As a kid, I had lastima for Cookie Monster. I thought he was more vulnerable then the other muppets because he was pear-shaped and blue and had a voracious appetite he couldn’t control. I’d picture him eating an oatmeal raisin in the middle of the night, in a dark corner of a kitchen so nobody would catch him. I imagined him stuffing Snickerdoodles into his mouth, chanting the usual “om nom nom nom,” but quickly because he didn’t want to count how many he’d consumed. I worried he was cheating on his Weight Watchers points or feeling badly about himself or numbing out, all the while filling his arteries with fatty oils and unhealthy cookie-juices. But eventually I accepted that Cookie Monster wasn’t real and I let him sing me songs and I moved on.
Cut to now and we’re at a holiday party. There are a million baked goods splayed out on a long table, sexy sweets a'glistening. It’s overwhelming catching up with a so many people, keeping names straight, squeezing a yearly update into 20 minutes, making sure to laugh around strangers and family. I want to deal with this by face-planting into the dessert table. Instead I pull back on my reigns.
I fill up with carrot sticks and seltzer even though it’s way less fun. And as I work the crowd, I come up with acronyms to remember who’s who and I scroll through the lean rolodex of what I’ve been up to and I reach for more melon-balls wishing they were chocolate. Finally I excuse myself, I need a break, I need to put restraint down for a minute. I follow my nose into the kitchen because pies are baking in an oven and no one will be in there. I see him right away, the man and his coffee cake. He’s hovering above it like it’s a baby bird, like the cake is in that picture from Back To The Future and it’s going to disappear so he better get at it fast. He’s eating with his bare hands, little squirrel-claws, grabbing at the crumbling bites as if it’s been too long since he’s been intimate with this lover. When he turns to see who has entered, who has broken the seal of his solitude, he meets my gaze and I know for certain that I’m not supposed to be here. His eyes bug out and bits of pastry squat on the corners of his mouth and shame has stained his clothes.
I want to tell him that it’s okay to be messy. I want to tell him that I understand, that sometimes lastima is decorated with powered sugar on top, that maybe during the holidays we indulge to survive. I want to hug him because Cookie Monster might be real after all. But I keep my lips sealed, only open them to shove a brownie in. Then another. We stay there, overeating, and we don’t ask questions and we don’t talk. We simply chew.
p.s. I don’t know if I was super stuffed from food or from feelings.