bought it in the first place.
What does it all mean?
This is very obviously not about chocolates. It was never about chocolates but I had inadvertently taught myself a very important meaning through the chocolates.
This is about love. This is about my, and your, heart.
This is about understanding both the energy and effort it takes to build your heart and acknowledging how important it is to find the right person to give it to.
I have spent my entire life trying to be a better person. I have cultivated the best parts of me and I have, through reflection and honest introspection, come to terms with my shortcomings. I have gained the wisdom to accept the things I cannot change about myself and the humility to amend the ones I can. And I believe you, dear reader, have done the same. I believe that every good person in this world has lived a life of betterment and self-improvement, and that we are all incredibly appealing packages of a wide assortment of goodies wrapped up in a pretty white bow.
But do not do what I have done. Do not throw your package at the first hungry passerby. Do not let yourself be consumed by those who wish to just consume. Love yourself, appreciate what is inside of you, know the assortment of sweet, bitter, salty, and rich that makes you so enticing. Know who this was all meant for, or at the very least know who it is you want. I was at first content simply to offer what I had to anyone who would have me. I would continually throw myself at the masses and make destiny out of chaos. Until there came the point when no one wanted me, and not knowing how to move forward, how to measure my worth, I spoiled and went bad.
My box is bent and creased. My bow is gray and fading. But I still have the recipes for everything inside. The package may be worse for wear, but I can recreate every buttercream, every milk and dark chocolate, every caramel. I will never stop making incredible candies. But I will be more careful who I offer them to. I will learn what it means to want to give it to someone so honestly and openly and I will learn again the immense joy and bliss of giving it to someone who wants it so honestly and openly. I am not unwanted. Just unappreciated.
Until then, you and I, we need to remember there is always someone worth sharing with. I could have given the box to my family. I could have enjoyed it with drinks with my friends. I could have given it to those less fortunate. The truth of the matter is that there will always be an opportunity, always be someone who could use exactly what you have in your box.
Man: 25 Loneliness: 13