Everything used to be so perfect. My relationship with Brian was at the stage where even a text message made me shiver with delight. We had a good social life, and I was a successful reporter.
Then my chief editor sent me out to review restaurants. I was sucked into the seductive realms of exquisite food. I jettisoned all unnecessary vocabulary not consecrated to the stimuli of taste buds. My body developed withdrawal symptoms unless satisfied at least once a day by a gourmet meal. I talk, dream, breathe, eat and write nothing but the subject of my weekly article.
I became the scourge of the city’s restaurants. Word flew around as I scoured an area for an eating place to praise or to damn. Chefs trembled at my approach. My pen and my discerning palate were sharper than any knife they wielded. My appetite knew no limits.
Complications crept in while I was researching scallops – the diva of molluscs. I studied every detail, starting with the harmony or discord created by the accompaniment of champagne, Sancerre, Muscadet or Pinot Gris. Even during my most intimate moments with Brian my mumbled ecstasy was of scallops. I moaned at the aggressiveness of ginger or curry, loved a discreet hint of garlic and wept when the divine scallops were overpowered, strangled and drowned in vulgar balsamic vinegar or lime juice. I nearly died with pleasure during the blissful coupling of the marine juiciness of firm scallops with two delicate, creamy purées; one of carrots, one of gently softened leeks, the heavenly tableau topped by chopped chives.
“You’re using me as a food fantasy fetish,” said Brian. “You can forget my next incarnation. I’m not in your game any longer.”
Game? He can’t leave me. There’s game, fish, tarts, vegetarian, desserts…
I have to have more. More bodies, more flesh that I can press my knife into, make delicate carvings in. I hunt for days among the crowds of the city, watching people, watching their grey faces as they shuffle here and there, buying more and more that they don’t need, eating too much, drinking until they are prostrate. I find my mark – they are often drinking “Mochaccinos” or some other extravagance – and I move in, striking swiftly. Most of the time it is easy. Their greed has made them slow, heavily burdened.
I check to see if they are right for my knife, if they need my touch. The last one I thought was ready flew away, leaving me hungering for her, but knowing she wasn’t ready. Others I catch, examine, take to my secret spot, tie them up against escape.
The need is great now. I test the knife against my thumb. I cut a small slice in my arm, feeling the rush as the adrenaline hits me. I break out in a sweat, then a chill, then a spine tingling rush that is almost orgasmic. I want more and more, but my arms and legs are already criss-crossed with marks. I need another body, one that needs my message.
It is even better with the others. I can watch them as I cut, see the panic in their eyes. They think I am going to kill them.
That would be wasteful, murderous. That is not my intent. I watch their eyes as I make my marks, knowing that from now on, life will seem sweeter, each moment more precious, each taste more delicious, each touch more sensuous. Every time they look at their arm, they will remember.
I write in their flesh, “Joy”.
I want to die.
I pray God it comes soon.
The great enemy overhead sucked the last strength and moisture from us every second of the 27 agonising days it took to walk, stumble, then crawl here. But there is no food. They lied. Someone lied.
Dorothy is lying, dying, about four feet away. The delicate veins on her swollen belly stand out clearly to my feverish gaze. Her eyes are closed. A few minutes ago I thought she had gone before me, but a fly landed on her face and I saw an eyelash twitch slightly. The insect flew off. She lives yet. In our race to the ancestral meadows, we are still side by side, mother and daughter.
I see the eyes of the white man in charge, no hope left in them. One sack of grain. Once or twice the man approaches it with a knife, then looks around as if counting us; he weeps and goes back into the hut. The sack remains uncut. I don't have the strength to care, to want, anymore.
I sense movement to my right. One of us - a young man - still has just enough strength to struggle to his knees and crawl towards something on the ground. He claws it up and crams it into his mouth. Wild dog droppings. I hear his ugly grunting and guttural noises. His eyes dart from side to side to see who is watching. The sight and the sounds make me summon my last reserves of strength and roll over. I really can't bear to watch this desperate gluttony.
Death, come soon.
Please don’t tell me I’m too weak to control simple cravings. And refrain from that trite, ‘You’ve let yourself go, dear’. My wobbling tonnage may repulse you, but I’m not thick-skinned. I still have feelings.
Hunger, for instance.
I have a yearning, aching void that no food, however lustily devoured, ever manages to quell. Solitary bingeing can melt the icing on the satisfaction cake, but install another personality at the table and tension tells. Squeeze an inebriated, extended family around it on Christmas day and bingo: you have a recipe for open hostility. They’ll howl about their rapacious appetites, yet none will really be ravaged by the gut-wrenching pangs of deprivation.
When the sumptuous array of Christmas dinner is unveiled shortly to ooohs and aaahs, I’m going to need to eat… well… all of it. Everybody’s. I’ll fight for it. The mood will change. They’ll be engrossed in loathing, grimacing at the grease oozing down my purple, gasping face and oh-reallying at my grunting, belching desperation. My father-in-law will ask where I learned such delicate manners. My sister will have the gall to call me a glutton! Her husband will insert some expletives and storm out, just like he flew into a rage last year when I slobbered over the parson’s nose. I, meanwhile, will revel in every mouthful, slurp gravy from my knife, devour to the bone, buzzard-style, both crispy-skinned drumsticks… then glug red wine until the Wise Men come home and Her Majesty the Queen calls me to order. Now that’s what I call Christmas.
My blancmangeing gait is not a cry for help. When I spurn your magnanimous advice you’ll yell denial. I don’t care to hear that I’m a rolling splodge of obesity. I am merely passionate about my food.
And will die because of it.