I felt off when I clocked out at work last night. It didn’t wipe the end-of-my-shift-screw-you-guys grin off my face, but there was still this tiny collapsing place inside my chest where things should have been perfectly normal. It didn’t go away when I got home, either.
I sat on the couch until four o’clock in the morning eating ice cream straight from the carton and watching YouTube videos on how to groom llamas, which is normally a surefire crowd pleaser in this household, thankyouverymuch, but it didn’t work.
I say I only sat there until four because that’s my best estimate of when I passed out and dropped the ice cream to melt onto my favorite rug. That kind of pissed me off when I woke up with a crick in my neck and my ice cream spoon rattling against my molars. The spot of warmth snuggled up in the crook of my knees told me that my cat, Amelia, hadn’t given up on me just yet, though.
I sat up and swung my feet to the floor, and that’s when I found the ice cream. I made sure to thank Amelia for slacking in the dark of night. She meowed and walked away. I always knew she didn’t care about that rug. She pukes on it nearly every day. This morning the only thing on the rug was ice cream, so I guess I should have counted myself lucky. But I didn’t.
I stood up and felt that hollow space inside my chest again, aching for attention, but I didn’t know what kind of attention to give it. It didn’t feel like loneliness, or panic, or anxiety, or depression, or any one of the hundred bad things I had experience with.
So I did what I rend to do in these situations.
I ignored it.
I stumbled into the kitchen to grab a towel for the ice cream, but first I opened the fridge and took a good slug of OJ straight from the jug. I don’t have a lot to do with plates and bowls at home. I do know how to behave in public, though, so don’t worry about that. When I put the orange juice back on the top shelf of the fridge, I noticed that I still had an egg carton sitting there, which was weird.
I could have sworn that I’d eaten the last egg a couple days earlier, so I pulled the carton out and set it on the counter. I didn’t bother to open it. The weight already told me that it was empty, that I’d simply been too lazy or inattentive to throw it away instead of putting it back into the fridge to tease myself with the promise of eggs.
I’m such an asshole sometimes.
Amelia meowed at my feet and rubbed against my leg, and I leaned down to pet her and noticed that she waws only announcing that she had recently vomited on the very edge of the carpet, millimeters from the much more easily cleaned linoleum. That cat, I swear. She’s going to be the death of me one day. Probably in some highly unusual way.
I grabbed the dishtowel from the counter and took a step toward the living room to clean up the ice cream, and that’s when it hit me. It was my damn birthday. That’s what that feeling in my chest was all about. Now that I’d realized it was my birthday, I did recognize its unique emptiness and flutterings of nobody cares-ness.
I tried to shrug it off. Nobody knew or cared about my birthday anymore. I had no family and no friends, and i wouldn’t let any of my coworkers get close enough to me to know if I’d worn the same shirt the day before. For some reason, this year it didn’t work. I tried to push the whole thing to the back of my mind and continued to the living room.
I scrubbed the ice cream stain for a few moments, my knees reddening from the rough carpet fibers grinding into the tender skin. Finally , I dropped the towel and turned to plop myself on the couch, where I dropped my head into my hands and sobbed. As usual, Amelia failed to come and offer me any hint of comfort. She watched me from the opposite corner of the couch, expressionless as only a cat can be.
strawberry sauce dribbles down
coconut flakes too
I grabbed the sack of chicken nuggets and headed for my closet. My shoe rack was just the right height for a seat when I swept the top row of shoes off it and onto the floor. I could lean back against the wall and be comfortable. I kept an old comforter in there all the time, for the comfort it provided, as its name may have given away. I didn’t bring anything to drink, but I never did. I didn’t need to, because this wasn’t going to be that type of binge. This was just going to be me sitting in my closet, reading a book, wrapped in a comforter, eating enough chicken nuggets for six people.
No big deal.
I kept forgetting that I lived alone; I tried to muffle the sound of the paper bag rattling as I pulled out the first box of nuggets. After a lifetime of never being alone, it was hard to break old habits.
I tapped the light stuck to the wall, and it came on, illuminating just the right area for me to read peacefully. I leaned back, cracked the book, settled the nuggets on my knee, and took a deep breath. I smelled leather and fried food and the pages of my book, all the most comforting smells in the world. It was almost enough to put a smile on my face.
But I didn’t need to feel happy; I felt safe, and that’s what really matters the most. Safety. I leaned my head to the side until it reached the adjoining wall, and with that support, I flipped pages and stuffed my face for the next hour.
I don’t remember when I started to binge eat. I really don’t. It’s there, somewhere, as far back as I remember eating. I don’t really remember that far back, though. I mean, I don’t remember much with any consistency until I was around eleven or so. Sure, there’s bits and pieces from when I was two or three and up, but that’s all it is, is bits and pieces. I can’t string days together, or weeks. I can barely string an hour together—I think the only time I can do that is when I remember watching a movie, something that lasted over an hour with a coherent story. It’s just weird to think about the people who can remember so much of their own lives. I can’t wrap my head around that, at all. And then those who can remember everything? That’s way too much for my brain to handle. I don’t think I can tell you what I had for breakfast a week ago, and that’s remembering food.
If I can remember anything, it’s food. Eating food, and cooking food, and serving food. So much food in my life. And I remember so much about it. The taste, the smell, the texture, the sound in my ears as I chewed it in my mouth.
When the chicken nuggets were gone, I didn’t hate myself enough yet. I closed the book and set it down on the floor in the closet and closed my eyes just for a minute. I didn’t know yet whether or not I was going to cry. The first minute passed, and then another, and eventually I knew that I was not going to cry. This time. I got up and went to the kitchen.
It’s hard to eat ice cream out of the container while sitting in a closet wrapped in a comforter and reading a book, but I’ve worked out a system for it. I finished the half gallon, and it wasn’t enough . I knew it wouldn’t be from the first bite, because I focused on the act of eating instead of even pretending to myself that I was reading.
I dropped the spoon into the empty bucket, and the tears began to fall.
We got Blue Bell!