Starvation Diet

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
I grew used to making meals for one.

Submitted: April 16, 2008

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Submitted: April 16, 2008

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I never thought I’d ever see that sight again. Looking at her greedily biting at a mouthful of steak, skewered onto the trident of her fork, I never thought I’d see her eat so well again.

This tastes good with the marinade, she says. Sure you don’t want to try some?

I shake my head. I’m not hungry. I feel unusual.

Suit yourself, she says, before sipping iced cola.

She smiles.

You look cute with your hair like that, she says.

She winks as she says it.

It’s been a long time since she winked at me.

When I met Delores for the first time, she was enigmatic to say the least. We first made eye contact in a restaurant, aptly enough. She was dining with a friend-of-a-friend who came over to say hello. How have you been, the associate asked. Have you met Delores? He gestured over to her as if to say ‘check out my new toy’. I looked her way and the hairs stood up on the side of my neck, the way they stand up now as I watch her slide bite after greasy bite into her mouth, forming boluses with her blowjob cheeks and chewing softly and with such grace.

The next time I met her she was drunk. She complained of indigestion. She was voluptuous, which is a marked difference to what she became. Back then, in that period of infatuated courtship, she was full-figured, her bottom a wonderful swinging machine that perfectly oscillated as she walked. Her breasts drew the attention of other men simply by being there. I asked how things were with old-what’s-his-name.

Long gone, she replied. Finished.

I asked her if she might want to go for a drink with me, the following week. She told me to ask her when she was sober and lifted my mobile, began punching her number in. Within a week we were dating.

Within a month we were together, flat sharing ostensibly, but occasionally jumping into one another’s beds after drunken evenings out. We had the best time when we were drunk. Sentimentality would grip us as we spoke over bottles of whiskey, long into the night, incorrectly certain that we were touching upon profound truths as we babbled through the melting hours. When we slept together it was less a union, more of a collision. We would wake with sore heads, make light of it, make breakfast, get on with life. The arrangement suited her. She was the most casual person I’d ever met, so there was no reason why it wouldn’t fit with her style.

One night she returned with bottles of wine and, as usual, set about uncorking them all, all three, as if to throw down a gauntlet – challenging me to abet her in imbibing them all. This time, shaking my head, I pushed my glass away. I told her that at my time of life I couldn’t play games any longer. I told her that I was feeling something I’d never felt before. I want this to be permanent, I said.

It is permanent, she said. We don’t need to attach a name to it. Let’s just keep having fun. No contracts.
It hurts, in a strange way. I don’t feel complete.
Please don’t make me commit, not in words. Please don’t do that, she said.

We talked all night. The temptation of lubricating our discourse with wine was too much of an obstacle, so we drank as we talked. Her eyes were filled with terror. Her reaction to my proposal was to retreat, cornered. But I persisted with all the charm I could muster. It felt cheap to use persuasive tactics and by the end I felt I was coercing her into a deal she wasn’t altogether pleased with.

You’ll be wanting us to get a puppy within a month, she joked, eventually caving in and agreeing to be mine.
There’s nothing wrong with puppies.
I’d rather have a snake.
You always were cold-blooded.
You’re no different. And now you have your prey. Let’s go to bed.

So we were together. It was official. I felt elated and called my friends as though she’d agreed to marriage, when all she’d really done was put herself and our relationship into a pigeonhole. Boxed herself in, by a tiny increment.

Almost immediately she showed signs of internal struggle. She called in sick the next day. I presumed it was a hangover as I put my shirt on, ready for work. When she called in again, the next day, she asked for another day’s leave. I grew concerned.

What’s up? I asked.
I don’t know. I feel sick. Physically sick.
Anything to do with what we agreed the other night?
Who knows.
Have you eaten? I can be late for work if you need me to be. Make you breakfast? Make you some toast?
Not hungry, she replied, dismissing me.
Ok.

