Yesterday I slept late. Late even for me. So I ate a late, light breakfast and made it through most of the afternoon without thinking about food. By suppertime I was hungry. I could feel the emptiness of my stomach. I was reminded of the first time in my life that I felt hunger.
I was 21 years old.
I had stayed at Indiana University in Bloomington for the summer to take a couple of classes. I believe the dorms were all closed for the summer so I sublet a trailer and spent what amounted to a mostly miserable summer. I took a couple of classes, but I did not get a job so I was dependent on money from home.
I should point out that the U.S. Post Office routinely scanned the mail from my parents to me. If the scan revealed a check to be in the envelope, then the letter was shelved for a few days before delivery. When no check was present, the letter arrived in my mail box the day after it was mailed. I know this makes me sound like a conspiracy nut (which I’m not despite my belief that Oswald did not act alone) and a bit paranoid (but when everyone is out to get you, you won’t care what you sound like either).
Anyways, checks always seemed to take awhile. Added to that was the problem that I spent my money poorly. I blew it on, gulp, comic books and Coca-Cola. There, I’ve admitted it. Sad but true. I have boxes of comic books in the garage to prove it. Don’t worry, I already gave the few that had any value to my son.
Anyways, I was dimly aware that I managed my money poorly, so I tried to delay asking for money as long as possible. At one point that summer, I went though my money quicker than usual and so I delayed the call home longer than usual. And just to keep the roll going the Post Office shelved the letter longer than usual.
I ran out of food.
If you’ve read this far, it is probably not a surprise to you that I grew up in a reasonably well to do household and that my existence had been somewhat pampered (in spite of the part time job throughout high school) up to that point. As a result, I had no clue that I could have found some one willing to feed me (at least, I assume that is true).
The only edible thing left in the trailer was Cool Whip. I ate that.
I was beginning to feel a bit weak and I dreamed of stacks of pancakes, of which I am not all that fond.
And I thought about how I had never experienced hunger before. Sure, I had used the word, but only in the sense that it seemed everyone used the word: it’s been three or four hours since I ate so it is time to eat so I am hungry. That was all the word meant to me, that it was time to eat.
After a few days, the check arrived and I still had the strength to buy groceries. For some reason, the urge to eat pancakes had passed, so I spared myself that.
And despite yesterday, I have never felt true hunger since.
Knock on wood. (I always hit my knuckles on my head with that phrase since one can never be sure of the composition of objects that once upon a time were reliably wooden. I do not doubt the woodenness of my head).