I stand in my friend’s kitchen. Her cats wolf down their food. The sun streams in all the windows, drawing shifting stripes across the daffodil yellow countertops. It’s Saturday. I drink sparkling water from a green can and sigh; I’m tired and cranky and it has occurred to me that my friend’s seriously righteous candy drawer is nearby.
I know the candy won’t actually make me feel better. I know that in this kind of mood I’ll struggle to stop eating it. Still, at time when I’m unhappy the candy makes it feel just better enough to seem worth it at the time. It’s one of those times; I’m both lonely and anxious. I’ve struggled all week. I sigh again; I am so tired.
I open a grey bag and dig out a few pieces of black licorice. There’s a satisfying slight bit of relief biting through the thick chewy texture. I eat two, then three, then reach into the bag for several more pieces, then I notice there’s also a bag of chocolate covered caramels. Those melt a little as I chew them. I know I should stop consuming candy, that it isn’t helping me and that it’s nutritionally worthless and I’ve had enough, but now I can also feel a bitter sadness and the dull ache of anxiety my binge eating is pushing against. I go back to the licorice and have several more pieces. I remember seeing chocolate in the fridge. I unwrap a bar and think how it’ll taste better if I wait for it to come to room temperature, but I feel a sense of urgent need for consolation the chocolate seems to answer so I break the bar into pieces. The first one tastes divine and I chew it thoughtfully, slowly. When it disappears I eat another, and another, until the bar is gone.
I feel out of control and frustrated. I crack open another lime LaCroix from the fridge and suck down the carbonated water as though it might drown the part of me that seems to demand I keep eating sugar. I go back to the pantry and take an entire handful of strawberry licorice. A little dazed, I consume one piece after another until my hand is empty. The light shifts and I look outside at the clouds drifting by the kitchen window.
The feeling I’m trying to avoid is loneliness. Somehow the sunshine filtering through the trees reminds me. I sigh and squint against the light, standing evenly on both feet as I steady myself. I breathe and cry. When I feel calmer I take my fizzy water, a towel and an old copy of Psychology Today and go to the backyard, which is entirely enclosed by fence and trees and where I am surrounded by flowers. Peace washes over me as my bare feet meet the warm grass.
I lie on the towel, my clothes and the magazine in a pile beside me. I close my eyes. My hair spills into the grass in a chaotic ruddy-gold puddle. The sunshine is warm. I cry out softly, recalling a sunny afternoon lying in a hammock with Kevin a long time ago. Somehow I still remember what his shoulder felt like under my cheek. I blink my eyes back open and will myself to breathe against the pain. My hands over my swollen belly, I watch the clouds roll by and pray for the courage to try again.
I let myself imagine what it might be like having someone I trusted to lie beside, how it might feel to be held and kissed tenderly beneath the waning summer sun. My eyelids flutter half-closed and my breath catches. I can’t quite remember what kissing feels like, but I’m captivated by the brief wave of immersion in my sense of being in love. I wonder if I truly am equipped to trust again with better results as my therapist suggests. For now, I rely on my own company.