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Food for Thought MAG
Weightlessness is seductive – seductive with four S's, and how many things are spun like that?
The evening begins and ends the same way – with empty hands. She goes online to scrounge out a good one, somewhere decorated by someone who has done something monumental, a place you can't wear denim or toe-baring shoes to. She dresses and walks, or sometimes takes a cab, if necessary. Table for one, please. She never has to wait for a seat. One is easy to accommodate, she feels with pride, especially one who takes up so little space. Water, please – no ice. Tonight the menu is French, and désirez-vous un peu du vin?
She orders the richest one, a full bottle, and when he offers her a taste, she shakes her head. She already knows what it tastes like, and it will do just fine. There are topiaries behind her head, spherical and voluptuous, like you would find in Versailles, and she does not think she has ever seen anything uglier than this robustness, rotundity. She thinks of the three cactus plants in her bathroom and feels contempt for the French.
Scanning the menu buoyantly, she makes the decision: foie gras, lightly fried, sliced and smeared on a rosemary-scented baguette, coquille St. Jacques to follow, cooked in a cream sauce with mushrooms and served in a large seashell rimmed with mashed potatoes, topped with gruyere, and baked. She can smell the calories, the carbs, the starch, the weight of it all, and if she took one bite the world would explode, like Nagasaki and the bomb that destroyed it – Fat Man. As the maître d' passes her table, she stops him: Excuse me, are these plants very hard to care for?
He sees what she has ordered and calculates exactly what she needs to pay, a sum so thick and frothy he can smell it like freesias: Oh no, ma'am, topiary plants are no trouble. They need daily watering, and you have got to prune them once, or maybe twice a month, but look at that corpulent shape – so worth it.
She thinks this sounds like a terrible amount of work, all those nutrients, all that neediness, but does not say so. Instead she stares at her meal and contemplates all the ways in which the universe would cease if she took one bite of the goose liver, a taste of the coquille. An hour, two hours, nearly three pass, and although the staff knows she will eventually leave and hand them a figure smooth as leather, they grow anxious, and finally, the headwaiter, a tasteless thirty-something, comes by and asks if she would like a doggy bag. She declines, and as she overpays for the undereaten, she thinks she would make a very good cactus.
The stars are in a frenzy tonight, and as she exits she hears a lady's voice at the table adjacent to hers, green as leaves: Did you see that lady? Poor woman, she didn't eat a thing.
But she does not care for this woman, or anyone, as she is saving the world, one malnourished orphan at a time. Those people in the Himalayas, the ones who make tea from cow manure – the coquille was for them, and they are dreaming about it now, and it is all thanks to her. Let people think what they want, but in the end it all comes down to the flimsy, floppy truth: You still pick your scabs 'til they bleed; the man she passes on the street rubs Vaseline on his elbows every night to keep them soft and doesn't tell his wife – and so what?
As she is falling asleep, her insides gnaw at her, and she knows it is because she is full of the prayers and well wishes of those hungry old monks in Tibet, thanking her for the meal she gave up for them. The nights that follow are all the same, Vietnamese and then Italian and then Greek, and each night she is a superhero, fighting starvation one profiterole, one stuffed grape leaf at a time. She feels your eyes on her, and she couldn't care less, because you aren't saving the world, now are you? You're jealous, aren't you?
One morning she wakes up and it is raining, not catastrophically, but as the drizzle falls on the pavement, it is cold and round. She wants to send off her bills, and there is a mailbox just at the corner. As she dresses, she relishes the idea of taking her pants to the seamstress. Even at the maximum tightness they can't hold up her minimum. She puts on earrings, and they are heavy on her ears, and she savors the weight they place on her, and when she takes them off later, she will fly.
The puddles are heavy and the rain is angrier as she leaves the apartment, and while she is walking gravity rips her apart, and she falls, hard, to the pavement. The envelopes sprinkle down like coconut shavings on the sidewalk, and the downpour is pushing, pushing against her as she tries to get up, to get the bills, to keep walking, but her bones and veins and muscles just aren't dancing to the same music, and her breath is short and the world is pulling her down, down, down and help her, why don't you, you're vile, you're filthy, and seriousness, that heavy, thick business, has the same amount of S's but it's just not as scintillating as defying gravity, now, is it?
She sits on the pavement for a long time, and when the rain finally stops, she feels tired and selfish. She does not want to save the world anymore. She takes the bills to the corner, and as she slides them one-by-one into the mailbox, she hears the emptiness inside, no birthday cards to grandchildren, no letters to lovers, just the money she owes people she'll never meet, and is there anything more gruesome than this?
The sun breaks through the clouds and skids to a stop. She walks beyond the mailbox, beyond the corner, beyond her street, and she passes a Wo Hop To-Go, three dry cleaners, and a diner. The air is heady with the smell of oil outside the seedy eatery, and the advertisement on the door is offering a burger and a milkshake and fries, all for the price of $2.59. She feels something inside her stomach, and this time it's not because of the prayers. She thinks of the cacti in her bathroom that require nothing and don't flower in the spring, the cacti that secrete emissions of beautilessness, four S's and hideous.
She goes into the diner, and nothing shatters. When she orders onion rings, 89 cents and a gratis small soda, the caloric bomb does not detonate. She eats them, one by one, and when the grease sticks to her fingers, she does not use a napkin; she sucks it off, pinky to thumb, and she does not look around her as she does. It's not a question anymore. It doesn't matter. There is no matter.