When I got home later, I asked her if she’d eaten anything.
Nope.
You have to eat. Let me order takeout. Anything you want.
Not. Hungry.

She looked at me with steely, bitter determination. I backed off, hands up.

She returned to work, but her eating habits grew distorted. At home, I grew used to making meals for one. Often I would buy ready-made meals. She would slip into her old room and lock the door. I would hear her retching through the wall. Bulimia, I supposed. Or perhaps she was just retching from sheer hunger. She would go for seven days without a meal. By my reckoning, she would hide to eat the tiniest morsel, her body rejecting it upon contact with the interior and trying to eject it.

I considered calling a professional, but in most respects, despite a listless attitude and a complete loss of sex drive, she functioned. We still talked amicably. She called her mother and faked her usual little-girl persona. Her work colleagues didn’t notice. Nobody but me. She’s punishing me, I concluded. She doesn’t want the attachment.

We don’t have to be official, if you don’t want. I’m worried about you.
It’s too late now. You’ve triggered everything, all over again.
Well let’s just go back to how it was. Honestly – I’d never been so happy. But it’s killing both of us, your being like this.
I’m getting through it. Don’t worry. It won’t last forever.

She disappeared into her room again. I heard the clang of her lifted bed dropping, assumed she was dragging more food from under it. The retching followed.

Working from home, I had a call from a withheld number. My phone vibrated suddenly on the wooden surface of the coffee table as I sat at my desk. When I picked up, Delores spoke.

I want to eat tonight. I’ll make us some food. You make a little starter for us to share. I want this to work. I’ll get the wine.
Oh... ok. Sounds good.

I was taken aback, but excitedly I began to prepare a light salad – aware that her stomach would need bland, airy food. I was delighted as the thought hit me that she was readjusting. Perhaps we would be ok.

She arrived home with three bottles of wine. She hadn’t done that since we confirmed we were going out together. I served the salad and accepted the drink she’d poured me as we sat at the table together. I couldn’t help smiling. She reacted somewhat tersely to my grin. She gulped her booze. I sipped at mine and watched her gingerly placing lettuce leaves into her mouth.

She began to speak. My head grew heavy. Double vision slowly dripping through the fading light, her words slurring and blurring into mine. She spoke about snakes. I couldn’t decipher the unintelligible sound of her voice and my head hung on the heavy axis of my neck until a slice of cucumber accelerated toward me rapidly and, as my head landed, I realised I had been drugged. With a ‘ping’, that realisation put my mind to rest and I lapsed into unconsciousness.

The burning feeling around my wrists reminding me of a sex game she’d once played with me. My eyes on the ropes – the first thing I felt upon waking. Cold. I'm naked.

The boa constrictor I had suddenly got really ill. Dad had it killed in the end.

What?

My buttocks - dripping wet.

It got really thin and ill.

What are you talking about?

My wrists burn from the rope around them, attached to those hooks in the ceiling.

Listen, for fuck’s sake. It got really thin, so we took it to the vet. The vet said he’d seen that kind of thing hundreds of times before.

My backside is dripping. My feet are going to slip.

He said that the snake’s a predator. He said that when you keep a snake like that as a pet, they begin to resent you.

Naked, my backside wet, cuffed to the ceiling. In her room. I haven’t been in here in weeks.

I watch her as she consumes the meat. There is lots of meat. I arch my back, look over my shoulder and notice that the fluid beneath me, about my waist, thighs and rump is my own blood.

So pet snakes hate you. They hate the fact that you’ve trapped them. And so, after a period of settling in, they start to fast. They starve themselves of their food because they see an opportunity. They see a way of benefiting from their circumstances. They fast so they can make room for their owner.

She has finished her plate. She flicks her lips around the rim of it, and then across the base. Not one smear of blood from the rare meat escapes her writhing tongue. She flickers that slick, red organ at me as she stands up. She picks up her dirty steak knife and makes her way toward me with purpose in her stride.


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