The Full Range of Possibilities
Molly Dektar

Things came to a head eventually. It was 3 in the morning when I snapped, lying on the floor speared by hunger and writhing like a burning witch. I hadn’t eaten a meal in months. I was going to die soon and I noticed that I didn’t want to.

I floated downstairs wearing only a long white shirt, watching my blood pulse less than once a second through my jutting arm veins, and then I headed north through the dark wet square. In the past few days a fine fur had sprouted all over my body. It was a hot summer night and I was cold as ice. The air freeze-dried my unprotected throat. The black night was thick and looping like terrycloth.

I broke my fast with a knob of mayonnaise-slathered baguette plucked from a trash bag under a Place des Vosges arcade. This flung me with great force to a field of coppery wheat, a hen clucking and releasing her egg into the dry hand of a tender farmer boy. My eyes focused and I walked on, my left foot hurting dully where it had impacted glass. “Nice Halloween costume,” a drunk tourist sneered, and I swung my head around at him, peering through my lank hair, and he was quiet.

What a waste it would have been to sacrifice myself to my own apathy. I was so happy to have the full range of possibilities before me once more: I could be a kamikaze bomber, or burn up in an instant testing a badly-designed space shuttle. I could wander around in the Sahara, try every drug, or go to Bel Air knocking on the doors of celebrities, begging them to fuck me. Real magic exists and it is having nothing to lose. I scuttled along, in charge of the entire planet.

A bright inviting door snagged my attention. It was a hostel called Smart Place and the kitchen was in an alcove out of view of reception. I had been looking for a dumpster, but I couldn’t resist. I entered; for the moment, no one was around. I headed straight for the refrigerator. It hummed beatifically in five-part harmony. Backpackers’ snacks in plastic bags pushed into my hands.

I ate a kilo of honey. Ham dipped in heavy cream. Frozen peas, which I poured right onto my face, which bounced around me echoing like marbles. Cold pho broth, with a disc of fatty collagen on top which I folded into my throat. Someone’s Jiff they’d brought all the way from the US. Three lemons—in a trance, I bit straight into the rinds, and the cottony layer broke the force of the acid. I ate like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs.

How I wanted to puke! But my hand wouldn’t go into my throat. My jaw wouldn’t open for anything other than food.

I ate raw broccoli with jam. A Greek yogurt carpeted with mold. Impatient with the cap, I ripped the bottom corner off a carton of orange juice with my teeth, then applied the gash to my mouth and let the juice glug down my throat. Trembling, I spilled saag paneer both inside and outside my shirt. My jaw ached but it wouldn’t stop marching up and down like a soldier. My foot throbbed. My hands brought things to my mouth; each bloomed with chaotic, lovely memories. The mealy apple of a summer camp lunch bag, singing “We welcome you to Riverlea, we’re mighty glad you’re here…” The sour cream of tacos with my brother, in the red summer rain, during a spell in our fighting.

Scallions like the onion grass we tied up in the viney grotto of the magnolia, how we planned to live by foraging, in the trunk of a tree. Warmth embraced me. I thought of my mother for the first time in months. “Mom,” I said, stuffing cool soft bread into my mouth like you’d stuff a pillow.

“Am I interrupting something?” said the hip hostel receptionist. Her voice whipped through the air like a lasso.

I draped a skinless, boneless chicken breast over my forehead and cheeks and opened my eyes extra-wide. How I wanted a cult to join!

“Are you a guest here?” I asked.

“What?” she said. “No. I was going to—”

“Then what are you doing here?” I said, tucking a slimy chicken corner into my mouth.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” she said. The first person in months who didn’t allow me to do exactly as I pleased. It was a sign!

“I’m busy,” I explained.

She took me by the forearm and steered me. Such warm hands. I bit her and she shoved me out, shuddering.

I gained ten pounds in one night. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. The next day I found my first stretch marks on my thighs, doodly white threads linking the long white marks where I’d slashed myself as a curious child. When I stood with my knees and ankles together, I saw that the gap between my thighs had shrunk to just a fist’s width. Later I learned that eating all that could have given me a heart attack. The Internet says so much about starving and so little about refeeding.

I came down from my ecstasy and had things to lose again. All of a sudden I weighed 42 kilos and could no longer fly just by yanking my own shoes. I could remember my mother’s face. “Where are you?” her face said. “Do you hate me so much that you’ll never come home?”

I cried for three days straight—only food gave me the energy to do that. I turned the mirrors back around. I looked at myself in the mirror and looked like a girl.

Molly Dektar (b. 1990) is from North Carolina. She is currently living in Norway on a Henry Russell Shaw fellowship from Harvard University. More of her work can be found in Word Riot, New World Writing, Knee-Jerk, the Harvard Advocate, and at her blog.