Hunger 1 – version 2

After a terrible accidental delete debacle, sadly Hunger 1 has vanished into the Internet ether.
So, it’s a opportunity to have a rewrite of the first piece that started the hunger category.


The routine, the ritual is fixed, set, cannot be ignored, changed. The routine sets the day, imposes a decision, moves her towards the kitchen or away.

So, alarm goes off and immediately, before eyes are properly open, hands run down ribs, count and then onto hip bones.
Check….has fat crept up the stairs, oozed under the door, sneaked through the floor boards, is she bigger than when she went to sleep.

Sometimes, at night, she dreams of eating, her mouth crammed, stomach bloated, hands greasy, sticky, with chicken and pizza and ice cream and chocolate and cheese and full fat cola.

These dreams have woken her up, panicking, heart racing, terrified that this has actually happened, that somehow she has walked, still asleep into the kitchen and stood, hands grabbing into open cupboards, her gluttony lit by the light of the fridge.

So, the ritual, this counting of bones guards against night time weight gain and allows that secret pleasure, the grating of bones against skin.

After ribs and hips comes collar bones, breast bones and the newest discovery, the jutting of her shoulder blades, tiny promises of wings, of flight, of actual weightlessness.

And then, properly awake now, she sits up, runs her fingers down her spine, fingers counting each nodule and then hands swoop down, slip naturally into the dents where her butt used to be.

This is only the first check, the first inspection. Throughout the day, she will allow her hands to seek out bones, take comfort from their presence, a casual glance to monitor for random weight gain, particularly important on eating days.

Time to get out of bed, time for the full visual inspection.
Harshest light, least forgiving mirror, a slow, careful look, front on, sideways and then, head peering over shoulder, inspecting what is happening behind.

Keeping on top of it, keeping a tag on it, staying in control.

The ritual is followed by the decision, the deciding, what kind of day today will be and this can only be decided once the inspections are complete.

There are 3 types of days;
Not eating
Almost eating

Not eating is the easiest, the purest, no grey area, no choices to be made.
Not eating means black coffee, cigarettes, diet cola.
It means imagining bones ready to poke through skin, it means that joyous emptiness, stomach flat,empty, pure.

But, she knows that not eating days have to be rationed, kept in control, the siren call of hunger needs to be kept in check other wise, the vision, the dream of night time eating, the out of control gluttony, the terrible rhythms of hand, mouth, fridge, hand, mouth, fridge will become a reality.

Almost eating days have their own rules, their own structures, a pleasure of control.
Each piece of fruit must be cut into the correct number of slices, each slice savoured, eaten slowly, put back onto the plate between each bite.
Almost eating days allow her to be with others, her apple placed casually on the lunch break table, see it says ” I eat, here I am, eating lunch with everybody else”
Almost eating days allow her into the kitchen, chopping, slicing, making tiny dishes of berries so dark, so shiny, the fridge fill with bowls full of jewelled fruits.

Eating days are dark days, days to dread, their rules so complicated that really she prefers to pretend they never happen.
Eating days perform a function, tell her that there is no problem, no issues .
Eating days are proof, reassurance, here’s me eating pizza ( half a slice, crust crumbled, cheese picked off ), here’s me eating chocolate ( the guilt remains long after the flavour has gone).

Eating days can only happen if the ritual has gone well, the inspection, the routine completed.

There are further rules, once a decision about the day has been made, the day can only be altered to be less, a non eating day cannot become an eating day.
Rules are there to be kept after all.

And then at night, final inspection, final measurement, final tally and then a possible decision, an indication of how tomorrow will go.

Not eating
Almost eating

But the final decision, the marking of tomorrow, today can only happen after the morning, the routine of vigilance.

Tomorrow may be

Not eating
Almost eating.

She falls asleep, gently stroking her ribs, counting herself to sleep.


About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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