I am drawn to the scene in Mary Gaitskill’s Veronica where teenage model Alison gorges herself on marzipan animals, sugared almonds, figs, “big fat olives” and fancy nuts when left to her own devices in her Parisian apartment.
The joy of solitary snacking while reading late at night. Alison feels this. So do I.
I love staying up late at night by myself. Reading. Writing. Listening to Spotify with headphones in blanket forts. Smoking weed.
Naked. 3 am. Long legs on the couch. Glossy acrylic nails picking up dates. Smoked almonds. Coconut water in a jar. I bite the pit out of a date and set it on the coffee table next to the book.
Reading Veronica, the fancy snacks become a backdrop for a frenzied feeding on the page. I suck the youth and beauty out of the narrative until the final face of Gaitskill’s Alison is revealed. The model heroine is older. Sick with Hep C. Her career faded. Alison eats a potato stew with her sister.
I rise. Pull out a frozen Trader Joe’s mushroom risotto. Cut the pouch open. Pour frozen rice into a white china bowl. Microwave it for 3 minutes. Stir with a big spoon. Heat 2 minutes more. Pick it up with a red striped dish towel.
I sit with the dishtowel carefully placed over my naked legs to spoon risotto into my mouth. I taste white wine in the sauce, although I no longer drink. The gravy is full and smooth. I suck brown mushrooms off the spoon.
When I am finished, the empty bowl goes in the sink. I live alone.
My wife is dead. The dish towel, china bowl and microwave were wedding presents. After so many feasts cooked together I eat alone again, late at night.
4 am. It is a hot night. In Veronica, Alison drinks apple juice with her friends while stoned. I take a drag off the pipe. Sip blood orange soda. Cold pungent tastes of fruit.
It is a hot night. Popsicles beckon me. I yield. Pull a tri-layer raspberry-lemon-strawberry popsicle from the plastic wrapper. I drop it next to the stove. Pick it up. Rinse it. Eat it anyway.
Germ schmerms. They can’t kill me. The risks I’ve taken haven’t killed me yet. Cat hair won’t get me now.
On the page, Alison’s boyfriend Patrick drinks strawberry frappe. At his house, my boyfriend sleeps. Alison and Patrick eat a dinner with cut figs on big white plates.
I am done eating. I read hungrily. Now sated. I read of Alison working at a restaurant, snatching “extra plates of calamari, tuna tartare, bilberries and lemon cream.”
When I worked at a The Pied Cow café as a college student, I once snook a half-eaten piece of blueberry cheesecake from the dirty dishes. I don’t feel bad about it then or now.
Young Alison on the page eats figs and salted nuts. On my couch at 4 am I eat dates.
I don’t always eat when I read. I don’t always read when I eat. I do each when the occasion calls for it. Occasionally it does. Occasionally together.
The date is the earth’s most perfect reading snack. Moist, caramelized brown sugar fruit. Dates come from palm trees, which grow all over Los Angeles.
The date is a sacred fruit. The coconut is a sacred fruit. The fig is a sacred fruit.
My experiences of the sacred come from yoga, witchcraft and reading. To be spell-bound by a book. To do spells and have them come true. The transcendence of reading a scene in a book that makes you feel. Brings you to a higher place.
“That gyro was a religious experience,” I said once.
In Veronica, Alison stands in front of photographer after photographer. She feels empty. At home, I take selfies. Instagram them. Put them on Facebook. I search for validation in the digital soup.
We grope towards each other with dim eyes and dumb mouths looking for validation and acceptance in the aether of the Internet.
5 am. I eat the final date. It is a hot night.
Eat Your Words is a bi-monthly series where writers discuss memorable literary food scenes and meditate on eating while reading. Please send queries and submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.