To the Man Dithering by the Overpriced Chocolate Boxes in the Petrol Station by Martha Lane

She won’t thank you for those. What are you going to gift wrap them in – the universal-fit car mats in black and red rubber, or the sports section ripped out of yesterday’s paper? 

What have you done exactly, forgotten an anniversary or a birthday? Didn’t you pick up little Jonny’s cake from the bakery even though you promised you would?

And for God’s sake remember to peel off that price sticker. Let her presume you at least went to a supermarket, rather than panicked, swerved like a Hollywood stuntman, striped the tarmac a mint humbug when you saw the petrol pumps, the drooping flowers in the buckets on the kerb, got swept up in the promise of convenience. Why put in any effort when you could serve up chocolates enrobed in petroleum-stank?

Just say sorry and cook dinner for once.

Perhaps you forgot to give the dog its medicine, so she had to clean up a day’s worth of rot that had fallen from its arse again. You don’t look like a dog person though, is it the bins? Do you ever take them out? She’s fed up with being the only one who ever cleans the soap round the base of the taps, that congealed sandalwood scum?

Maybe you’re celebrating a job promotion, and this is your crappy apology for all those late nights away from home. Away from teatimes, bath times, bedtimes, whingey times, alone times. Maybe your success will buff away the hard edges of those memories. Maybe your success will stick her teeth shut, like toffee.

You could suggest a little getaway as you hand over your feeble gift. Something small, a log cabin, wood fire, no phones. Doesn’t mean you aren’t a waste of space. Arseholes go camping too.

Because she will wonder, really wonder why you’ve come home with a present, no matter how puny. It’s so unlike you. She might suspect that the receptionist, who’s always had her eye on you, brought them into the office ‘for everyone’. The perfect excuse to stand close to you and share the same air. Your caramel-sticky breaths entwining. That you, devout and trustworthy, said thank you and made a joke about how your trousers were starting to feel tight so you’d better take them home instead. But the shame-salted cocoa will give you away. Because she’ll know you wanted to share the chocolates.

Perhaps you’ve fucked that receptionist, and your guilt has tempered you. You know that anything too grand, a trip to Paris or a diamond tiara like she actually deserves, would raise suspicion. Offering to help out at home too much like hard work. They’re only your kids, why should you have to play with them, hey? No, a box of waxy chocs that taste like Calpol is perfect.

I hope you get foil caught in your fillings.

Actually, I hope she does accept your chocolates, enjoys them even, but perhaps next time – which there definitely will be – get her something better. Proper chocolates from a shop, rather than a glorified pantry on a weed-riddled roundabout. Or don’t get her chocolates at all. Think about what she likes. I’ve always preferred savoury. In fact, I haven’t been able to eat anything sweet for months. There’s still a box of fudge in the porch, next to the roses, leaves wilted to nibs and stems almost entirely thorn.

Biography: Martha Lane is a writer by the sea. She writes extensively about grief, love, and all things unrequited. Many of her stories can be read online at Balancing too many projects is her natural state. Tweets @poor_and_clean