Chocolate is supposed to make you happy. But when the woman buys it from the grocery store, and takes it back home, and eyes the bar sitting solidly in her hand, she grunts.

It’s so hard, she thinks. It’s so hard to break off into bits. The silver inner lining of the foil glints at her, and she reluctantly puts the bar to her mouth. They say dark chocolate is good for your heart, but this tastes like shit.She rips it from her mouth. The woman stares at the chocolate; stares at the brown square, gaze skimming over the unblemished dark brown and following the little dip of chocolate layer. There’s a tooth-shaped hole, made by her teeth. It’s of a lighter brown colour and looks absolutely disgusting. She runs her tongue across her teeth anxiously, not to check for chips in the enamel but to get rid of the bittersweet taste. Like shit, like shit, the voice in her head chants. And it was from the grocer’s, too! Where fellow women and men in silk or stripe come in, dangling plastic carriers like their bangles and Rolexes, stopping for lattes they don’t need but realizing too late or never at all that they shouldn’t have wasted the money. You should’ve gone to the corner store, she massages her temples and tells the voice to shut up, you don’t know anything. Her eyes begin to tear; her sight is filled with the dark brown of the chocolate and perhaps if she pretends that this is a Snickers bar she can stomach it—she bites, and no peanutty-caramel oozes out.

She gags on the chocolate and runs to the kitchen. A hand splayed on her throat, the other on the counter to hold her weight up. How disgusting, brown saliva all inside my sink. It’s a nice sink; ceramic.

Outside a kid is listening. His skin is as pale as hers but not as clean as hers. He has clothes like hers but his are makeshift; hers are tailored. His stomach growls, as loud as hers, but it’s been growling for all his life while hers only all of this hour.

He knows the drill when he sees her through the kitchen windows, retching up the fragments of chocolate. He runs to the backyard where the kitchen opens and hunches himself, curls himself into a ball.

He knows the thrill of living in this neighbourhood. I am a pebble, his chapped lips move. A pebble, a pebble, a pebble, the voice in his head chants. Arms tucked under knees. Both bone and skin stretched too thin; limbs enclosing limbs no longer hurts. There is no softness to press into, only pain.

The woman opens the kitchen window and sends the chocolate bar sailing. It hits him, right in the middle of his crooked spine. The chocolate bar splits in half and the woman wonders what kind of horrible mushroom must live in her backyard; so hardened by bacteria and fungi that would cause a chocolate bar as hard as that to crack?

Outside, the boy’s fingers scrabble along the grass and the soil to tuck half of the bar under his arm. Someone else crawls up from behind and kicks him. But it’s bone against bone and there had always been pain there anyway, so none of it hurts. What hurts is the other someone groping him for the half-piece of chocolate bar, despite him whispering through dry lips that there’s another one lying in the grass.

You’re lying, in this neighbourhood you’d lie about things like that, I know it, give it to me. The boy gives up fighting because its hunger versus hunger and in such a cruel game, no one ever wins except the party unaffected.

The woman turns her back to the two mushrooms and calls the gardener. He will uproot them tomorrow. She has enough money for that. The mushrooms will lose their footing in the grass, but hopefully they’ll be transferred to a new patch of soil.

The boy learns that chocolate trickles just as easily as blood does when you’re in the sun with no shade.

Athena Tan

Athena Tan

Athena Tan is a student and founder of Carpe Bloom, an online collective featuring the original creative works from young people and artists all over the world. Her writing has appeared in publications such as ANZA Magazine, Halcyon Literary and the Creative Arts Programme Mentorship: Eye on the World: Connecting the Dots and placed first in the Global Debate Essay Competition. While studying for her O-Levels this year, she is a judge for Young Author Awards 2017 and contributed to the collection, Heritage Journeys: No Place like Serangoon Gardens, in celebration of her country’s 50th year.
Athena Tan

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