The white chocolate marzipan cake balances precariously; defies equilibrium. Her mouth is seemingly on repeat – he cannot hear her any more.
It doesn’t matter; he’s heard it all before. Maybe it was another ailment, maybe it was another doctor, maybe it was somebody else that had done her wrong.
He cannot hear her; he can only see the fine network of wrinkles that have conquered the area from her smile pits to her temples. It has grown since the last time, hasn’t it? Deep engravings criss-crossing a skin grown thick, a skin grown … soft?
He would like to grab her chin to feel what life has made to her face.
Despite the fine canyons, despite the matt lustre her skin also looks soft like a baby’s, as if it had gone full circle, starting all over again.
But such is life. He cannot feel her cheek like she once did his while marvelling over the miracle of life. Because surely she did, didn’t she?
Not that he can ever remember her being physical. And wasn’t it he who reintroduced hugs in the family in his teenage years once he’d learnt to appreciate them again?
He always liked to be physically close.
Absence has caused sorrow, but nevertheless hugs between friends for a short moment in time felt silly. Not for real. Shallow. Not so any more.
The wrinkles pulsate in rhythmical sync with her unstoppable verbiage and deep breathing.
Sun-scorched earth. Tree trunk broken off by a storm. Labyrinth corridors of an uprooted ants nest. Sound waves through a freshly crackled brûlée.
Finally the stoic piece of cake gives in to gravity’s relentless quest and falls over.
In Sweden a symbol of love gone awry. Standing cake – you will get married. Fallen cake, welcome to Tinder
The cake falls just like he has fallen. And stood up. Fallen and stood up. Fallen again and stood up again only to fall over again.
Only one of those times there were witnesses and signatures.
OK, two if you also count the loan agreement for the duplex apartment. Is perhaps a mortgage a bigger sign of love than a marriage certificate?
The white chocolate marzipan clings to the gold-rimmed china like an unseen, sticky spider web caught on your face during a summer stroll through a leafy forest.
The fall from grace is oh so slow – isn’t it always?
The force of gravity is however strong enough to refurbish the inner creams; the office-brown chocolate mousse erupts in over the bleak-yellow vanilla cream like a volcano’s last sigh of molten lava.
She has gone silent. The wrinkles collapse. She takes her spoon to her mouth, chews quickly, and chases the sweet fix down with a sip of coffee gone cold.
The wrinkles gather momentum again, like a sprinter coming out of the blocks, albeit in slow motion. She hesitates. As she often does when she wants to say something that matters. Is it his fault?
Has he been too hard on her over the years?
Or is it simply her own life-long insecurity that she has always had to mask with over-compensation and narcissistic self-affirmation?
Her tongue eventually joins what, from judging from the breath will be less of a moan. Could it – lo and behold – be a conversation looming at the horizon?
He takes his eyes off the fallen cake, meets his mother’s gaze. Curious.
“Would you like another piece of cake?”
Anders Modig, based in Basel since 2013, has been a journalist for 15 years. He writes about watches and design for titles like Vanity Fair on Time, Hodinkee, Café and South China Morning Post.
He has been editor in chief of seven magazines and books, including the current annual design magazine True Design by Rado, and his company also organises events for clients like TAG Heuer, Zenith and Patek Philippe.