My habits took on their own life, eventually colliding to annihilate me. I hoped I’d be released from all this pain, shining so bright that the light would dispel my darkness from those things that happened.
When I returned to my lodging, I searched the fridge for remaining days-old scraps of half-eaten finger food I hoarded since my arrival. I shook a carton of milk before placing it down, picking up my last gallon of water, and drinking it straight from the bottle. One of the many joys of being single is standing in front of a fridge or leaning over a sink while eating or drinking and shamelessly dirtying your clothes.
Still, my belly rumbled. I was notorious for staving off hunger with coffee, shakes, excess water, or keeping busy. Feeding myself was tedious because my appetite was so poor. Once I started eating, I’d immediately become full. Despite this, I constantly thought about what I’d eat the following day.
Too cheap to pay Uber’s delivery fees, I decided to walk to the nearest Pick N’ Pay to purchase a few frozen meals and coffee to satisfy my hunger without the delay of arduous preparation. On my way to the store, I suffered terrible belly pains through the rainy streets of the Boston-Belville neighborhood.
The irony in this urgency to eat? At a point in my life, I weaponized food and recently mismanaged my eating. Suddenly, my stomach became the driver of my actions.
As a teenager, I starved myself; as an adult, depending on the trigger, I either overate or starved. Stresses related to unresolved trauma made my stomach feel like it was sinking and then disappearing. Whenever I experienced microaggressions at work, to prevent myself from lashing out, I’d succumb to the distractions of belly pain from not having eaten. And when I needed comfort while occupying the same space as irritating personalities, I munched on anything to drown out the sound of their smugness. That is, of course, if I wasn’t occupying space with a colleague peeved by individuals who drank or ate in their presence outside of lunch hour.
Preoccupied with my thoughts, I stood in a daze, unable to hear the clerk calling out to me so sweetly. She addressed me in her thick accent, “Pretty lady, are you ready? I am waiting.” She smiled, and I unrelentingly offered her a smirk in return.
As I approached, she further complimented me. “What beautiful earrings. What I would do to wear something so beautiful as those!”
Was the interaction genuine? Even today, I am always suspicious of others who give unsolicited compliments. I realized a part of me still believes I must earn admiration.
It took some work, but I couldn’t see myself naked for years, hated my reflection, and hadn’t bothered with my appearance. I was so depressed; I didn’t care about anything. I felt I already lost the only thing that mattered, and that was me. So to fill that empty shell, to get by, I relied on others to fill me. I used them to fill me. I wanted sex and offered no emotional commitment but demanded loyalty. I wanted to party, drink, and get high to avoid myself and remain detached from my feelings. I craved the sensational all the time while blocking my ability to enjoy long-lasting peace.
I smiled and replied, “Ask.” She giggled and proceeded to bag my groceries. However, I took her disbelief as a challenge to my kindness. So as she bagged, I removed my earrings. I tried talking myself out of it because I loved those earrings. I had to trust I wasn’t losing something but instead transferring my sentimentality. I had to trust that more memories would come along if I made the space to receive them.
When she turned around to process the total amount for my grocery order, I held my hand with the gold earrings out at her. Smiling but confused, she asked, “What is this game?” I replied, “Ask, and you shall receive.”
Ecstatic, she walked from behind the cash register and hugged me before returning to her seat and holding the earrings close to her chest in disbelief. As I left, the clerk continued to give overwhelming thanks. I assured her that it was my pleasure.
After charging through three small frozen dinners, I sat in my dimly lit living space and sipped a delectable cup of Terbodore’s salted caramel coffee. It started to rain heavily, and I could smell the wet soil from the windows. Eased by the pattering raindrops against the windows and in the yard’s fish pond, I meditated. For the first time, I expressed gratitude for my food. Later that evening, I slept peacefully under the star-studded South African sky, belly-full of “wise love.”