A list of her hungers would be long—
First would be her physical hunger, the gentle gnawing feeling that lived in the back of her throat. It had resided there since she was fifteen and Janice Brown had called her stocky. Starving herself was second nature now, though you can’t change your bones. While her muscles had long since melted away, her bones hung solidly on. No matter how little she ate her legs and arms hung thickly from her broad body, like branches from a tree.
Oh, but she had other hungers too. The constant feeling of physical hunger left her light-headed and dazed. She was cold, she shivered under her thick jackets even in summer. She kept herself separate, away.
Because of this, she was often alone and she watched as the Janice Brown’s of the world floated together in gossipy groups, twittering like birds, or peeled away and coupled off. When she saw this, from her spot on the classroom stairs she felt a hunger that was more like an emptiness. A hole inside her that couldn’t be filled.
She was hungry at home too, where her mother pushed great plates of food towards her, piled with potatoes and meat.
She would look over at the spot where her father used to sit and its emptiness was like another hunger— more like the feeling you had after a terrible bout of food poisoning when everything had been removed and your stomach was bare. That was the hunger looking there gave her.
These were her large hungers, the ones that kept her up at night, black holes that sucked everything away.
She did have smaller hungers though—
The sound of rain on the roof, the memory of the taste of ice-cream, the coolness of a breeze that made the hair on her arms tremble. The sky in the morning, a few minutes before dawn, salt air, the sound of an owl deep in the night. Water on her skin, warm in the shower or cool in the sea, it didn’t matter. Her niece’s fat wrists. A photograph of her father, upright in his uniform a smile behind his eyes.
Oh so many more—
Clouds shaped like rabbits. The pocket of warmth in her bed in the mornings. Painting her nails with a hard vermillion. Feeling them clack as she drums them on her desk. Music, trees, the whole great wink of the world. The crease in its eye, the space for tears.
Oh, she had so many hungers, large and small. She did not know how to fill them. It seemed to her that her hunger was an endless void. A wanting that could not be tempted—even the smallest morsel would make it grow ever more ravenous until it consumed her entirely.
No, she pushed away the plate of food her mother had prepared. Better not to taste it at all. Best to keep her hungers where they belonged, unsatisfied, yawning.
Yes, the list of her hungers is long, but she knows better than to eat.