While Travis and his family and friends enjoy homemade lasagna, I nuke Jenny Craig lasagna in the rehab center’s kitchen and eat it out if its little black plastic microwaveable tray. Finally visitors leave and Trav and I meander off to his rehab room. Like a dorm room, kind of. His roommate, just on the other side of the curtain, is Curtis. Curtis broke his neck in a car accident. Wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. Rumor has it the seatbelt would have “saved” him. Who knows for sure. The seatbelt, the wallet, the seatbelt, the wallet. Could be anytime, anywhere.
Curtis has a poster taped to the ceiling right above his bed. It’s a blond bikini-wearing babe licking a lollipop. Curtis had a halo strapped to his body and screwed into his skull for months. It’s off, and he’s now in the fashionable neck brace like Trav.
Trav has a roommate named Curtis and they’re both quads in rehab together. When Trav and I mosey into their room, Curtis is gone. Probably off cracking the code to the nurses break room, or hijacking the hospital intercom system to report some sarcastic, nonsensical need for the whole unit to hear.
I’m starving because the non-homemade lasagna was maybe actually two bites of lasagna. Portion control? More like socially acceptable anorexia. I’m starving and my stomach’s growling even though I just ate “dinner,” and I try to ignore it but by trying to ignore it I actually obsess over it as I set up the DVD for movie night. I try to make our movie date special by popping popcorn for Trav. I can’t eat any of it because my “diet” (read: socially acceptable self-starvation). And I even made the butter lovers kind because it’s not for me, right?
I turn down the lights and snuggle next to Travis as we look up at the TV glowing above his bed. I scoop my hand into the popcorn bag and flex my fingers like a claw crane prize grabber clutching all the wondrous colorful stuffed animal toys. I pull my arm out slowly so I don’t drop my prize: a handful of butter lovers’ popcorn. I hold my hand out to Travis’ mouth and he licks up the salty, tasty morsels with his lips and tongue.
You see the thing is, is that I don’t really care for popcorn. I like the crunchiness, sure, and I do find pleasure in the greasy buttery goodness. However, I really hate it when popcorn kernel pieces get stuck in my teeth, especially my back molars. So I typically never eat popcorn by choice. Only if it so happens to be made, and if it so happens to be offered to me. And if it’s not non-buttered non-salted dry cardboard tasting popcorn.
In-between prize-winning scoops of popcorn, I feel my tummy aching. I poke at my toned yet not-toned-enough abdomen, and squeeze my toned yet too voluptuous thighs. I think about Jenny Craig (the corporation, not the person), and I think about my disciplining mom.
I reach deep into the microwaveable popcorn bag with my claw of glory to scoop up the biggest-ever popcorn prize to claim the high-winning score. In the darkness amidst the flashes from the TV I shovel the hand full of golden glistening nibbles into my gaping mouth, pushing my flat palm against the popcorn and into my cheeks. I chew and chew and chew and the crane reaches back in and the claw pushes into my mouth and against my cheeks and I chew and chew and chew. I feel enormous guilt as I grumble and gulp yet I can’t stop shoveling one handful after the other into my mouth in the darkness with flashes of TV light in Trav’s hospital dorm room during our movie time. The ambivalence is wrenching as my stomach twists in utter guilt and utter pleasure from my uncontrollable gorge.
Having some popcorn? Travis teases, well-aware of my suffocating calorie-counting fascist regime. His rhetorical question breaks my zone.
I wipe my oily fingers on my voluptuous pant thighs and laugh through my mastication. I respond, Fuck it! And together we enjoy the butter lovers’ popcorn that so happens to be made by me, that I so happen to offer to myself.