Body Map: Hungers

Maria Flaccavento


It was the second grade. We put a play on for the grown-ups. I was city mouse in Country Mouse and City Mouse because it was a rural little town we lived in and nobody else would play the opposite of us. I always wanted out of there. Ever since I knew what cities were I wanted them. I was a chubby little thing, pink piggy cheeks. One of the grown-ups whispered something to another grown-up and that’s when I found out there was something wrong about my body.  That it took up too much space. I burned inside my girl skins.

Fifth grade: travel-sized deodorant and sanitary napkins in a gift wrap. Keep it secret from the boys, the grown-ups told us. Somebody says ‘period’ we all dissolve in giggles. Somebody tells us, watch out for the boys they’ll notice things. They’ll notice breast. They’ll boob. They’ll tit. They’ll knocker. Mom picks me up a bra at Target and I cram the nothing in. I sprout hairs on my girl parts later, scream into the frantic house so sure that something’s wrong with me, Mom chuckles No but I am not convinced.

There is something else wrong, it is everything else. I start working very hard to fix it, all of the wrongness, pinching and curling and cutting deep into. A hollow starts. I burrow down into it, curious. It goes deeper and darker and then blackness, I am blacking out. I am coming-to at the table and someone is passing me something. All the dinner plates. All the silverware’s clatter.

I flirt with Grub Hub. It swaddles me up. The virgin-white refrigerator.  Imagine all the pizzas stacked inside her. Then the cheese congeals when cooled and peels off like a dead skin. It burrows down my glands and in my hair. The gives of deliverymen. I want to jar them up and screw the lid on. Have my Visa expiration date and CV code tattooed on like a brand, like cows. How ear-tagged and accountable. No local restaurant open now denies me. Dog’s a growling stomach chasing its tail.

Then it’s middle school, my father packs me lunch still and I throw it in the trash before the bell rings. I feel guilt but not regret. I am working very hard. I fist my belly skin, I butterfly around the lunch room til the bell rings, acting out. Or acting inward. High on all the space inside my clothes. It’s whatever the boys like but it’s more than that. I’m working very hard. I’m making nothing out of something.

Imagine saag paneer, torpedo subs and kofta simmered in tahini sauce, imagine all the Waldorfs, Mahi Mahi tacos, all the noodles in the world. Every boiled hot pierogi with a side of sour cream. Imagine every burger with the works, the middle pink, and all the fries, the ketchup mixed together with the mayo right before it hits the mouth, which hits back.

Then I get sixteen and sex, he wants to in the weirdest places, like a graveyard and a playground and some house that’s being built around the corner. He wants to do it five times on the night we’ve been together five months and I giggle, I say Yeah OK. So then he came and came and came and came and came and then the next day at the high school I’m a sore and limping through the halls, he thinks it’s cute, he kissed me on my forehead at the lockers.

How I feel inside my skins is loose and unaccountable. My mother yells, she prunes her lips, she takes me shopping at the mall. We end up in the food court where she tells the Baskin Robbins lady how I’m shrinking, tells her what my pants size is and what is she supposed to do about that? Do You Understand What Zero Even Means it Means Nothing, mom says. Mom is angry sad, and I am sorry sort of, but more so I feel proud of myself and my girl parts.

Then I flirt with Hulu Plus. I watch so much Law and Order SVU I start to wonder if I’m asking for it. Every dark street, every tuna sandwich tossed before the bell rings. Every space I occupy becomes a guess. It educates. It asks, Which ad experience do you prefer? I pick the ad for Reese’s because peanut butter and chocolate are the perfect marriage. Later I’ll sweet dream that brand. I’ll partnership. I’ll be your best swirl.

Once I let an old man tie me up. He asked if I was hungry first. He asked if I was hairless, pink, a newborn pup confused about what happens next. The ropes the sheets the knots the sheets the knots. In the morning pulled out crumpled hundreds from my rope burned twat and drive thru’d at the Starbucks, then I soaked, and then I paid the bills, and then I labored in the kitchen over take-out.

It’s important every now and then to treat yourself. It’s ok to feed your body things from time to time, like proteins, fibers, grains. The impossible maneuver to potato chip right. Every screwed-on scooped-out hole filled up with sweet rewards. With candies. All the crumpled, shiny wrapper skins that pile up into a nest, I burrow down it like a mole, an inkling. I am trying very hard to find the heart, am working toward the middle of the pink fat where it’s warm and darkest.

And I flirt with Netflix. I keep my lawyer shows and cop shows in a yin yang. Perfect union. No wrong way to pink it. Here and there I learn a thing or two. I learn about incriminate. A thing or two on undercover. How I stealth my way to peanut butter in this most predictable of scenes. This is where we sweat the bastard till he pops. This is the part where all the glasses start to rattle and the fridge’s coils glow like evil eyes in some Walt Disney. Me the little round-edged Alice asking for it.

Every limited-commercial network crime drama in the world. And all the perps, and all the DAs, all the drunken pretty girls in backless dresses, every tweeting sexting tween, and all the hookers. All the men unbuttoning their jackets when they sit down and re-buttoning their jackets when they stand up. All the pizzas. All the cooled, hard cheese that peels off like a dead skin. I am working very hard.

The Place My Order button gives. Sees me for who I am. Accepts my flaws, the space I take up. Once I ate the puppy’s food because it didn’t count. I chewed it up enough to let the flavor sink in then I spit it out like coffee connoisseurs. I spit like in the pornos, every money shot existing, all the little tits and jizz there ever was, that way there’s proof of. Proof of tits. There’s proof of wanted. Every shrimp alfredo in the goddamn world.

And then I cocaine. Then I exercise. I vegan. Juice fast. Master cleanse. I laxative. I cocaine. Detox. Raw foods. Sugar free. I yoga alcoholic. I recover. Then I exercise. I farmer’s market. Ancient grains. I diet fad. Acai. I apple cider vinegar for everything. I drift off into sleep with noodles, all the noodles in the world.

These places on my body want for smallness. They are begging for it, all the skin glands. All the hairs. These places want for bigger, bluer, more toned. Here it should be taut like pulled taut, flattened like a perfect, smoothed-down sheet. Or taut like wrung sheets, knotted. Either way a hollow starts. It bottoms out. It hungers. It badgers further down, like Badgering the Witness, Your Honor. It growls. It puppies me, licking the wound pink. Somebody says, Objection.

It’s OK to feel good about chocolate milk. It’s OK to think the bad guy in this episode is handsome, it’s his face—it’s just so open. How I feel when Crazee Burger’s still so open. Lebanese place still so open. Etna Restaurant still so open: like I’m trying very hard. I’m using my words, my grown-up voice, my begs. I have my Visa expiration date and CV code tattooed all over like a brand.  Me and my girl parts wait. We have too much to drink because we’re nervous, we all know what happens in the next scene.

Somebody says, Sustained. Some gavel falls. And all the justice. All the hollow pits that make the belly. This is not to say I’ve seen a white light. Left my body, so to speak. I’m lucky. I can have my cake and throw it out. I can use my grown-up voice and everything I’ve learned from online streaming. All the rules, the men, the leaning juries. All my girl parts. All the noodles. All the pink and smallness in the world. I’m working very hard. I’m making something.