Brain Juice by: Tiffany Chen
I can feel myself swaying, shivering, rocking back and forth ever so slightly as I stare at her and she stares at me.
Shoulders are hunched. Sunken cheeks.
Staring at her, I guess that she is still in her teens: there is an uncertainty in the way she looks me in the eye; there is a discomfort with being — withliving in her own skin, the way her head droops down and how she crosses her arms, knuckles white, holding onto herself as if she is both the life ring and the drowning person.
Searching, desperate gaze.
She isn’t fat and she isn’t thin (or is she? I am not uncritical and I am not unbiased) but the long gray sweater seems to envelop her body, pulling down on her frame and creating what looks like the wispy, insubstantial shadow of a girl.
I lift my right hand and, using my thumb and pointer finger, pinch the side of my waist.
She pinches hers.
We break eye contact and become fixated on what sits on the floor in front of us. Without saying anything, we extend our foot and tap it timidly once, twice, three times.
The monster awakens.
Its eyes flash green and black, blinking lazily several times before coming to full awareness.
I am neither a drug addict nor an alcoholic but I imagine that the emptiness that both of them feel is the same hunger than gnaws away at me. I don’t know where they feel it; for the addict it might be in his veins; for the drunkard maybe it’s always at the bottom of his bottle.
For me, it consumes me in my stomach.
The emptiness is a vice and a virtue, although nobody understands the latter. There is a physical cost — the uneaten food and the disapproving stares — but there is also a physical benefit.
We imagine ourselves: light as air, walking on clouds, next to nothing.
To be lighter than air, you can’t have air within you.
One foot. Another foot.
I am standing on it and I can see that she is too.
The monster’s eyes gleam. They reflect off the ceramic tiles of the floor and cast a mottled green light across my ankles. Eagerly, hungrily, it sizes me up.
I am neither a drug addict nor an alcoholic but maybe I am addicted and maybe I am drunk. On images in the media? To perfection? Control?
…Is that really so bad?
The monster snaps to attention. With barely suppressed glee, it spits out its judgment:
<< 95.6 LB >>
I make eye contact with the girl again.
Her bottom lip trembles.
That’s one tenth of a pound more than yesterday.
Our hands reach up. We pinch our waist again.