“Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.”

― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood 

ACT 1/ À la Tarte 
The best thing about heartbreak is that it’s a great equaliser. A democratic fuck-you that’s free-for-all, available to all, and practises no discrimination.
  The symptoms of heartbreak begin innocently enough. It starts at the lips not unlike a fragrant confection, crafted from the artisanal ovens of some French château. A little petit quivering wisp of a crisp perched precariously on the lower lip, timorously calling for entry. 
“What is this concoction?” you think. “Why is it so special?” You decide to take it in. 
As it passes your lips, you catch a hint of spices, tingling your olfactory senses; the suggestion of rose, cardamom, salmon sunsets, a certain mystery, a beguiling politeness, an earnestness, facets of charm already reflecting in the glints of sweetness, woven into the fabric of the wafer.
  The first taste. Tongue meets crisp. An unexpected rasp. The tongue is not used to this alien frippery. There’s friction, ever so slightly against its soft papillae. It decides to crush it, the roof of the mouth joining in the action. Then the flavour combusts. The texture of the cream finely coating the wafer, tinged perhaps with an intoxicating spirit, explodes in small waves of euphoric taste. With each move of the mouth, each sucking motion, the pleasure is undeniable. 

ACT 2/ Chinky Teacup
  After the initial euphoria, the movement becomes a little less novel, a little more automated. Fork is lifted to mouth and the motion is repeated. A calm prevails — the tongue, happy, now knowing what to expect. The mouth, working to achieve status quo, is content on industrious mastication, the throat and oesophagus conspiring, collaborating. 
After a while, perhaps a chink is found in the teacup, causing a cut lip. Blood is shed, but perhaps, because you are willing to remember the euphoria and cheer over the pain, you carry on. 
Several moments later, the waiter arrives with more. 
“More?” you ask. 
“Yes, indeedy,” he says, his eyes more than a little manic. 
At this point, if you’re a creature of habit, you learn to take in more, you learn to take it in stride, experience the flavours anew, and new spices or facets of the confection you never noticed before. And you continue to lift the fork — masticate, masticate, masticate. Swallow, swallow, swallow. 
Or you could rebel and say, “I want something more.” Or “I want something else.” In which case, the waiter’s response is then to take you on a confusing journey through the menu, perhaps involving a strained conversation with the chef, who whisks you away on a tour of the kitchen and maybe an awkward walk-through of options and taste-tests, and a lot of nodding and smiling and fake compliments. 
In the end, you decide that perhaps you would like to go back to the first option. The thin wisp of a crisp with the intoxicating crème. 
The chef’s face turns grave, and the waiter looks a little ashen. 
“Alas, mademoiselle,” he says. “That option is no longer available.” 
Your eyes widen. He points to a young man with blond hair, rather better dressed than yourself, very likely more successful than yourself, seated at a table. You see the man scrutinise the very last crisp, turning it this way and that in his hand, and then, quel horreur! He delicately places it into his mouth. His eyes first stretch, then contract, the ends of his mouth upturned in ecstasy. It is a look you yourself know well. It is the look you once had on your very own face, which, en ce moment is turning a very bright red. 
You excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. Suddenly, you don’t feel so bien. There is turmoil and your gut isn’t handling it too well. A physical pain paralyses your heart. You are breathing hard and a silvery chill has come over you, sliding its finger up your spine. A fine spray of sweat has cropped up on your forehead. Cold and sour, you feel the moistness under your arms and in the small of your back. An emptiness, a hollow emotion envelops you. What will you look forward to now? You feel a dull pain, like the blackened end of a long discarded nail probing the edge-most tip of your womb. 
Just as you think you are about to retch, a tall, cool drink of water steps into the room and speaks to you. 
“Pardon me, mademoiselle, but a little birdie tells me you are looking for a certain delicacy...?” he trails off. 
“Why, yes,” you say in earnest. 
“I have just the thing you’re looking for,” he says and swings out his hand. His palm is wide, warm, and reassuring, and you like that his hair is slicked back and that he has a friendly moustache. 

ACT 3/ The Velvet Rope 
Against your better judgement, you take his hand. He whips you into a corridor you have never seen before. It is dimly lit and there are many doors. In front of each door is a light glowing amber here, a garish green over there. Different sounds emanate from behind each door and you are intrigued, a little fearful. Tall, Cool Drink of Water senses your hesitation. “You’re sure you want to come?” he asks. 
Perhaps that moment right there is the split second that changes your life. Perhaps it is at that very moment that you decide it is alright to destroy yourself a little. 
You nod and he leads you on. 
What happens next is a blur. Perhaps it is not just the range of beings you see in the maze of rooms, or their indifference as to who you are or what you are doing there. From places high and low, with doors closed or in plain sight — everyone has the same objective. To once again savour the tastes denied to them. For you it is that ‘wisp of a crisp with the intoxicating crème’. For another it is perhaps a different concoction, something strong to imbibe in quick successive shots. For yet another perhaps it is an exotic fruit, ripened, peeled open, and consumed with a heady cheese. Some people appear to be sharing. Others are content to indulge in solitude with the spotlight off. 
Everything there is heightened — the laughter a little louder, the ‘happy’ a little happier, and there seems to be a great deal of affection all round. There’s a slightly unpleasant smell in the air, but nobody seems to notice; they won’t be there for long anyway. 
Old ladies with purple hair and young men in trainers alike sit with their faces moulded in rapture, their lips apart, eyes glazed over. Some, presumably satiated, part with their money, and you can’t help but notice how in that particular place, ‘the taste’ has become a crude commodity. 
You sit there enveloped in anonymity, Tall, Cool Drink of Water smiling deviously at you, and when your confection is served, you shed your body of its many layers — layers you hardly need in this instance — and free your limbs, all the better for ‘the big devour’. The confection is different from the first, of course. It is similar in construction but the provenance has changed. The wafer is perhaps denser, burnt a little darker, the crème a tad more decadent, its sweetness more reckless, even artificial, with a faint bitter aftertaste. You savour it nevertheless. You take what you can get. 

ACT 4/ Château Redux 
The journey home is rougher than you expect, for you are now heavier, laden with something new inside you. Tall, Cool Drink of Water had evaporated ages ago. New and old memories jostle within you, clamouring for an audience. Your mind, once a clean slate, seeks peace to no avail. Where once you could say you knew happiness, you now no longer know how to find it. Within you there is a great longing. 
As you retrace your steps you come across the cafe where you had your first ‘taste’. You catch your own reflection in the window and you don’t like what you see. Shame, blame, and guilt has manifested as a shine on your nose and deepened the lines around your mouth. 
You look through the windows instead and immediately regret it, envious of all the happy people within, the blush on their cheeks, the natural smiles. Your head begins to swirl and before you know it, you’ve regurgitated onto the sidewalk. 
Then, just as you can take no more, you catch sight of the young man with the blond hair. Jealousy and anger swarm up inside you and you heave again. But when you look up, you realise something different about him. His shoulders are slumped, his collar loosened, and most importantly, he’s lost that blush on the cheek. He’s staring at the empty spot on the table where his plate used to be. 
Ah, heartbreak. The great equaliser. That democratic fuck-you that’s free-for-all, available to all, and practises no discrimination. 



Text by Maya Tan
 
 
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