the caloric intake of a memory

(first published by great weather for MEDIA)

Does this memory make me look fat?


You ask yourself this, posing into your dusty mirror—slightly warped—purchased for less than twenty dollars at bodega four blocks away from your apartment—two apartments ago.

But really, she speak out loud, take a look at this excess? I’m sucking it in in in, can you see the ribs of my memory now?

You start each day the same. Peel skin out of bed, warm enough to be called a coffin or mouth, but it is just a bed, sheets purchased by your lover, color of August sky minutes before thunder (shade of sheets, not your lover).

You engage in two minutes of yoga-inspired plank position, where you hold your body up in push-up mode, similar to push up without the up down rotation. During these two minutes you try to rid yourself of the impressions of dreams suctioned to your thighs. You just know that during your sleep you gained at least three ounces from that nightmare inspired by your childhood, ages eleven through eighteen.

You breathe. But even this concerns you, as you find with each inhale you are breathing in dust and dead skin and that’s got to weigh something.

You exhale and slowly lift yourself back to ground, which you notice has not been swept or mopped in at least a month. You look at the gangs of hair haunting your floorboards. That’s got to count for something, you think. You subtract two numbers from your total weight for the detached strands and skin cells no longer weighing on you.

Coffee comes next.

Water is free, so anything predominantly made with it must be okay, you think. You think.

Suddenly, a memory. Of your mother. Sitting at kitchen table no longer in possession of any of your family members (sold/given away….when…garage sale?…). She is hunched over in night clothes—oversized T-shirt and thin shorts—drinking instant coffee out of mug that could have been called bowl, color of white and stains. You are across from her, fidgeting with your body: fingernails, hair, plague of your protruding secrets.

This memory is unclear, so it contains less than one hundred calories.

But then you begin to ponder longer. You cannot recall if this is the morning you head off to school with suicide note in back pocket for later.

You cannot remember if this is the day before you slip your tongue down ___’s throat for the first time solidifying your queer.

Was this the morning you ran away, to that park, the one with your initials dug into two benches, the one where your mother confessed years later to fearing she’d find you hung from a tree?

Suddenly, this memory has doubled. Tripled in caloric value and it’s at least seventeen grams of fat now. The bad kind of fat, too.

You sip your coffee.

You fidget for three minutes, non-stop, in order to burn some fat away. You suck in in in your skin, trying to forget.

After coffee, shower.

Here, you must be removing something.

Here, you scrub. With loofah. With pumice. With fingernails. You dig at your skin knowing flesh is like earth—you dig and dig and dig, yet the bottom seems unreachable.

You masturbate. This is not to turn you (reader) on. This is not to turn you (human) on. This is simply to dig more out. More numbers. More excess. You pull out your orgasm as though it is that magic trick with scarf up sleeve. You watch it drift down the drain.

Minus five pounds?

After shower, you dress. Here, all the hard work of removing and thinning is wasted. You climb more threads onto your skin than any mathematician could possibly count. You put on pants that suck it inin in. You button up shirt that hides it. You put on scarf that conceals it. You wear jacket that zips all of it in.

You leave. Hunt the earth as though none of these numbers count. You smile, engage in laughter knowing it is an exercise worthy of at least ten calories depending upon the length.

The memories keep coming. Each time, you excuse yourself to the washroom to purge. Force finger down throat to puke up your adolescence and your twenties and those few ones in your early thirties. You keep all that bile in toilet, taunting its smell with your resilient inhales.

Breathing in and in and in.

Because it can be difficult to flush away what once was and may still be.