HOOKED | Alexandra Burton’s short fiction explores an ever-increasing hunger for love.
by Alexandra Burton
This is not a love story, though it may look that way from a distance.
What is that hackneyed phrase? ‘I want to find somebody who looks at me like I look at my food arriving in a restaurant.’ That is the way I look at him. He is a piping hot roast dinner served by a country pub in winter; the promise of full-body warmth and sleepy contentment on a plate. I knew within minutes of our first meeting that he could take my malnourished soul and nurture it back to health, and the prospect made me salivate. Before him, I had forgotten how it felt to fall asleep without fearing I would waste away in the night.
He is kind and gentle and I soften into him, like butter on the back of a spoon. It has been so long since I felt warmth that I believed I might remain frozen solid forever. He envelops my body, all raw skin and hard edges, into a cocoon that shields me from the world. His careful attention allows me the space to grow larger. To stretch out. To take up space. The liberation brings a heady hunger that blurs my vision. When I see him, it is with a gaze clouded by the taste of potential.
I feast on him like a hungry animal, leeching from him without regret. I fill my greedy fists with his kindness and stuff myself until I am satiated, with gratitude running in rivulets down my chin and a bloat of satisfaction from knowing I am somebody that he might care for. Every moment with him is the most delectable dessert, the most moreish morsel, a feast I cannot forget.
But I am always hungry for more of him: more affection, more reassurance, more gentle words whispered into the crown of my head. Even as I consume, I worry when my next fix will be, and it pushes me to sully the present to provide for myself in the future. I cannot embrace satisfaction if I fear it will be short-lived. I am cloying in my desperation to seek a promise that I will feel full again in the same magical way.
In the beginning, he is whole and I want him to make me whole, too. I make believe that he can multiply, craft substance from dust and hopefulness, until we are a complete pair bursting at our seams. Instead, he shrinks at the same rate I grow. He feeds me from flesh that is withering away, a sacrifice of sustenance, caught in dissonant thoughts excusing the fact that I am depleting him with every touch.
“He is kind and gentle and I soften into him, like butter on the back of a spoon.”
I expand to fit what he is willing to give, but as his generosity grows so too does my appetite. If on Saturday he offers a three course dinner of affection, I am offended by Sunday’s bite-sized effort. I feel the negative space of unmet need in the pit of my stomach. My teeth snap in anticipation of the nourishment I crave, and I set to work on seeking satiety at any cost.
I nip at his skin, claw at his chest, goad him into serving up the words I need to hear. I want him to give them freely – I hate that it is sometimes necessary for me to twist his arm. I beg and plead until offer becomes obligation, and I pick buzzard-like at whatever he provides. The struggle makes my sustenance too salty but I swallow it because I need to feel whole more than I need service with a smile. I am deranged in my hunger, deformed by determination to feel good. Emptiness has become the enemy and must be avoided.
When I overindulge, my satiety is accompanied by a sour tasting guilt. I went too far, asked for too much, and now I have damage to repair. I am afraid of the consequences of allowing my desires to dictate the order of things. I must allow him to replenish for fear he will deem my needs exhausting and leave me in starving solitude.
To return to my previous life – emaciated, insides rumbling like stones tumbling into an empty quarry – is a fate I cannot fathom. Perhaps my hunger for him is unhealthy, but the need to feel sated surpasses rationality. Now I have had a taste, I do not know how I could continue to move through the world without his love to feed me. To energise me. To stop me gnawing at myself when the void growls.
Alexandra Burton | @alxndrabrtn |Insta: @alxndrabrtn| alxndrabrtn.com
Alexandra Burton lives and works in the north of England. When she’s not writing you’ll find her on the yoga mat, at the climbing wall, or tackling her growing TBR pile.