I went to the chocolate store and dropped my brand new Craigslist camera on the floor. Broke the lens, broke my heart, bought some chocolate and came home broke. Everything is broken. How’d it happen so fast? Glorious day, sun screaming from a sky so blue you’d swear you stepped outside and straight into a cartoon. Then it all went to Hell in a hand basket, so to speak. Here’s how it all started . . .
A couple of weeks back the good folks at Foodista asked me to interview Lauren Adler, owner of Chocolopolis, the Tiffany’s of chocolate. When the time came, I prepped for the interview, went to bed early, but woke up with a head full of feathers, like the pillow had slipped into my ear in the night and stuffed up my brain. Couldn’t find a usable brain cell anywhere, no matter how hard I rattled my head and tried to focus. Drove across town, hit a car trying to park, got screamed at by a stranger, then realized I’d forgotten my camera. Had a nice interview, though, and left wishing I had a fraction of the energy this amazing woman has. And so it was that I returned, head hung low, to snap some pics of the store. Which I did. Yesterday. Not realizing the interview had already been published. Duh.
But while I was at it, I thought to myself, shouldn’t I try a ten dollar candy bar? Now, let me confess. When I asked Lauren about the candy bar that changed her life once she’d tasted it, she gracefully scolded me for calling it “candy.” Like calling a trout a fish my cousin Rog says. Have some respect.
The chocolate bar that so amazed Lauren Adler that she gave up her investment banker career to sell chocolate displayed on shelves like Chanel handbags was a Chocolat Bonnat dark chocolate from Madagascar. Ten dollars is a lot for a chocolate bar, at least where I come from, and it’s approximately two week’s wages for the average cacoa farmer in Madagascar. But I am not a cacoa farmer in Madagascar; I am a rich white girl. Well, rich isn’t exactly the word, it’s more like nearly broke unemployed single mom with shattered career and tattered future in need of health insurance and an income and no job in sight. Somehow blowing ten dollars on a chocolate bar that doesn’t even count as candy is morally indefensible when my daughter needs a new pair of shoes and I tell her to wait until she gets to high school.
But morality is negotiable and there I was with ten bucks in my pocket and a life-altering chocolate bar right before my eyes. So as I was buying it (“and throw in a couple of those Chrisopher Elbow chocolates while you’re at it, yeah, that one there, with the balsamic vinegar, I’ll toss them in the salad”) I reached for my wallet and as I did, the camera I had slung on my shoulder fell to the floor with a loud metallic-sounding crash I pretended I hadn’t heard, like ignoring it would mean that it hadn’t really happened.
I was so cool, so calm, so very Zen like. I laughed it off like I drop cameras on the floor all the time, said I had another lens at home, smiled and went home, unable to snap any pics of the sign because I couldn’t remove the lens cap (which rattled like an African percussion instrument, which is never a good sign). But all the way home I beat myself up for being so careless, for treating something so costly as if it were just some accessory I couldn’t care less about.
By the time I made it home, the voice in my head had gone from “no big deal, I have another lens,” to “how could you be so stupid” to “this is how the universe tells you that you never should have bought a new camera in the first place,” to “everything you do is a disaster, you are wasting your money on chocolate, you are an inferior person, you don’t deserve anything good, you should send all your money to Japan and get a job cleaning the houses of people who deserve it.”
By the time I got home I was a wreck and the beach was ablaze with beauty. A thousand shades of blue and gray and beige and white and half the human race was out there digging for clams, splashing in the waves with happy stick-fetching dogs, walking hand in hand straight into the glorious horizon.
I went inside and dug out the old camera lens. It fit. It worked. But it wouldn’t take the sharp, crisp shots of the last lens. Though, quite possibly, I wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. But others might. And I knew that what was once my prized Canon Rebel camera lens, the one that followed me across the country, to Paris and back a couple of times and endured eighteen months in the rainforests of Madagascar was now an inferior product. There’d been upgrades.
So I got on-line and looked up what it would cost to replace the lens. $224 plus tax. If I hadn’t bought that chocolate bar, if I hadn’t reached for my wallet and knocked the camera off . . . well, all I could think was that’s one pricey chocolate bar. It had better be good. I went to the closet to put the camera bag away and then I saw the box. The big cardboard box marked “Broken Porcelain.”
Every time I break a plate, a tea cup, a treasured heirloom, I put it in the box to turn into a mosaic coffee table, a tea tray, a mirror frame, who knows? Just knowing all those broken bits and pieces are not lost, but awaiting transformation, brings me comfort. Of course a broken camera lens isn’t exactly a piece of beauty, it was heading for the trash (I’m just so not into Minimalist art). But for a moment, just a moment, that Broken Porcelain box was comforting.
I asked Mira what I should do, as if asking a thirteen year old for financial advice is a mark of good parenting. “Should I replace the lens?” I wondered out loud, “I don’t want blurry pictures.” She was busy. Her computer, like my lens, had broken, so she was hammering away on mine, writing a story about refugees. Talk about broken. “Just use the lens you have,” she said, not even looking up, “give it a try before you buy a new one. After all,” she added in that snide voice teenagers have perfected over the last quarter million years like it’s some evolutionary advantage, “you don’t have a job.” I whimpered and walked away. She was right, of course, she always is.
I snapped a few pictures, Googled how to fix her computer, got it up and running, but I still felt sad, like the beautiful day had eluded me, just by dropping my camera. Then I remembered. I’d bought a ten dollar chocolate bar.
I cracked it open, broke off a piece and put it into my mouth. I didn’t taste much at first, just felt the chocolate rest on my tongue as smooth as glass. Then as it slowly began to melt, a melody of flavors came alive in my mouth. Was that fruit? Cherry? Raisins? Could my tongue even tell the difference? It was dark, nearly unsweetened, with just a hint of sugar, so elegant, so good, so very, very good.
But I wouldn’t pay $250 for it, I concluded, so I’d have to work with the lens I’ve got. But ten dollars? For a chocolate bar? Why not? When you’re broken, chocolate heals, and when you’re broke, the memory of a perfect taste, a perfect moment, might be just the vision that you need to keep going in the roughest times.
Things break. And sometimes life breaks you. But who’s to say a broken life is only that, and not just beautiful pieces awaiting transformation. Like making fine chocolates, it all starts by breaking the chocolate into pieces, one block at a time . . .