You used to cook very well. Remember, I did too. When we moved in together, how much did we save by just not bothering with a living room? Even before we met, I used to enjoy the shadow of the cold light in my kitchen, spending hours with culinary projects. We joked about this, flirting furtively in brighter lights, surrounded by whiter walls. There were projects that I could sometimes proudly lay before my emaciated friends, and some that I would consume in seclusion, not always sure of their worth. It was always food for me, somehow, despite frequently defying even the looser categories of edibility: Salt enough to sustain an ancient empire, starches reduced to concepts floating around in a pool of off-white goop, a lump of spaghetti listlessly entwined with itself, like some sort of legless invertebrates copulating in a pool of primordial filth, hypnotized by their own slithering indulgence.
There were nights when we would find ourselves in a similar position, you and I, soiling sheets, full stomachs mashing into one another, the meal sloshing about. You were an epiphany. We gained weight, the both of us, since the strange evening when we met in some drafty factory-turned-hub. Our acquaintances began to congratulate us, noting how healthy our relationship must be. < You both used to be so freakishly thin! > they proclaimed, and we would redden at our newly found cheeks, unsure of how to respond to such praise, having forgotten long talks at all hours about our joy in this new, robust form of life. Our inner pride submerged in public, but the symptoms became more clear as time passed, we felt the need to hide them less. The need to dither about, searching for the next the new, had evaporated as our love simmered complacently.
When did we sink into our new life? We started being late, do you recall? We began deciding to simply forgo trips to the various cultural events we had previously used to distract ourselves from the gnawing need to consume, attempting to assuage these basic needs with something several rungs up on the proverbial hierarchy of need, figuring in our independently cynical minds, separated by sometimes thousands of miles and without the slightest inkling of our future existence together or the present existence in unbeknownst parallel, that all this talk of trickle down must really have something to it, and why shouldn’t the principles of wealth be similarly applied to the base needs. I loved you, between mouthfuls, chewing ideas as garnishes with indifference.
Do you remember, my love, how we used to love eating each other? You once joked that your would revert to a child: With my tongue deep in you, the best you could do was to turn my penis into a toy, a toy that oscillated between receiving pressure, resisting your attempts to drain him, disarm him, doing really anything you could to regain some control. Her toy, her security against the whole world. The world which had so viscerally concentrated itself in one slick muscle and exercised an influence on your body and mind in ways that you could not combat, in ways that thrust you back to the moment in her childhood where the fundamental opposition of being somehow separate from those many objects, bright and soft, strewn around the room as a comforting extension. You said it had been a great sickness, and that while the parents completely ceased their normal routines to dote on you, from the window you noticed that the trolley still ran, the urchins still shouted at each other, the sun still set and left you shaking in delirious fever, wondering why light itself would abandon her in her time of need, left to the will of formless objects peeling off the walls to plague her. I often joked that you weren’t so much the child as the toy itself. You would sometimes bite as I chuckled. We were depraved, so innocently depraved.
Looking back I understand what we must have thought, though it pains me still, that we would have tried to push our blissful little arrangement forward, to find yet another pleasure in the world. Your breasts fell under their new weight, fell again never to return back to their defiant poise. I sagged, relaxed, and we knew it was good, this excess, this triumph. How much can two really have before the guilt sinks in? I know you used to go out for all sorts of humanitarian work, finding awful and cheap six-leg flights to take you barely two states over, saving the organizations some pittance so the flow of pride and moral absolution could last longer. Children in Ohio, the Appalachian families who lived roadkill-to-roadkill, sunken-eyed men in collapsing hovels locked into the empty fields of Detroit’s outer ring, the great effort they used to make to bring some light from their eyes when you, you with your hair so deliberately askew, they believing it was some emblem of your dedication, that you would put your appearance lower on some list of priorities for their sakes, when you would come bearing boxes of cans, bags of rice, spices they could not pronounce, when you would teach them simple tricks to make their and their children’s lives more culinarily rich. I never went with you barring one time, when we visited my home town. The ten hour bus ride, disembarking to trade the foul smell of human waste and the air clouded by the particulate of dead skin released each time those children would kick the back of my chair for the overpowering presence of rust, in the grass, falling from the cars, adding iron to our blood as we breathed it in. You promised you would never make me go back.
