I ate a ton of bread today. More bread than I have ever eaten in my entire life. An entire loaf in one sitting. Or, to be more accurate, many little sittings. I spent the better part of the afternoon ferrying bread between my unblinking computer screen and the kitchen, where I hurriedly sliced the bread—a nice round loaf of doughy pumpernickel—and slathered on the butter, alternating each slice between just plain butter and butter with peanut butter: sometimes two slices of butter, sometimes two of peanut butter and butter, sometimes one of each, sometimes just a single slice, of just plain butter, with streaks of peanut butter nevertheless because I used only one knife. My roommates weren’t home. They wouldn’t be back for a while. Probably the shame of being caught eating so much bread was the only thing that might have stopped me.
Each slice was more than half-finished by the time I regained my seat. I noticed this with annoyance but crammed the remaining pieces into my mouth without pleasure or joy.
When I finished the loaf I came to my senses. What was I doing, devouring that bread, without any thought whatsoever for my health! I had eaten lunch only an hour or two earlier and the bread was meant just as a snack. Truthfully, I checked the cupboards for nuts or crackers (and found none), before I forced myself to stop. I almost unpeeled a banana—my very last banana!—before I put my plate in the dishwasher and took stock of my stores. I was eating myself out of house and home. Not a full day had passed since my last trip to the grocery store and already my cupboards were almost bare?
I closed my laptop. One day I would throw it into the ocean. I put on my shoes and stood looking in the hallway mirror. Maybe I should brush my teeth first. Maybe I should comb my hair. Maybe I should use the toilet. Maybe I should pop the pimple that had been bothering me all day. All the while I was staring at my reflection in the mirror, my face contorted in doubt. I thought I was a handsome guy, but some days I worried I was dead inside. I opened the front door and locked it behind me.
Outside the sun seemed to bore into my retina, creating a washed-out afterimage of everything I passed. It was like I was walking in the desert—not the real desert but the desert of movies and television, doubled in the illusion of heat, oppressively realized with slow fading cuts. I am in good shape, but my movements were clumsy. I worried that the people I passed on the street would think I was drunk. “WASD,” I repeated to myself, my personal mantra, until I finally calmed down. When I came to I was standing on the verge of the park, staring down the path into a field half in shadow from black clouds rolling in from the distance.
Where was the day going?
“It can’t hurt you,” I mumbled quickly to myself. The day before I had missed the birthday party of a close friend because I didn’t want to go out in the rain.
I walked down the path, humming another mantra: “iddqd.” Over and over again. The truth was, I had nowhere in particular to go, and I should have turned back as soon as I heard the first peal of thunder. As soon as the wind picked up while I was still standing at the edge of the park. Turned back, or ducked into a coffee shop or a bar, even though I couldn’t possibly have consumed anything more. Turned back or stepped into the subway and called a friend.
I was lonely and I didn’t believe at all in my existence. I had spent an entire day proving to myself that I wasn’t real. I realized while looking at the reflection of my face in my iPhone that real tears threatened on my face. The bread was turning in my stomach and I couldn’t decide whether to cry or throw up, as if they were somehow two aspects of the same feeling or body function.
I imagined myself pacing back and forth down a long and empty corridor, pressed against the walls, checking them feverishly for traps and secret passageways. I imagined the sky folding in on itself like it were a lock turning to the right combination. It started raining.
“Ha ha ha ha,” I said, walking back and forth in the park as sheets of water washed over me. As water ran down the paths in rivers.
I was too cold to cry or throw up.
My phone started ringing but when I pulled it out of my pocket I couldn’t read the screen through the water. I wiped it off with my sleeve but that didn’t seem to do any good. I put it back in my pocket and it stopped ringing.
“I’m an incompetent poet,” I yelled into the rain. “An insignificant poet! An inconsistent poet!” Just as the rain was letting up, into the sun that was already coming out. I felt embarrassed speaking into the new emptiness which I knew would carry my voice. “But I have over 200 achievements in ‘Team Fortress 2,’” I mumbled.
I had to go home and get out of my sopping clothes. I had to go home and get out of the sunlight. I had to go home and comb my hair out and brush my teeth. I had to go home and use the toilet.
I burped and a chunk of bread rose up in my throat. A piece of crust I knew wouldn’t go back down again. I spit it out onto the pavement, where it lay flat and brown and pathetic. A woman in a rain-slick jacket with a closely pulled hood said something to me in Catonese and I responded apologetically, even though my Cantonese could be described, at best, as pidgin.
My roommates were home when I got back and I said a brief hello before I mounted the stairs to my room, taking off all my clothes and booting up my computer. As I burned enemies with my giggling pyro I imagined running through a field with tears streaming down my face. After thirty or forty minutes I crouched down to my trash can and threw up.