My younger brother Evan released an EP last week and among the tracks I found one called Milk and Honey – a title I happened to use for a flash a few years ago. Despite the fact they were written independent of each other, I think they’re quite complementary so (with his permission) here they are!
Milk and Honey
Marianne was in her early thirties when she forgot how to eat. It was a gradual process, almost imperceptible, but few things stay secret for long. Eventually her friends began to notice the way muffins crumbled between her fingers, soup cooled in its bowl and bread sat on its side-plate, unbitten. She complained about the taste, the sweetness. They laughed and told her it came to all women. It was normal. She didn’t have to worry about it.
An easy medium from her teens on, Marianne had never been a dieter. She’d dabbled with weight loss at highschool, when they all swapped diets plans as though they were stickers, but on leaving she’d laughed, shrugged them all off and made her friends jealous. She’d have extra chips, a dark beer and definitely a dessert. She used to enjoy them.
Marianne was a bystander to the pile-up, but only by two small steps.
If she hadn’t found a blackened banana in her bag and stepped back onto the curb, her hand reaching for the bin, she’d have been part of it.
A whole family killed instantly. The lorry driver held on for a few days in intensive care. A third driver, who was behind the concertina-ed family car, seemed to escape with only broken legs, but undetected internal bleeding took care of him.
Not Marianne though, not a scratch on her.
She spoke to the policeman then walked away to meet her date. He used the crash as an excuse to put his arm around her. Her stomach was empty, her banana in a bin behind a police cordon. Her date bought drinks and dinner. She tried but didn’t want them, and asked him not to call her again.
The next day, Marianne rang her mother and heard her doing the sign of the cross over the phone. There but for the grace of god. She told a few friends, but they hugged her and said she was lucky. Marianne decided not to tell anyone else.
She was the last person to notice she wasn’t eating. It’s not that she didn’t want to, it’s just that she’d forgotten how she was meant to do it. Everything she put in her mouth was sweet and cloying, and the thought she’d once known how to chew and swallow seemed impossible.
At night, she dreamed about her days – boxes of filing, queues at the shops – but during the day her thoughts meandered to the barely-glimpsed faces of the family in the car, the bliss she saw as they passed away.
Something had gone wrong. The family, the other drivers, the dead people, they were where they were meant to be. But not Marianne.
She daydreamed empty-mouthed through the day, waiting until the wrong was righted. Her friends started to worry, her mother called daily, but Marianne knew it didn’t matter that she’d forgotten how to eat; she’d been given a taste of the land of milk and honey.