I am the dog waiting patiently for the hand that holds the bacon. Hunger lives in my bones. It pulses through me like a heartbeat pumping around all of my emptiness. It’s a black, squishy thing, like a worm that slowly eats you alive.
The worm came to me years ago and said, “I’m going to make you pay.”
I wanted to say no, but it didn’t care what I thought of the offer. Hunger was a get up and go kind of worm. It snuck in when I wasn’t looking and took up root before I had time to notice what was going on. Once I experienced its heaviness, I wanted to run away – just high tail it across a long field until I could shake that vile thing off of me.
How do you escape something imbedded so deeply you believe it’s a part of you?
Getting rid of hunger would feel like an amputation. I am afraid of losing limbs and hobbling along at an invalid’s pace. I do not want to press labels into my fur like unwanted name tags or become the focus of another man’s pity. So I sit with hunger and tell it jokes.
Sometimes we play games like where’s the hotdog, or crank call Dominoes Pizza. We order five pies with everything and send them to the abandoned house down the street. The deliveryman always scratches his head as he slides out of his slightly dented purple Honda Fit. He rings a doorbell no one will ever hear and stands on the lonely porch made of gravel and concrete. He counts the large stones that lead up to the chipped red door before walking away.
Hunger howls at the pizza man as he starts his car and drives over to the houses where the lights are on and someone will answer his call. The howling deepens the ache in my bones and drives me to find yet another master who may or may not have the bacon I seek.
I’ll sit pretty for anyone if they hold out a scrap of food. I’ll even settle for one of those red globs that smells like bacon and tastes like play dough. Just hold it up and see what I’ll do. But no matter how many treats I eat, hunger always seems to have the upper hand, erecting great piles of rot fencing in the things I want most.
When the emptiness lingers like the last sip of wine coating the bottom of the glass, I wonder if I will do it differently next time. Part of me thinks I won’t, but who knows. Hunger has weakened with age and I’ve learned to run a little faster.
So I keep dreaming of that one-day field on the edge of town – the one where the grass is green and the soil underneath has just enough spring to keep you going. I imagine my paws pumping across that long stretch of packed earth and gaining so much speed that the worm loses its grip and plops into the weeds. In the dream I keep on running, even after my bones harden, the skyscrapers of emptiness tumble, and I feel the weight of my presence pressing against my skin.