February 26, 2020

I'm sitting in my art class. My art teacher, who brought her kid to school today— a preschooler, too— asks her preschooler son if he ate all of his cheese.

He nods his head: yes, he did. My art teacher asks, "Really? Am I going to find that in the trash?"

I stifle a laugh, because, well, I really don't need to make noise, do I? Still, I remember being asked that same question as a little kid. "Did you eat your spaghetti? Are you sure I'm not going to find that in the trash?" I remember watching with something like gleeful delight, because for once I did eat my dinner. I remember my parents congratulating me and giving me a pat on the head.

This kid nods his head— adorably, too; he's a preschooler, after all— and the class swoons. He's so cute. Such a cute kid.

The art teacher laughs and walks over to her cabinet. She pulls out a bowl of candy. She watches him take from the bowl and helps him look through the candy, but she makes sure he only grabs one.

She looks around at the class, laughs, and says, "Well, I've opened Pandora's box, haven't I?"

She hands around the bowl. Each person at the first people takes one. I'm just waiting to ask my art teacher a question. The bowl makes its way to the next table, and I watch as my classmates take and take and take.

The first two people only grab one. Another girl grabs a second when she sees something nostalgic. And yet I watch as two peers take a handful. It's funny, because all the candy they grabbed is incredibly nostalgic to me, but I didn't grab it. Instead I grabbed a York Mint, not because I liked them but because I forgot my mints and longed for any semblance of the flavor.

I watch as they take Scooby Snacks, and those weird gummy Krabby Patties. I try not to judge, but all I can really think is that they saw this preschooler being limited to one, and they grabbed handfuls. I can't help but think that it's piggish, though I know it's not my room to judge.

We were talking about Scooby Snacks later, which is the funniest thing one could possibly get upset about. I watch as this girl eats them. She grabbed a handful otherwise, and then she grabbed the Scooby Snacks. She complains about how they're not very good, how she remembers them being better, and she proceeds to throw them away.

I watch as she tosses this bag into the trash. I can't help but think that she has the audacity to not only grab a handful of candy when everyone else had limited themselves rather politely, but also threw away food. I think that's what bugs me more, is the throwing away food, because I wouldn't do that anymore.

I can't help but think that, hey, I shouldn't judge. After all, I would've been like her awhile ago— and yet I can't help but get at least a little bit upset. It annoys me. I remind myself that it's not my place to judge, that it's whatever, that it's fine. And anyway, it's not my candy, is it? I didn't pay for it, so why should I be upset?

I go back to cutting felt and sewing it together. I wonder what makes me so different from them.

...

Fast-forward a few hours. I'm sitting in the lobby of my orthodontist, and there's a display with different sweets. I watch people flit by, taking one or two. And then, in a hurry, I shove as many pre-packaged cookies in my pockets as I can. I take a packet of sugar, just because I collect sugar. I take blueberry scones. It is quite a miracle when one has a lot of pockets.

I feel nothing for awhile, and then my mother comes and picks me up. She'd been at Walmart and dropped me off. It's funny that she does this much for me, seeing as I tend to go hungry. She tells me, "While I was picking up my prescription at Walmart, I bought you some discounted cupcakes. I checked the discount rack, like how you always do." I don't think she understands why I do this, but I'm not going to complain. After all, now I have food.

I go home and call my friend. I tell her, "I think I'm religious."

She laughs because I'm not religious. She asks, "Why's that?"

I go, "Well, every single time it seems I'm close to starvation, something happens that allows me to eat for the next few days."

She laughs, not only because I'm not religious but because she knows of my predicament and thinks it's dumb luck. She hangs up shortly after. I suppose I must've bored her.

I'm left alone.

I turn back to what I've received today: eight prepackaged cookies, two blueberry scones, and now, twelve discounted confetti cupcakes.

...

It all starts with discounted confetti cupcakes from Walmart. I look at them and wonder what makes me so different from the people I considered piggish. I tell myself that I need the food, and that's what makes me different.

I always followed a philosophy: Worry about the short term, because what's guaranteed in the long term?

It was a useful one, too, for I had gone hungry many a day. I could always feel it weighing down on me. For a time, I couldn't concentrate in any of my classes because I was so hungry. I tried to look out for myself after that. I tried to make sure that I always had food, for the little my parents bothered to provide for me usually wasn't enough.

I look at what I have now. Confetti cupcakes, along with food from my orthodontist's lobby. Suddenly it dawns in me: what makes me so different from the peers in my art class earlier? Indeed, I observed many taking one or two, and there I was, smuggling away food.

Am I really so different from them at all? This religious fervor of mine suddenly leads to guilt, and then disgust. What makes me different from those that I saw as piggish? I can't answer. I try to tell myself that I need it, but I have so much now. At least enough to cover the differences for two weeks. And that's great. Still, I have food now, and I feel like I stole, and I realize that nothing separates me at all.

I try to make excuses for myself, but there aren't any. Indeed, I judge myself more harshly than I might others, or maybe I judge fairly. I really don't know.

It weighs down on me. Still, what weighs down more is hunger, so I push it out of my mind and try to forget.