Candy Hearts

Of Guitars, Metaphors, and Chocolate Haupia Pie

Chow Bella has a valentine for you. For the rest of February, we're handing out Candy Hearts -- stories of food and love from some of our favorite writers. Enjoy.

He had a guitar and too many pretty metaphors, and he loved chocolate haupia pie. He also loved me -- for at least the last week of my junior year in college. He wrote a song to prove it.

I would leave soon for an extended South American stay I'd planned for months. And only six days before I had to catch a flight, he crooned me a song with my name in it. The song for me wasn't as good as his others. Less metaphor, more cliché: wishes do come true, good things never change. But my song also called me elegant and kind, and I didn't mind hearing that in an impressive falsetto.

See also: - Candy Hearts archives

One week, then. One week to act like we'd always walk around like this, hands together, a guitar slung over his back. We laughed at the same Internet videos. We were both 70 percent awkward. I think we both liked the sound of his voice. And we both got quiet one evening when he stared at nothing and swore I wouldn't love him if I knew what he'd done. He wouldn't tell his secret. I had my song, so I could overlook some things.

Before my flight, we ate superb chocolate haupia pie. Just crust, chocolate filling, coconut custard, cream: unremarkable ingredients made remarkable by sharing straight from the tin with someone who wrote you a song. Then he played my favorites, which were actually the sad ones.

I'm such a sucker for a well-crafted metaphor and a minor-key tune that my brain went soggy. So soggy that I would decide to stay if he asked me to.

If he said, "Don't get on that plane, don't fall in love with rice and beans. Don't try buxu, or maracujá, or learn that cashews are actually part of a fruit. Don't gain seven pounds discovering the joy of peanut-flavored paçocas . . ." If he'd said all that, or if he just said, "Stay and eat chocolate haupia pie with me forever," I'd cancel the trip, wouldn't touch the airport. Music and sugar drained my independence and adventure and good sense. I stood near an edge, balancing on this word: stay.

I ate almost half our pie all by myself waiting for him to say it.

He didn't.

So I gathered my things, boarded a plane, and flew away. Eventually, I thanked heaven or fate or fear or whatever prevented that word from entering the air between us.

A few weeks after Valentine's, I received a surprise love letter and package from the northern hemisphere. Inside the giant envelope, I did not find chocolate haupia pie. In the letter, I did not find his secret. Instead, a heart-shaped box of chocolates -- but only half the box, one side sealed with duct tape. A note:

"Don't wonder why I cut this heart in half. It was just difficult to find an envelope to fit a box this size. Also, I accidentally ate half the chocolates myself before I made it to the post office. This is not a metaphor for our relationship."

Yes, it was.

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Kathy West