In the end you promised we would go forward. Leave the decrepit behind and sojourn arm and arm into the future, bring new life, share the overflow from our bodies and souls with a new being. And so we did. Your pregnancy I still remember fondly: cravings I could not fathom foisting new and strange and often enlightening new experiences on us. How strange, do you recall, the time you read about the Japanese fermented beans and just absolutely had to have them, but not from a store, I needed to prepare them for you. Natto, or something, thats what they were called. Finding the bacteria to mix it with was just absurd. I think its illegal actually, but somehow when I would join you for a breakfast that irritated our neighbors through the crack underneath our front door, I felt so alive.
Maybe they were also some sort of aphrodisiac, though that seems far fetched. Probably just the hormones, the anticipation saturating our otherwise placid veins. Our lives got dirtier, the journey out of the bedroom, speak not of out of the apartment, seemed to distend and stretch itself, looming an insurmountability. The arguments over whose gut had gotten the biggest only grew as my heartfelt efforts to keep up became less and less adequate. My old pants became yours, the Salvation Army maybe turned a profit as I more and more often found myself parsing boxes full of the gratuitously cut pants I used to bemoan, why don’t thin people donate clothing? So many straight leg relaxed cut khakis lay crumpled about in our increasingly filthy apartment, stacks of anticipatory diapers in corners may have provided insulation, which was a small condolence as we began taking out loans in preparation for the joyous financial burden to come. For a while, we relished each moment of the present, the now before.
I recall when we just stopped having sex. I still can’t place my finger on what did it. You never became unattractive to me, I always wanted you, but there seemed at some point to be less and less opportunity for wanting at all. As if the desire machinations had run themselves into a fevered halt. When the well ran dry, neither of us tried to dig deeper, trusting the torrents of the future would replenish. I dreamed of the weeks after birth, we would lie naked with our child warmed between us, all forms of love dissolved into one another. Maybe the weight sunk us? Maybe the person I had become with you was too far removed from the one you had fallen in love with. I don’t believe that you found someone else; while you never gave the hint of being unhappy in any serious way (no one is happy in a serious way, right?), you never left the house, and the little requests I would get from you when I was out certainly never allowed for enough for an affair. But of course you were not having an affair. You were deep into pregnancy, maybe it was simply that. Maybe I had spent too much time watching old french films were amorous interaction was never impeded by the occupation of child bearing. Maybe I forgot what the male fantasies were, the topic we had long since beaten to exhaustion under more philosophic modi, forgotten that the female part of the putative heterosexual relationship only performed all functions in the minds of those who wished to perform none.
I’m thin again now. The world is cold again, there is no sweater thick enough, I feel everything and nothing. After the birth, it became quickly apparent that the grass and grease was out of the question. The overflow of organic matter destroyed the pleasure of consumption entirely. How can one really eat? Shit, piss, vomit, these are the famous sheddings, and naturally understandable. No one thinks about the scalp, the skin that grow, dies, flakes off as follicles become active. The constant stream of snot and whatever that stuff from the eyes is. The oil produced by the feet. The general dirt laden grease in my hair due to lack of desire to shower, at least until I cut it all off one night. You were asleep you see, and I needed something but didn’t want to wake you. The act kept me going.
When did your ribs return? Probably holding hands with mine, they traipsed back into our lives. Bad example for our child, I always thought, though I never told you. We were lucky enough to grow up with parents of healthy body images, healthy dinner schedules, and look what happened to us. How could our child ever possibly hope to be content in her own skin and flesh when we had so readily shed our own?
God, and the hours. Dreams of soft cushions under immaculate sweating bodies digesting each other replaced by the cold sweat of stress, shooting awake in the middle of the night terrified that the shift had already began. Bored at work, terrified when away. You don’t remember any of this, I should have told you, but you were also busy, and well, we had stopped sleeping in the same room.
When you come back you will find this note. I don’t know where I will be, but your daughter will be with me. We made a horrible mistake, you and I, when we traded the lives we had so inadvertently crafted together, lives full of well life and joy, for this emptiness, our energies, calories, tastes dumped into and wasted on this new life, which we have no condemned through mismanagement, through misunderstanding. How could we think to provide when we had barely begun allowing ourselves to take?
I want to eat again. I want to sit full again. I want to fall asleep calmly, drained and saturated all at once. And while I harbor no resentment against her, there is only one way to assure myself that I will only ever occupy this better suited role again. I am going to eat our child. I don’t know how or with what, but I am going to devote an entire day to preparations. I think she has done nothing wrong, and I want to give her the pleasure of giving back to me everything she took. I think she would want it that way, if she knew how to want at all instead of just ceaselessly and arbitrarily demanding everything I possibly had to give. I knew you wouldn’t have joined me, but I know in your heart you have suffered as well. I do this only out of love for the life we had, and love for you.