Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Untitled. Fused silk. Photograph by Kevin Ryan.
Courtesy of the Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Foundation.
And it begins like this: my feet stop working. Or maybe it’s the ankles, the tendons, something in the sinewy interior. It’s dead winter: Iowa prairie frigid. I try to keep walking: nothing. Frozen river on my right is similarly still.
Already, at only 21, I have damaged my body so it cannot walk.
And it begins like this: As a child I put food on the table: mother and father workingworkingworking. 6 people under one roof, then 8. So I perform the task that sets humans apart from animals: I cook. Badly, burnt. Eventually, utilitarian. Vats of beige noodles and jarred sauces. Glass Pyrexes of casseroles. Church food, funeral food. Heavy filling food that can feed the masses quickly and cheaply.
Meals consumed silently and at lightning speed / clock ticks out the wastage of time.
At night, when I am the last one standing, I wash the dishes, wipe down crumbs, check the pantry for tomorrow. Threadbare recipe boxes, so many hungry mouths snapping at me. Close the pantry door.
And it begins like this: I start undergrad and luxuriate in dining hall food. Sure, it’s gross, but I didn’t make it. I don’t have to soak the dishes or break brittle nails scrubbing grease. For the first time, I eat with other people and feel that happiness. Social bonds of passing the salt, splitting dessert. I start to fear eating alone, all that emptiness. But for now I just lean into the shoulders of the communal.
And it begins like this: I have lost so much of myself. So much weight. If I don’t eat then I don’t eat, hunger fills up my bank account.
I will no longer eat with other people but can’t stand to eat alone. I don’t know how to cook for one person or what to make. I don’t even really know what I like, and I have no one to ask. The feeling that I’m missing something fundamental looks out at me from the mirror, from backs of spoons.
Most of the time the body doesn’t refuse me, she wakes up, makes coffee, walks and walks and walks to classinternshipclassworkclasshome. She exercises late, she sleeps little. Drinks more coffee, more comforting than food. Sometimes there is discomfort, but mostly a feeling of clean energy.
And it begins like this: my feet stop working. Unable to even sit, I stand in the cold wind and cry. My eyes and nostrils start to freeze. Body unable to warm itself or move itself to warmth. In that moment I think about soup and it is canned and I am responsible for heating it up, for caring for myself always.
There is no family recipe, or family making the soup for me. A blankness instead, a red label with white cursive, a tinniness. No one at the table and no one in the kitchen.
And it begins like this: I think I am so, so hungry / I don’t know how to eat.
This is part of the cluster Restless Flying. Read the other posts here.