Dear T.J.,

When we first met, you always had a hot cup of Joe ready for me, morning, noon, or night, topped off with my favorite coconut creamer. I felt seen. Knowing I had a long day, your hands held out a little nibble of honey goat cheese already spread onto fig crisps crackers, sprinkled with dried cranberries. But those days are long gone- they feel like a lifetime ago.

I should have known better when there was no space to park outside your place, and yet I circled around wasting time, just to get to see you. I didn’t think it would come to this, but the whole pandemic thing has me rethinking everything. I always came to you. That worked for me before, but now you won’t even consider letting someone drop you off at my place.

I see the people lined up around the corner, waiting for you to come out in your Hawaiian shirt reminding them of an island getaway. The way you look at them, it’s the same way you always smiled at me. I used to find it reassuring when you would ask if you could help me with anything. You stood by my side, walking me down the aisle, to show me what I believed I needed. Looking back, I can see now, you always walked a few steps ahead, just leading me on.

You seem like you’re more into the next new thing- first it was soy milk, then almond milk, now you’re all about oat milk. I can’t keep up. It feels like you’re still trying to figure yourself out. While the cinnamon broom was a clever idea, you can’t sweep everything under the rug with your sweet scent.

I mean the price point, oh, it always felt so good. The hours spent taking in your simpler canned sparkling rosé, felt like it was worth every last drop. But I didn’t listen when you said you were “too uncanny.” Looking back, I feel more like a cheap date, who accepted whatever you had to offer. I wasn’t nuts about how salty or unsalted your cashews were. Even though I preferred you whole, raw, and organic, I accepted you in pieces. But your travel mix just had too much baggage for me.

Your creativity won me over at first. I mean blue cheese mustard, how do you come up with these ideas? But as soon as I got into it, you had already moved on to pickled popcorn and chocolate hummus. It was always about finding the next great combo- but like us, not everything works together. I need more in life. I can’t sustain myself on jalapeno pub cheese and chipotle corn chips alone. Trust me I’ve tried.

I’ll miss you the most around the holidays when I brought my family around. The moment your Winter Wassail spiced libation touched my tongue, my libido hungered for another serving. But it was more like a punch, to the gut, when the holidays were over. You weren’t willing to put it all out. I believed you had the capacity, but you felt empty, like a lesser version of yourself, when I stared at the shelves, looking for what I thought was a good thing.

When you’re not feeling like it’s cold enough outside you flip a switch and won’t even let a salted caramel hot cocoa come near you. Then the next year, you pretend as though no time has passed and you bring me back in again seeing stars with your mini shortbread cookies. You know what you’re doing when you say things to me like, “enrobed in chocolate.” You put on a show, with your seasonal delights. I believed your Extraordinary Bark was worth the bite. The dark chocolate topped with almonds, pretzels, caramel corn and mini peanut butter cups- it was all too much.

When it came to formal occasions, you thought it was appropriate to bring your Cowboy Caviar. Seriously? It’s salsa buddy. Salsa.

The straw that broke the faux tiki torch, was when you said to call you, “Trader José,” “Trader Ming’s,” or “San Joe.” I challenged you time and time again.  How you are still on the fence about this, baffles me.

Best of luck, on your fantasy island T.J. To put it your way, “I’m getting too old for this shiit[ake mushroom].”

– J.K.

Bio: Jessica Keith is a professional lecturer at San Diego State University. When she’s not busy saying, “don’t make me repeat myself,” to her children (ages 2, 6, and 8), she is getting paid to discuss the diverse implications of repeating oneself, teaching Cross Cultural Communication. Currently, her favorite pastimes are sitting in a room by herself, and guessing what day of the week it is.

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