I drove my roommate to New York for a flight that left just hours before the first snowstorm of the season. Before he walked into the terminal, I noticed a box sitting on the passenger seat. It was a Pandoro cake – an Italian cake traditionally shared with family on Christmas Day – and it was a gift for driving him to the airport. Instead of driving back to Boston, I figured a few days on LI would be a much needed change of scenery. The box took his place in the passenger seat for the remainder of the drive. Once I got to my parents house, I placed the cake on the counter and explained to everyone its intention. That’s where it remained for four days.
On the first day, it must’ve just been too early to open the cake.
On the second day, I suppose we were all busy because none of our paths crossed for longer than a couple of minutes. We continued to drift around the cake and it’s existence began to feel like an enigmatic riddle none of us knew how to decipher.
On the third day, I gently pulled at the bow that was laced around the box. I thought about all the other tables that this cake could’ve landed on, and how they would’ve gathered around it. Was there a specific time this box had to be opened? Was there a ceremonial method to untying the bow? Does it contain instructions on how to initiate a warm, familial moment like this? I traced my fingers across the designs on the box before sliding it back to the other side of the counter.
On the fourth day, I leaned against the counter and pushed the box back and forth between my hands. The first snowstorm of the season came and went as we continued to avoid the white pandoro in the room. Without acknowledging its existence – or our inability to address it – the box rested on the counter for four days. What the heck is Pandoro? This was the first time I thought about what the cake looked like. I untied the string wrapped around the box and took a peek inside before completely removing the cake from the box.
Seeing this cake for the first time felt like the greatest taboo, I was entering uncharted territory by addressing the mysterious intruder without the defense of anyone else. I took a knife from the drawer and cut down the middle. We actively avoided this cake for four days so I didn’t know what to expect when pulling the slice out.
The slice of cake sat on my plate for a couple of seconds as I admired the structure of it. I looked back at the cake and thought about how I’d feel if I ate the entire thing, or if anyone would even notice if it was missing. My thoughts wandered to the baker who made it – did they ever consider that this cake could possibly be consumed by one woman standing alone at a countertop? I ripped a piece off and took my first bite. I thought about all the other families who have shared this cake, and for a moment I imagined myself near their tables, not as a guest but just as an observer, watching them laugh about jokes only families knew the punchlines to. I’d notice their glowing expressions as they reminisced about previous holidays. I’d look at them exchange smiles with the faces across the table. I’d notice their glances flutter around the room as they were reminded of both warm and painful memories. I thought about what each of those strange experiences would feel like. I wanted to stay but I was brought back to reality by the sound of distant snores competing with voices of the characters in the movie that continued to play for no one in particular.
I tore the rest of the slice into pieces and decided against eating another.