The Birthday Cake
That day-old birthday cake in the fridge is feeling neglected. She didn’t ask for this. She wants more out of life than you’re willing to offer. She doesn’t want to grow mold while fighting off the advances of last week’s greasy chicken thighs (Who says things like, “How ’bout you and me take a ride?” and “Hey, baby, haven’t seen you round these chilly parts before”?) She is a delicious cake with a lot to offer, if only someone was willing to appreciate her after the candle smoke cleared.
That day-old birthday cake is considering searching for an in-network therapist, she imagines a kind, open-minded muffin of the blueberry variety—but on second thought, she figures she’ll wind up learning to express her needs from an unstable monologuing instant pudding cup, since the in-network therapists are always booked until next century’s nervous breakdown. She considers meditation, knows that it can open her heart to the world, but does she really want to open her heart? That is how she winds up getting hurt.
That day-old birthday cake is resenting you. She doesn’t know where she belongs. For one glistening evening, she was the star of the show—minus the birthday bitch, that is. Everyone gathered ’round and admired the birthday cake’s fluffy buttercream icing and crown of fresh strawberries. She fancied herself royalty, thanks to your mansplaining session about astrological charts in which you told your girlfriend with the sad smile that, according to your chart, you’d been someone famous in your past life—probably a member of royalty. Way to put that in the birthday cake’s sweet moist head. As if she doesn’t have enough going on.
That day-old birthday cake is currently wrapped sloppily in tin foil, a section of her side exposed to the cold fridge air. The fridge smells like rotten game and the tears of mothers. Speaking of which, call your mother. You know how she worries. Her mind jumps to icepick lobotomy within seconds of a missed call. She’ll probably fall over when you tell her that you made your girlfriend’s birthday cake from scratch. As an aside, you should avoid telling the day-old birthday cake that you’re her creator; her tiny saccharine world may implode, her crumbs spreading a light, crusty layer over the fridge’s occupants and quite possibly landing on a greasy chicken thigh, who of course assumes any attention is a come-on.
The day-old birthday cake shivers in her tin foil sleeping bag. The fridge’s thermostat is overworked, underpaid, and alas, is not regulating the temperature particularly well. He just wants to kick back and smoke a J, maybe play some Far Cry 5 and save the townsfolk from Eden’s Gate.
“Hey, darling, need someone to keep you warm?” clucks a chicken thigh, some of his slimy skin sliding down his side and landing on the plastic Tupperware bottom.
“Not if that someone is you,” the day-old birthday cake responds.
“Would it kill you to try something new?”
“Probably. Leave me alone, grease monster.”
“Hey now, what did I ever do to you?”
“You’re just mad the Eaters don’t want you anymore,” he snickers, bitter about her rejection.
The day-old birthday cake stops responding. She can hear your heavy footsteps enter the kitchen. She smooths down her buttercream icing and shifts her positioning so that her freshest strawberry is facing the fridge door. She strikes a pose and holds her breath, waiting for you to give her a second chance. This can’t be all there is.
“They’re never gonna want youuuuu,” mocks the chicken thigh, trying to adjust his slipped-off skin like a bad toupee.
You open the fridge door and stare blankly inside, like all Eaters do, hoping to conjure up something delectable.
“Did you like the cake I made, babe?” you call to your girlfriend, who’s watching Mindhunter on the couch and repeating “fuck” to herself.
“Yeah, it was good, although I think I prefer chocolate,” she says, between profanities.
You huff a little, then peel the day-old cake’s tin foil up, stick your pointer finger in the icing, and give it a good no-shame lick. The day-old cake coos with pleasure. Yeah, more where that came from, please.
“I think I do too,” you admit, folding the foil back down over the day-old cake and grabbing a Magic Hat #9 from the shelf on the door.
The next time you see day-old cake, you don’t recognize her, because she is no longer day-old cake, but rather month-old cake. She is dejected. Her once beautiful body is covered in a thick layer of greenish-black mold. Her buttercream icing has lost its confidence and shape. You hold your nose while you lift her gently out of the fridge and into the trash bag your girlfriend is holding, arms outstretched to separate herself from the stench as much as possible. You don’t hear the cake’s gut-churning scream when she lands in the bottom of the bag.
In the dumpster, that month-old cake is reunited with a greasy chicken thigh, who compliments her new fuzzy green jacket, noting its similarity to his own. He says he’s been doing a lot of thinking and he’d like to start over as friends. The month-old birthday cake doesn’t have the energy to stay angry with him. She thinks about abandonment, the shape it takes and the power it holds. She wonders if anyone you’ve ever loved has thrown you away.
She rocks back and forth for a while. The chicken thigh asks if she’s okay. She sighs, but doesn’t respond. What’s left of his skin slouches a bit. Hours later, when she thinks he’s fast asleep, the month-old birthday cake confesses to the chicken thigh that she wishes she could close her eyes, sing a song, and make a wish on herself: that when she opened them everything would make sense again.
Marisa Crane is a lesbian writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart, Jellyfish Review, Pidgeonholes, Pithead Chapel, Drunk Monkeys, Okay Donkey, Cotton Xenomorph, X-R-A-Y Magazine, and elsewhere. She is the co-founding editor of Collective Unrest, a political resistance magazine. She currently lives in San Diego with her wife. You can find her on Twitter @marisabcrane.