The sunset rectangle around my flat's window-blind fades to gray-black. I verify the door-cam’s night-vision mode is active and there's no movement outside. Sliding the deadbolt free, I shift the small tower of Amazon packages from the February chill inside. I relock it just as I begin to get the jitters. The first of the month when I restock always feels like a jump-scare horror flick. Storing my sundries in their places restores my calm.
One unopened package remains. Unlike my Prime deliveries it is wrapped in thick, reddish-brown paper with my name and address written in looping calligraphy. The custom puzzle shop I have a subscription with feels like a dear friend. I unwrap the parcel slowly with anticipation. Will this month’s entry be carved from hardwood, or machined in stainless steel?
Box open, a business card displays Enigma Chocolates on one side and on the other the cryptic line: “Leap Forward One Day at a Time.” I lift the artifact from its crepe’ paper nest. The heart-shaped device I hold in my hands glistens like a large Fabergé egg frozen in cellular division. Each emerald facet is inlaid with silver roman numerals numbered one to twenty-nine.
Experimentally, I touch the silver capital I. The puzzle-box emits a warm soft glow and the facet swings out as if opened by a tiny ghost.
Behind the tiny door lies a small prize. Other puzzles I’ve solved have had prizes, but this is the first that promises many. I retrieve the chocolate flower and surprising myself I pop it into my mouth.
The intense flavor washes through my very being. In the process my tidy apartment unfurls before me reknitting itself into the haphazard wooded glen outside my childhood home. I am eight years old and in the middle of receiving my first kiss. A mere peck to be sure, but in this mindstate it seems to last for hours, and then days one end. I simply observe---the fear, excitement and the innocent joy of the moment.
Am I to be a prisoner in this heavenly throwback moment? The scene tints green, finally morphing into the jeweled heart before me. I stumble to the bathroom in orgasmic waves of dizziness expecting full-on nausea that never comes.
I look at my phone and I’m only half surprised to see a full day has elapsed. Without delay I return to the puzzle-box and open facet number two. In staggered succession I binge psychedelic memory after memory. I don’t know what the chocolates are laced with, but I live in nirvanic moments for the next four weeks.
Each split-second moment unveils a deep love experience of my past. Agápe, Éros, Philia, Storge. Moments with my parents, friends, lovers, and Nature--each trip more scintillating than the last. Except for bathroom breaks and hyper-rushed meals I am in a timeless state of ecstasy, sacrificing a day for each chocolate induced memory hidden behind its emerald door.
And now, I open my eyes to February 29th. The final unopened, emerald door confronts me. Tears stream down my cheeks in the face of a privileged life taken for granted. With enlightened resolve I set the emerald heart on the coffee table which overflows with the plastic husks of convenience meals.
I walk to the front door and open it. The sunrise has just begun. Sunlight feels like a smile on my face, and I inhale deeply. Whew, I reek. First a shower, and then it’s time for a long overdue walk outside.