For Gina, eating chocolate was an EXPERIENCE.
|Gina adored Godiva chocolate. |
In those days (1996-1997 or so) we were roommates and best friends, glued to one another. We were so close, people often mistook us for lesbians, and it never occurred to us to care.
Gina was forever talking me into going somewhere, be it Woodstock, New York City, California, or Europe. One day she wanted to go to the Godiva Chocoatier in our area’s largest mall. I was accustomed to this request; I often tagged along on Gina’s pilgrimages to acquire fine chocolates.
We even had a specific place to park, outside Macy’s – and our walking route through Macy’s to the mall always took us past the cologne counter, where Gina inevitably stopped to spray Poloma Picasso perfume on her wrist, breathing deeply with eyelids lowered to savor its rich scent.
As we entered the mall area, the Godiva Chocoatier came into view - spotless as usual and decked out in golden shiny pillar. A few prim, stiff women sniffed around inside.
I walked straight to the counter and placed my order: 2 milk chocolate truffles. The clerk weighed them and charged me a ridiculous $3 for the two candies. I thanked her anyway and opened the teeny black bag she gave me. Popping one into my mouth, I chewed heartily.
Gina’s personal process of ordering and consuming chocolate, however, differed considerably from mine:
She faced the brass & glass display counter, one arm slightly outstretched as if divining the exact truffle destined to join with her alone.
Two Espresso truffles first, or wait – maybe three – then three milk chocolates, a white chocolate, and two champagnes.
Gina charged her purchase, signing the slip with an unreadable flourish. She folded her Godiva bag crisply, and we turned as one to go home.
Both of my truffles were gone before we reached the car. Not Gina's. She drove the whole way home, patiently planning a delicious tryst with her decadent purchase. We reached our apartment and both went into her bedroom, which was the largest, coolest, and most comfortable – not to mention it contained the best stereo system and television in the house. We hung out in there a lot; between the cigarettes and the pot, the walls and ceiling were looking a little yellow.
To this smoky den Gina added a futon bed frame, two cushy mattresses, and layers upon layers of featherbed and pillows – including her favorite four-foot body pillow that she hugged to sleep at night. She staple-gunned sheer, flowing pastel fabrics around the bed to create a canopy feel…she hung posters of Gustav Klimt’s paintings and Raphael’s cherubic angels on the walls. Candles and Buddhist statues and mala beads were strewn on her nightstand, and incense burned daily.
Into this atmosphere we walked that evening. I lay along one side of her bed, watching the ritual unfold.
Forgoing the overhead light, Gina lit ten candles or so, floating trance-like around the room. Shedding her clothes like snakeskin, she stopped nude in front of the stereo, carefully placed a CD in its drawer, and adjusted the volume.
As the first notes of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2 (her favorite classical piece) came swirling from the speakers, Gina snatched the Godiva bag and leaped gracefully onto the bed -- pluff -- landing next to me. She gave a little shiver and scrambled under the silken, cushiony covers, sighing contentedly. Smiling wide, she opened the bag and breathed deep of its confectionary chorus of mingling flavours.
Then, delicately choosing a favored beginner, she reached in and pulled out one of the Espressos. A small taste to begin; she nibbled a tiny section and closed her eyes, letting the experience take her somewhere else entirely.
I gently teased her for this kind of stuff. It wasn't just chocolate. Gina could focus all of her energies on anything if she chose (and sometimes, I suppose, when she did not choose). When Gina listened to you, there was no question that she was listening intently and patiently. However, if she was deep in thought, she'd be so far away she'd never hear a word you said . She could turn on or tune out with equally impressive skill.
That night I watched the music weave through her long, thick brown hair and somehow heard her heart emitting waves of peace. Gina knew how to create beauty all around her, through some strange magic of empathy and intelligence.
...even when she was just eating chocolate.