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Feed, Feed, Feed

Sharlene Teo



Summer and the sun-kissed gazelle-girls unfurl themselves splendidly from caves made out of winter coats. All this skin on display makes me want to starve myself. I think this on the bus home. Gazelle girls board and alight the bus, stroll the bright-flood pavement. Skirts and linen dresses swish and float.

It’s a crazy kind of year, I’ll tell you that.  January and the earliest strains of Lilliputitis are rife in the fields of New Zealand. Before long it spreads all across the world, Lilliputitis-infected sheep and cattle. You can’t really say they are sick, these cows and sheep are fit as fiddles, the only thing is once infected they shrink to roughly an eighth of their original size, perfectly to scale. I’ve never seen a Shrunk One in real life but from the news footage they look adorable. A herd of sheep in a field is really now just a herd of sheep in a small section of a field. Barely audible mooing and bleating. Shrunks can reproduce and everything but their babies come out similarly, maddeningly small. Lots of people are getting jobs. The vegetarians and vegans and animal lovers love it. PETA launches the Small To Love! campaign. A dumb actress with Chiclet-blinding-teeth poses naked on a cow-print throw. The World Health Organisation says it is all relatively dandy and Lilliputitis can’t spread to humans but I bet every important person is shuddering behind their lectern.

I think to myself, with all this Lilliputitis I guess it’s easier to starve yourself, and then I think of the tiny cows, their sad mini corpses strung up in an abattoir, and I get this massive craving for steak. I haven’t had a good steak all year, because it’s so expensive. And woollen clothing is now exclusively couture: Givenchy S/S 2015 features a herd of spray-painted Shrunks hurtling and bleating softly down the runway, followed by models in yak-helmets and wool bras pinching their noses. I could go on, but I won’t.

It is precisely because the food chain is fucked and everyone is swigging goat’s milk and the dairy industry is tottering, that I withdraw from school two weeks after the story breaks that a farmer in Northumberland woke up one morning to find seven very small pigs drowned in a ditch. Now any big pig would have flopped around that mud-puddle and had a grand time but their little snouts couldn’t take it. This time they are measured to be a tenth of their original size and the picture in the papers is grainy and sad, this turgid porky thing trotters-up on an autopsy table.

The fridge in my flat is stockpiled with streaky bacon. I wish there was a way to make it last longer. Norman comes over, peers in the fridge and disapproves. He used to be my thesis advisor before I withdrew. He has an ugly wife, a suspicious child, and a large nose. “He inhales life,” I told my cousin two years ago, and she guffawed. I did not tell her about the wife or the six year old.

“Don’t starve yourself. It doesn’t work, you don’t need to. You are my best beautiful best beautiful most” says Norman, lying across the sofa, chewing on a raw strip of streaky bacon. Sometimes, for someone paid to be intelligent after work his brain seems to switch off and he delights in vegetating. I suppose it is a natural thing. My brain switched off ten years ago, I once joked to Norman. “Of course not,” he replied in a tone that said “Maybe”.

“Starving’s my new thing,”

“Get another new thing. By the way they’re saying the Northern pigs were a hoax.”

I look in the fridge and feel betrayed by those layers of bacon. I think of the summer gazelle golden-shouldered girls. They are miles younger than me. I wonder about their nutritional requirements; if any of them miss hamburgers that cost less than fifty pounds.  Fifty gold smackers; fifty big ones. Oh temporary inflation, I look at my fat thumbs as I think this, temporary inflation. I wonder if these summer dreams ever stand in front of a humming fridge on a quiet Friday evening as their forty-eight year old lover chews and dozes. I wonder if they ever keep quitting and finding it too hackneyed and embarrassing to admit it means much of anything. My imaginary gazelle girls toss their perfect hair contemptuously. In my imagination they are also all naked. All the better to sport your lissome bodies. I close the fridge door. I feel pale, and flabby, and insignificant.

Maybe I should go into hiding, emerge in winter. Palatial snow and sheathed in layers. I like to propose these radical things to myself. Radical things; either pertaining to starvation with a view to neatness, or indulgent hermitage. Considering it I wish maybe that contracted Lilliputitis. It would combine neatness with a hermitage of necessity. I’d be this tiny, perfect self and I might drown washing dishes. Goodbye Norman, goodbye the fear of getting knifed walking home at night. Getting squished seems better than getting knifed.

“Come here, you little kidney bean” says Norman. I cringe a little and come up to him on the sofa. He pulls me against his narrow chest and my face is against his face and I am conscious of our faces wrinkling. I imagine facial lines folding and forming like glaciers. If the world ended and we got melted together like this forever, I think it would be uncomfortable and unfortunate. I hold on to Norman and feel so tender but also so sad.

“If you get any thinner you’ll disappear,” says Norman. I try not to ever think of it but I try to imagine what his wife is doing. Florence.  Florence Nightingale, she looks funny in my brain, in a nurse’s bonnet. Of course she’ll be doing something domesticated. Or maybe she’s on the Internet, buying the dress I’m wearing.

I think of the one time, as well, that I met Sarah. I often try to forget her entirely. She was seven then, and she kept glaring at me. I doubt she even fully knows. “Sulky children,” laughed Norman’s colleague. I wanted to shrink right then. I remember the scuffed straps of her sneakers. Maybe I’m getting too old for guilt. It’s so stuffy in my living room it would choke a vacuum cleaner.

Somewhere, maybe in Lisbon, the wind beats against a wooden coop of terribly tiny chickens. They huddle and cluck nothings in the breeze. Maybe I just want to lean into Norman forever, until he died earlier than I did, or until he had to go home.

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