Trick of the Light

This funny thing happened today. I was on my way home from a completely mundane trip to the grocery store, when my radio station played the song I heard yesterday, the one I ignored.

The DJ with the silky Kathleen Turner voice announced it by way of promoting the new album. And then she said The Shortlist would be up after that. And then she laughed. Just slightly.

There was something there, in that moment, in that laugh. Was it rueful? Sheepish? In that moment, I knew there was no one else in the world but she and me.

In that moment, a dark passageway opened up between us; her lips pressed against a faraway microphone became breath on my neck, and the laughter in my ear made my skin crawl.

The song starts. The bright, poppy, bouncy major-chord tones. And Florence Welch tells me when and where and why she stopped eating.

I’m driving, right there in the blazing morning sun, but a sinkhole is opening my chest and the pain and fear and loneliness and hate pours down my chest into my bowels.

I’m gulping the air, trying desperately to ignore the call of nothingness.

The song is 3 minutes and 20 seconds long, and in that time I’ve planned to eat crumbs, drink gallons of water, and hide my uneaten portions under witty conversation and sex and too much wine.

She says out loud what I always hid – that hunger is a pain you can DEFINE. And as she says this my heart breaks loose from its anchor in my chest.

My heart rolls down the hill of my body, like an empty shack on a windswept coast that comes down in a moment, into a sea of salt and tears. An erosion of my heart into a quicksand of feelings that have no name.

In 3 minutes and 20 seconds, I planned my escape, acknowledged my truth, pushed the mud out of my mouth, and resolved to never go back. It was done. I was safe.

The song was over. Here now was the voice of the other DJ, the one who announces the Short List, and in my horror my breath catches in my windpipe.

“Let’s start with Florence + The Machine. This is Hunger.”

This time the tinny pop opening was a gong echoing through a nightmare funhouse. Here again was the Angel, telling me to cheat death with beauty.

I’m hiding a flour tortilla in my apron pocket. It’s all I will eat today. An entire meal, flat as you please, sweet, buttery, easily torn into 5 bite-sized portions. The waning of a flour moon.

I’m on my bed in my efficiency apartment in Chicago. I haven’t eaten in two days, and the pita place just dropped me three full meals in plastic bags.

I’m on my bed and the TV is on, but it’s barely audible. It’s coming at me through a long, skinny tube. The bags are empty. Styrofoam cartons with half-eaten meals all around me.

I’m drifting, numb.

I wake up and it’s hours later. It’s dark and I’m lying on a heap of trash from a disappointing feast. The hunger gone, I realize I am weak, foolish, untrustworthy, soiled, broken. Full.

I clean up my mess. Push the bags down the trash chute. Bury the evidence. Tomorrow I will do better.

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