As if my little question about where he lived had stirred something, we started meeting in other places than just the library. We “went public”, and I saw people I knew watch us, and I knew questions would follow… but his presence made all that worthwhile. He was real. It wasn’t a dream; it wouldn’t fade from the moment I told someone about it. I always had a radiant smile on my face in those days, glowing with happiness. Not that many people got to see it…
‘Why do you always hold your head downwards?’ I always looked at the ground while walking. It was a habit I had never questioned before. It was a simple question though.
‘It’s a habit.’
‘I dislike it. It makes you look sad and pitiable. Stop doing it.’ And from one day to another, I raised my head and looked at what was in front of me, instead of at the ground. He pulled my shoulders backwards a bit, curving my back and straightening my posture. I never looked at the ground again while walking. When he was around I felt his eyes on me, and it made me smile for I knew he approved of my efforts. But most proud I was when he wasn’t around, when he couldn’t see me. It was as if he was still with me on those moments, as if his approving nod counted double for the hours I did as he had told me without him being able to see me.
‘Do you like to eat, Catherine?’ I sat in the library, holding a large bag of sour candy, wine gums and gummy bears. I had been eating all the time from it; my mouth and my fingers were all sticky. I looked up with a blush on my cheeks when I heard him.
‘Err… yeah, I do… kinda…’
‘What do you like to eat then?’ I felt happy because of his interest in me, and started naming all the things I liked. Pizza, spaghetti, sundried tomatoes, olives, tuna salad, lobster soup, salsa dip sauce and Doritos, marinated chicken brochettes, sushi, baked rice… and so much more. He held his hand up to stop my vocal volcano.
‘What are you eating now, Catherine?’ I looked at the candy I was holding. It was soft and warm from the outside heat, and the bright colours suddenly seemed disgusting to me. I hesitated.
‘Candy…’ I said softly.
‘Why do you speak softly? Don’t you like candy?’ I thought about it.
‘I am embarrassed, because I eat so much bad food…’ I said. He shook his head.
‘The question isn’t if it’s bad or not. Do you like it?’ I thought again, and shook my head.
‘I hate it when my fingers and mouth get all sticky. And after a few of those sweets you don’t even really taste them anymore. And they get stuck between your teeth. And you get the feeling you have bad breath from eating them, especially when it’s warm.’ He looked me up and down, and the bag of candy in my hand made me feel dirty.
‘Then why do you eat it?’ He asked, slowly pronouncing the sentence. I shrugged.
‘It’s cheap… you can buy a lot of it for little money, and I like to eat a lot…’
‘What is the main purpose of food according to you, Catherine?’ He was going to trick me. I was sure of that.
‘Err… keeping us alive?’ He shook his head.
‘That is the main purpose of eating. The main purpose of food is to be enjoyable. If it weren’t, we would all get ourselves an IV instead of stuffing ourselves with food. Much more practical.’ I could only agree. The bag of candy weighed heavy in my hand.
‘I will eat less…’ He shook his head violently.
‘Why don’t you ever listen to what I say, Catherine? You must eat things you like! Every bite must be enjoyable, and otherwise it’s not worth to be put in your mouth! If you like it, eat as much candy as you wish! Just don’t stuff yourself with things you don’t really like.’
‘But the stuff I really like is expensive!’ I objected.
‘What do you enjoy more? A nice little bit of something you think is delicious, or a whole bag of something you don’t really care for?’ That made sense. He looked at me. ‘I want you to treat food as an enjoyable, precious gift. I want you to be grateful for every bite. Eat with good appetite, not with despair.’
On my way out of the library I threw away the bag of candy. I’ve never bought cheap candy again.