May 20, 2003
Open Wide

ytd: 300.40

Jane comes running up to my desk, in the middle of the morning, with a small Tupperware container in her hand.

"Hey!" she says excitedly. "I know it isn't on our diet, but you've got to try this!" And she waves a forkful of something dark and gooey and dangerous-looking in front of my face. I obediently open my mouth and allow her to slide the plastic fork between my lips.

(I'm so easy.)

Every woman in this office is on a diet at the moment, it seems.  Including me: I'm back on The Monotony Diet, after months of backsliding. (In my case, I had no choice but to go back on the diet: I gave away all of my fat clothes last year, and now even the stretchiest Size 12's are starting to feel pinchy around the waist again.) Jane and JoAnne are doing Weight Watchers together. Even Dawn, my favorite of the young environmental technicians (because she reminds me so much of my daughters) is stoically working toward fitting into her wedding dress this fall. The office refrigerator is crammed so full of diet soda and baby carrots and bland pricey frozen entrees, we could probably open our own Jenny Craig franchise.

(The only Dirt Company female not on a diet currently is The New Girl, who basically subsists on Junior Mints and Yoohoo and never gains an ounce.)

Jane watches my face as I roll the mystery dessert around in my mouth. It's some kind of cake, obviously: something rich and moist and densely textured. Plus there is a dark sweet underlying flavor that I can't immediately identify. 

"What is this?" I ask finally, swallowing the mouthful with great relish.  

Jane beams at me. "It's Kahlua Cake," she says proudly. "My sister made it: isn't it yummy?"

Hmmmm.  "It's not going to get me drunk or anything, is it?" I joke.

"Oh, you WISH!" she replies, laughing. She offers me another bite -- No thanks, I tell her: one bite is my legal limit -- and then she wanders off down the hallway towards her office, Tupperware container in hand, freely dispensing bites of Kahlua Cake to all of the other Dirt Company dieters.  

I'm only kidding about the cake getting me drunk, of course. I stopped worrying about stuff like that a long time ago. The further I move through the recovery process, the more comfortable I become about these things. I know that even if the alcohol didn't burn off during the cooking, it would still take a lot more than one forkful of Kahlua Cake (or Chicken Marsala, or Beer-Battered Onion Rings, or Bananas Flambé at Le Cheval) to compromise my hard-won sobriety. If I ever do backslide -- and I try to remain respectfully mindful of that possibility, at all times -- it's not likely to be triggered by something I eat.  It's far more likely to be "triggered" by me going to the corner liquor store, plunking down my money and buying the biggest cheapest box of Mountain Chablis on the shelf.

A few minutes later my intercom is buzzing. Jane is on the other end.

"Oh my god, I am SO sorry," she whispers, sounding stricken. "I wasn't even thinking." She doesn't come right out and say it, but of course we both know exactly what she's referring to. I forgot that you're an alcoholic, and here I go and offer you KAHLUA CAKE.

"Don't worry about it," I reassure her. "I can handle it." 

It's nice of her to remember, and to be concerned. It sort of reminds me of when Jaymi was visiting last month, and she worried that David and I would feel 'uncomfortable' if she ordered a margarita with her enchilada. But the fact is that it's totally unnecessary to tiptoe around me this way. Kahlua was never my drink anyway, I tell Jane. And one bite of Kahlua Cake isn't going to have me dreaming about wine boxes and beer schooners and ice-cold pitchers of martinis tonight, when I lay my head on my pillow and drift off to sleep.

Although it's sure as hell gonna have me dreaming about CAKE.

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