Originally, Eat Dessert First was a guest post on Gilda Evans blog. I encourage you to visit her website Girl Talk. You may also find her at the following locations:
Eat Dessert First
By B. B. Wright
“Life’s short, eat dessert first,” my friend said to me as we perused the menu in Zoe’s Lounge at the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa. Both chocoholics, our eyes had already wolfed down the lavishly decadent chocolate lava cake shown in the dessert section of the menu. We shared one of those knowing smiles that said nothing, yet everything. You know the kind—the illusion of shared mutual understanding. Did she know? I thought to myself. Could she not see it in my eyes? Is she unseeing, blind? I pretended to read the menu while surreptitiously watching her as the server took her order. Without thinking, I ordered the same as she without the slightest idea of what I had just ordered.
The wine steward arrived with her glass of Sauvignon Blanc and my bottle of Perrier.
“Something’s up,” she said, raising her eyebrows at me as the server poured my glass of Perrier. “It’s not like you, Sheila, not to have a glass of something.”
I smiled back and held up my glass of Perrier with its twist of lime hooked into its lip and said: “It is a glass of something.” I didn’t mean to be facetious but it just came out that way. She was right. Normally, I would have had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon but, lately, I had lost my taste for it. Actually, I had lost my taste for a lot of things lately.
The announcement of Art Acheson’s retirement as Dean of the Faculty of Education at the beginning of the year had opened up competition from a number of candidates for the position, including me. Now, in sudden death overtime, Irene Cochrane and I would soon face off against each other to be the last woman standing and to be the best chosen from over one hundred candidates across Canada—male or female—to earn the Deanship. It was the position I had coveted for a long time and I found it painful to entertain the thought that I would have to relinquish that dream to someone else. I felt like such a loser to even think that way but life had just dealt me a lousy set of cards and I was having difficulty getting my head around it.
Throughout supper, punctuated by moments of silence between mouthfuls, Susan and I talked about the early days when we were Associate Professors; the roller coaster ride of policy changes that effected education; the ever changing quality of students taught; the effects each new Provincial Government had on the educational system. Our discussions were stimulating, refreshing and insightful, opening up to the light of day perceptions of circumstances either never discussed or long ago forgotten. For me, the whole experience was just ‘what the doctor ordered’ and I relished every second of it. Best friends always seem to have the knack of filling in the missing pieces of your life, especially when it is most needed.
“You do know,” Susan said, “you are a shoe-in for the position of Dean?”
“I appreciate your vote of confidence but…I’m about to…My life, Susan, has been redirected,” I replied, trying to muster up a smile. “Do you remember when we used to lie on the hill outside the library and look up at the night sky at the million of stars that blazed in the darkness and shared our dreams? Both of us have done well to make those dreams come true. Don’t you think? But, have you ever taken time to ask yourself: What if I knew I would never see those stars, my family, my friends, and this beautiful world again, what would I do differently, if anything at all?”
During a long moment of silence, Susan sat back in her chair and stared at me with one of her all too familiar scrutinizing and worried looks.
“Where’s all this going, Sheila?” she asked me. “What am I missing?”
I could feel a tear bead up at the corner of my eye. “Life is indeed short, Susan. It’s time for me to eat that dessert.”