6:00 A.M. Prompt
“Zero (Running Empty)”
by Kenya Jones
Being hungry feels like dying. Perhaps it is; the beginning stages of such a state. It certainly drains life. Or … the body is trying desperately to preserve it, with nothing to feed off of. Nothing to nourish it and help it replenish itself. It can’t spare energy for anything but waiting. To die.
All very dramatic. But the sofa feels like a deathbed; the covers (snatched from an empty bed) are like a body bag, hovering. The mouth is dry. The eyes shut tight. But there is no sleep. The angry gnawing of the stomach keeps this persistent feeling of approaching perish all too real. All too solid.
Nothing to eat. Nothing to eat. Plenty to do. The television hums some nonsense in the background. The sink holds dirty dishes from weeks past that reek of old bits of food long gone; already as dead as this feels. The garbage is full and passively fighting off buzzing flies. Well, it sits there. The flies fight it. The bedroom is the scene of an explosion of dirty thrice-worn articles of clothing that have found a miserable existence eating dust on the hardwood floor. There is a layer of human person remnant covering the porcelain and tile surfaces of the bathroom.
No food. All the bread, pasta, vegetables, eggs, bacon … everything, anything, gone gone gone … Couldn’t cover the shift of circumstances. No savings. Nothing extra to catch the fall. Abundance turned to famine in such a short span of time. It’s a week to week process. A cycle of harvest, re-seed, harvest, re-seed. The waiting game is not usually this awful. This was a miscalculation.
Now this feeling of death approaching. Dizziness. Weakness. Head-pounding. Light hurts. The body needs it, like a plant does. Water too. Both those things are free. They engender resentment. They are in supply. The body demands them as substitute for nourishment. One of them requires movement to retrieve. The other is a source of irritation.
When this happens – when the body is empty and there is no foreseeable relief in sight – stillness settles into the bones and all there is, is breathing. It’s shallow and listless, but keeps the organs functioning until the brain can numb everything else to the agonizing discomfort of nothing. Zero. Emptiness. Hours into the day, when it has succeeded in its mission, the body relaxes minutely in obedience. It forgets to tell the brain that it is suffering; dying slowly.
And then, finally, blessed sleep falls, coma-like. It will keep the body alive. It will help it feed on the fat. There will be another day of nothing that follows. For now, the body powers down, empty. Empty. Empty.
Being hungry feels like dying.