She is hungry, constantly hungry, engulfed with appetite.
Nothing satisfies her, even as she fills her mouth, she is searching out the next spoonful, the next plate full, the next meal.
Even when she sleeps, she dreams of food, a line of plates stretching as far as the eye can see on snowy white sheets.
The plates are heaped with food, fruits and breads and cakes tumbling to the floor.
In her dreams, she sees herself fall upon freshly baked bread, can taste it’s warm doughy mass against her teeth and lips, her fingers pull at grilled meat, become greasy, shiny with warm fat, pale cooked blood.
She licks them, sighs in pleasure and wakes herself up, pillow damp with licking or chewing or salivating, she cannot tell which.
In supermarkets she peers into other people’s baskets, other people’s lives, remains unconvinced that they are satisfied with their low fat yogurts, their pitta breads,their one lonely chocolate flapjack, half hidden under a bag of salad leaves.
Her hunger rules her, in quiet meetings she cannot believe that the others cannot hear her stomach growl and complain, she makes excuses, flees to the nearest bathroom, storeroom, quiet corner and placates it with bags of smarties, packets of wine gums, loose biscuits crumbling to dust at the bottom of her handbag.
When she eats with others, colleagues, friends, family, she is forced to sit, actually sit on her hands to stop herself reaching out, reaching over and across people to grab at left over food, barely touched plates, ignored side dishes.
Friends who know her well simply pass over their plates when they have finished.
Then watch as she eats one, two, three meals, but it’s never enough, never, ever enough.
Sometimes at night, when she lies, warm, drowsy, body scented from the expensive oils she drops into her bath, hands resting on her rounded, almost full tummy, she wishes she could hold onto this feeling, this peace forever, but she knows, knows full well, that in three, four hours, she will wake, ravenous and will pad on soft night time feet into the kitchen and stand at the open fridge door, hands squishing cheese, soft, cheap bread into an approximation of a sandwich.
The cat will wind around her legs, eyes on the look out for dropped crumbs of cheese, bread, a litany of miaows to tell her that he too is starving and she will reach down and share the final bite of her late night snack with him.
She is big, of course she is big, but with a joyous glamour that means that men stare at her, at her breasts, her full behind, when she walks down the street and other women suddenly feel all angles, too small for their place in the world when they stand next to her.
No-body knows about the hunger that drives her on, the emptiness, the longing for enough.
The hunger has its compensations, she is a baker of cakes, a sharer of sweets, the go to girl when pre-menstural pangs strike her lean, controlled friends.
The many men in her life find that she is the source of un-acknowledged, never aired fantasies in which they imagine themselves buried, enveloped in soft giving flesh, feeding their own hungers, their own needs, mouths full, busy, stuffed.
Her world is full of people who want to feed her,who unknowingly worship at the alter of her hunger, market traders who throw extra aubergines, their shiny flesh almost as seductive as her own, waiters who bring her extra portions, sly slices of pudding, tiny coloured glasses of sweet liqueurs, other people’s parents, who despairing of their own daughters’ bird like appetites, turn cheerfully to her, heap her plate, fathers’ using the excuse of serving another dish of trifle to pat her arm, the curve of her shoulder.
Sometimes, she wonders what it would take to fill her, wonders if her body would actually explode before she reached that moment of satedness, wonders if she would, could actually die of happiness at that moment.
And then one day, quite out of the blue, something magical, something wonderful happens.
It is Thursday, grocery shopping day and she is standing, overwhelmed by the beauty of the piled, pyramided perfection of the soft fruit display in Waitrose.
She stretches out a finger, the nail currently painted a deep purple, perfect counter point to the orange of the tiny clementines, strokes their rough skin and sighs with pleasure.
She hasn’t really noticed the man, standing quietly, perhaps deep in thought as he stares at the wine purple grapes.
And suddenly,he leans towards her and with no warning, pops a grape into her mouth, she is so surprised that she bites down, feels the grape explode with juice and skin and sweetness in her mouth and then she has swallowed it and the pleasure is such that her eyes close, just for a second, but when she re-opens them, he is gone, a bunch of tissue wrapped grapes placed carefully in her basket.
She stands for a moment, the after taste of sweetness in her mouth,her throat and then she understands, that for the first time in memory, that she is not hungry, not hungry at all.
Slowly, thoughtfully, she heads towards the checkouts, but stops to leave her basket, abandoned in the ready meals isle.
She heads out, into the darkness, suddenly knowing exactly what she has been hungering for.