I’m finally past the halfway point. In five weeks, I’ll eat real food again–granted, I’ll be limited to poached chicken, but, hey, at least it’ll be chewable. Yet, the thought of ingesting solid food scares me, but I’ll think about it later....
I didn’t tell Diane about the fainting episode last week; I don’t need that busybody yanking me from the program just because of a minor dizzy spell. I’ll just have to take extra potassium pills. Thank God my blood work this week didn’t show anything unusual.
Yesterday, Shel told me to pick up some milk on the way home from school.
He knows I’m avoiding places having to do with food. He said, “You can’t avoid grocery stores forever. You might as well start getting used to food shopping because I’m not going to do it forever. Besides, you’ve got to take responsibility for your neuroses.”
Spoken like a true Gestalt shrink.
I’m too tired to argue with Shel, so I decide to just do it. I should go to 7/Eleven where I can zip in and get what I need, but it’s out of the way, so I’ll just dash into Giant, head straight for the dairy section, grab a carton of milk, pay for it, and run out.
I have forgotten what it’s like to navigate my way through shelves filled with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Brach’s cinnamon disks, Kraft’s caramels, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup, Cream of Chicken soup, pistachios, sunflower seeds, cashews, Snyder’s Caramel Corn, Oreos, Tuna and Hamburger Helper, Beefaroni, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, cream puffs, TastyKakes, Utz’s potato chips--
I would kill for one sour cream chip, just one, please?
--Um-mmm-mmmm--free Vienna sausage samples, apples and oranges and pears (oh, my!), asparagus, even lowly lettuce....
The meat counter. Ahhhhh. The meat counter, piles and piles of juicy red meat, marbleized and lovely--chunks, slices, slabs, slivers, ground round. Gleaming in their neat shrink-wrapped packages.
Mmm-mm-mmm. Raw burger. I stifle the urge to grab a package of ground meat, rip off the plastic, and stuff a handful of ground animal flesh into my mouth. Glom on raw meat until I puke. E-coli heaven.
Bright lights, bright colors, bread--maybe it’s cake--baking somewhere, grocery carts screeching, children bawling, mothers yelling, Muzak version of “Incense and Peppermints” ringing in my ears. I want to jump out of my skin.
For God’s sake, where’s the dairy section?
Dairy products, yes, in the back. I grab a carton of God-knows-what kind of milk. I race through the aisle, all the shelves a blur of color. I dash for the checkout line. As I wait in the express line, the woman ahead tries slipping in a carton of Camels in her food stamp order. When the clerk, a high school boy, refuses to accept stamps for cigarettes, she stonewalls: “But, sir. I just paid for m’babies’ milk with all my dough. I don’t got no cash left.” A manager appears and explains why she can’t buy Camels with food stamps, but she pouts and refuses to move, and I swear she’s about to pull out a weapon, when suddenly, she pulls out a twenty instead and tosses it to the clerk. He accepts it as if nothing untoward has happened and gives her some change. The boy bags her groceries, and she grabs her stuff, and huffs and puffs her way out of the store, and then it’s my turn. I pay for the milk with exact change--
“Paper or plastic, ma’am?”
I freeze. The clerk glares at me, waiting for my answer, which should be a simple one, but I haven’t made an intelligent decision in weeks, and I have forgotten how. As I ponder the significance of choosing one politically incorrect material or another, the clerk shakes his head, and drops the carton into a plastic bag. I grab and run, imagining this pimply-faced boy, who might end up in one of my classes some day, telling his buddies about the loony lady who couldn’t decide between paper or plastic.
Inside the car, I roll up all the windows and lock the door. The air is stifling; I can barely breathe, and, suddenly, I’m afraid of what’s ahead, afraid of gaining the weight back, afraid not to, and realizing that I have no control over my life after all, that I’m really just running, running, running....
I’ll have to talk to Brian next week. He has the flu and was absent from group therapy. We had a substitute therapist this week. Can’t remember her name. Why should I? She doesn’t know us.
Source: “The Big Diet,” by Jennifer Semple Siegel, Are You EVER Going to Be Thin? (and other stories), 2004.
Available on Amazon.
© Jennifer Semple Siegel, 2004. This work may not be reprinted or reposted without permission from the author.