**updated to new version 12/22/08**
For two days I wait for my strength to come back while she goes through the motions with blankets and food. She feeds me soup made of cabbage, carrots, onions, turnips and celery because they’re made of mostly water and cellulose; fibers that don’t digest. When I reach for more she refuses, saying, “I know how much to feed you.” She spoons me little dribbles of the chunky, watery stuff and says, “This is a negative calorie food, it’s so low calorie your body burns more processing it than it gains.”
Food is chewed, the jaw muscles working, the tongue pushing, saliva beginning the breakdown of starches and turning it into a lump called the bolus. This is swallowed, the esophagus moving it down to the stomach through a squeezing, squishing process of peristalsis. Down in the stomach, acid is produced and mixed with the food before passing it to the small intestine where the gall bladder and pancreas send digestive juices, allowing the body to start absorbing the liquefied food. That continues on through the large intestine, until finally anything that isn’t absorbed is passed into the bladder and colon to be eliminated, of course, through the urinary tract and anus. All of this requires energy to perform.
“Metabolism is like a switch, with an on position and an off position.”
What she doesn’t understand is that seventy percent of human metabolism takes place in the basal metabolic rate, which is technical for staying alive. Twenty-five percent is exercise, leaving only five percent to thermogenesis, or the absorption and storing of calories. For all that work, the energy burn-off is relatively low.
“We can get rid of that stomach if you leave it up to me,” she says.
All the theories in the world fester in the absence of fact.
“Can you make out colors yet,” she asks and puts down the bowl to look through a magazine. Around us is a hangar filled with food and clothes stacked up to the ceiling. Rows of black-and-white family sizes wholesaled in plastic, sunflower seeds by the bucket and soaps by the dozens.
Like a clean pentagram we camp, surrounded by a circle of activated air fresheners. “You don’t want to know what the meat section smells like,” she says, “And I thought it was nasty at regular-sized places.”
“Is there a pharmacy here?”
“Help me up.”
Past tomato sauce and chocolate powder, past the bakery dotted with gray-green breads, past tables of over-sized books and variety pack underwear, past rows guarded by the monoliths of this departed culture I find the pharmacy and tear through it. I know where to look and I know what I’m doing. I know milligrams and I want nothing else. Fuck everything but time-releases cheated on with splitting and crushing. Fuck the shriveled world like these displays of sitting fruit, this pathetic failed suicide stumbling and drooling with disappointed family.
I’m still pushing and throwing through bottles with a woman’s screams in my ears when everything kicks in and the sounds twist away, lost in the insulation of the compounds. I welcome the monster into my heart and let it tear as it wants to tear, burn and build and play in the black sand and shit of what this has become. I see only flashes, a scrapbook of what it wants me to see filled with photos of a new place built by broken things shove-assembled together, of fires lit and stamped, of arms coming up to defend.
Let the anger of the lost pour through me, the drowning of a billion destinies and plans, of legacies marching on and on into the brink of flame. Plans for babies and music and record keeping and record making. Let me put to rest the idea this was all going somewhere, let me sit at its grave and say everything’s square now. Let my fingers form revenge, and to hell with who I am.
Hours of this war pass.
When I’m seeing live again I’m marathon breathing and covered in cuts and blood in a rearranged place. I find Adena hiding behind the door of a plastic play set covered in motor oil and ripped cloth and she screams and pulls away from me, a look of murder witness in her eyes as I reassure and promise her but it does nothing.
It’s obvious there’s no going back now, so I find an axe and the door, putting the barricade back behind me and walking out through the putrid crowd and into a wind storm, all the time hacking, hacking, hacking.