I’m not a monster.
Not really. I don’t hide under your bed, grabbing at your foot as you run for the safety of the covers. I don’t crush cities with a scaled tail. I don’t lay eggs in your sternum.
I’m just hungry. All the time.
You’ve been hungry too. Everyone has. You’ve felt that same cold gnawing in your stomach, the heavy ache that weighs on you. You’ve had the same light-headedness, standing up too fast and feeling that you’re going to pass out. You’ve had the same tetchy irritability, lashing out at friends and family just because you hadn’t found time to have lunch that day.
And I’m sure, that just like me, sometimes you’ve compromised. Gone against your principles, however trivially, just to feel normal again. Broken your diet plan. Had that last piece of cake you were saving. Sneaked a couple of cookies from a co-workers desk.
Everyone does it. The hunger gets too much, and you do something bad. Does that make you a monster? Does that make me a monster?
Imagine then, that it’s worse. That the hunger gnaws a thousand times more powerfully than you have ever known. Imagine that you are on the edge the whole time, the edge of total starvation.
That’s how I feel. All the time. I can feel my stomach churning, trying to digest itself, boiling with acid that has nothing to work on. My mouth is constantly dry, parched and cracked on the roof. I swallow constantly, trying to get something to take the claggy, painful itch away.
I can see every point of every bone in my body, trace their shapes through tight skin that barely covers them. I can see the tendons moving like knotted yarn as I clench and unclench my hands. I can feel myself starving. I know that I’m dying.
All the time. Constantly, the hunger rages through me. It never stops. It never lessens. It’s always there.
I try – I try so hard – to resist. I manage it so much of the time. I sit in the dark and try not to think about the hunger. I distract myself by singing, everything I know, again and again. I hold off as long as I can. I don’t want to give in. I dig my nails into my skin, scratching and clawing, just to feel something else, something else than the relentless, consuming need. I worry at the edges of my fingernails, chewing until the skin is raw and bleeding. I really do try.
But sometimes, I compromise. Reluctantly, crying, hating myself, but I do it. I’m not strong enough. I can’t hold out forever.
I try to be restrained, even when it gets too much. I don’t take too many. I try and limit myself to just one, but it’s hard. I pick ones who won’t be missed, ones who don’t really matter. An old man with no family, or maybe an orphan. There are lots of children no one cares about. I make it quick. I don’t want them to be scared.
I can’t stop myself. I need it. And I’m sorry. It feels so wonderful to just have the ache stop for a while, to not be filled with this freezing, burning need. To not be hungry, just for a tiny bit.
And then I don’t eat, for ages. For weeks and weeks. I can hold out for months. Even when the hunger starts to hurt again, gnawing at me, I ignore it. I do. I try to be good. Please believe me, I don’t want to be this way. I hate what I am. I hate that I’m not strong enough.
I’m not a monster. I try to do the right thing. I’m just hungry.