/ Pratik Mallya

Almond Joy

He looked around the hall. It was a big store; unlike any that he’d seen in India. He remembered his first time in an American Walmart, he had been there with his parents, and he remembered the look of delight on his mother’s face on being in a store the size of an aircraft hanger. It was an intense feeling; the prices were low; but converting to Indian currency, they were still pretty expensive. Not having received his paycheck yet he was still living off his parents’ money and was hesitant to spend too much.

His thoughts were abruptly interrupted by the arrival of a beautiful girl. The store was close to campus, so there were many beautiful girls in the evening. He stood still, spellbound by the sight: she had golden hair, was tall and slender and had a spotless face. Before he could see what color her eyes were, another pretty girl passed him into the next aisle….

He snapped out of his dream. He had to complete his purchase. He stood in line for checkout. There from the plethora of magazines, sodas and gum in the checkout aisle, one thing caught his eye…

…a bar of almond joy.

And that opened up another pandoras box of memories. He remembered how as a kid, he would spend summer with his grandmother. Having relatives in the US meant that her house never had a shortage of candies, Snickers bars fell out almost everytime the modest fridge was opened. But the one candy that his grandmother loved the most….was almond joy.

He had always wondered why. It didn’t have much chocolate, essentially it was chocolate covered shredded coconut. With an almond. But she had loved it, it was the only chocolate that she had liked. And so he always kept away from it, leaving it all for his grandmother, who he really loved.

She was unlike most of the people he knew. His mother never kept his secrets, and instead turned them into party stories to tell everyone, most of the time in his presence. Once when he had asked her to keep a secret, she had laughed back all the way to the living room and loudly announced, “Have you heard, our boy has become so big, he wants me to keep his Secrets!” to raucous laughter from the family. But he remembered asking his grandmother to keep a secret, and she had kept it for the rest of her life…

“Excuse me sir, How are you doing today?”, smiled the attendant. Snapping out of his reverie, he wished her back and started placing his items on the counter. Nothing too fancy, he tried to live as healthy as he could, so avoided processed foods. Fresh fish, milk, tortillas…

But there was something missing; he remembered the almond joy. There it was, on the aisle. His eyes instinctively looked at the price; anything above a dollar was much too expensive, but this was 66 cents. Should he buy it? He did not want to consume too many calories, he wanted to get rid of the Indian paunch, and that meant a heavily controlled diet.

The checkout lady was almost done. He made a snap decision: to hell with calories. This little bar of almond joy, that brought back such fond memories, had paid for itself. He grabbed the bar and put it on the counter.

As he left, the checkout lady noticed a strange smile on his face…