I bought a slice of cake at the local diner.
I'd stopped by to pick up dinner for the family--salad and sandwiches for my husband and me, mac and cheese for the boys.
"Can I add a slice of chocolate mousse cake to that?"
"You mean the mouse cake?" asked the teenage cashier.
I looked in the bakery case. Each slice had a chocolate mouse on top, with piped chocolate tails and chocolate wafer ears.
"Yeah, that's the one."
She put the slice in a clam shell container, set it on top of the other food, and totaled my order.
Back in the car, I ate the cake with my hands. First the tail, then the ears, then the mouse itself: a dollop of mousse, two bites' worth, covered in ganache. I'd nearly finished when I realized I hadn't tasted any of it. I'd been rushing, trying to consume the evidence of my indiscretion before I hit the road. But what's the point of eating a piece of cake if you don't enjoy it?
I paused. I breathed. I took another bite, slower this time, and let the cake overtake my senses. I could feel my brain shoot dopamine like fireworks. Pleasure in its basest form.
A little sadness slipped in, too. An old sadness, musty and mildewed like a thrift store coat. This was no cake. This was a consolation prize. A thing I gave myself to compensate for the thing I didn't have.
The sadness dissipated as quickly as it came. I licked the ganache from my fingers, then threw the clam shell container and crumbs into the trashcan at the rear of the diner parking lot.