The air felt different. I had noticed a single tree with leaves that were starting to turn, crisp, brown, die. I wished that the afternoon would never end. The sun was still warm but the breeze from the river had a certain chill to it. At first I thought this story was about a boy. I realize now that that is fictional. I made it up. This is something different.

I’m not actually hungry. Food tastes different. I can’t handle the thought of it anymore. I was so lonely. I could never really count on people. They judge. They disappoint. They sleep all day, or don’t call you back, or think you’re something else. The food never judges. It is comfort, reliable, company. I stand, alone in the kitchen, stirring something, and I feel less alone. The movement is hypnotic. The food stays with me, listens. I don’t actually want it. I don’t feel physical hunger. I don’t know the last time I have. Time passes and steam rises, pasta softens, I am alone, stirring. Eventually, I sit down with a bowl of anonymous starch and cheese. I sit alone and blindly scoop noodles into my face. The food is warm, salty, sticky. It lands, heavy, with no particular feeling, only that I need more. I stare and chew and try to feel something. Still, empty. I still feel alone, invisible. Maybe that’s just me.

I want to say that its funny, but really I mean sad. Sadness manifests in my body, softness, inert, ignorant, stone. It’s been almost a decade and still I feel like a shadow. I can’t remember those words we said to each other in the snow anymore. Back then I felt like I owed you something. You weren’t ashamed to be seen with me, hold my hand, put up with the fables of my childhood. I want you to see me, notice, but you don’t. I don’t think I’m especially easy to miss? I take up enough space. Hair like rust. Skin like drifting snow, heavy, cold, untouched. Dig your fingers in and I yield, warm, sinking, so much to dig through before you find what’s buried.

This shell that carries me is just that- a shell. The edges are worn, barnacles have grown over the spots that are damaged, all it takes is someone who wants the meat. Pry apart the edges, wriggle your way in, rip me in half, gorge yourself on the flesh. Squeeze of lemon?

So what exactly am I feeding? Not my physical self. Some forgotten child? No, she died years ago, looking at her father in the dark changing room by the lake. My teenage self? Offering sex like cupcakes. Take one, maybe that will make me worth noticing, acknowledging, loving. Married girl, fatter than ever but more beautiful and sad and happy than she’s ever been? What is this thing that is my life? Who the fuck am I? I’m not any of these stories I tell myself. Fiction. Lies. They tell me that the Self lives in a secret cave in the heart. It is the size of the tip of the thumb. This Self does not require food, or company, or congratulations, or texting, attention, iPhones, bourbon, a new pink bra. Endless love and silence. How do I find it? How do I cultivate self-love? Can you send me the recipe?