Feast of Needs

 

Raw hunger set upon me that night, and in my exquisite need, I stumbled upon a café, promising soul food, or food with soul. I can never remember what the sign said….
Snowflakes flurried around behind me, ruffling piles of free newspapers and Car Trader magazines as I entered the café. I settled in to a table covered with a crisp, white linen cloth, the corners dangling like tears.  I set down my bags and heaved my stomach upon the table. The waiter approached with a smile and a friendly greeting, then filled my empty glass. The water expanded just above the lip of the glass, quivering and gelatinous. He pulled an order pad and pen from the pocket of the long black apron encircling his waist as my eyes walked up and down his slim figure. His nametag said Marco.
“How is the world treating you today?” I liked him immediately.
“Not so great. This weather has put me into a mood,” I answered. 
My stomach moaned under my coat and I patted it reassuringly.
“Let me tell you about a few dishes that may turn your heart.”
Upon hearing her name Heart banged hopefully against my sternum.
He launched into a speech of specials and recommendations, promises and hopes covered in cream sauces and chutneys. I found myself lost in his chocolate eyes, needing his nourishment, soul food or not. I pushed my stomach toward him and gave him a meaningful look, before setting my eyes down next to my gloves. I interrupted.
“Happiness, please.  With a side of contentment.”
He snapped his notepad shut and I watched his dark locks flutter from the sudden upward draft. He smiled down at me then glanced at my stomach, now flattened against the salt shaker.
 “Sit back and relax while I lavish you with attention and your order of happiness.”
My stomach sat upon the table, listing to one side, empty and depressed like a worn leather hand bag.
While I waited for my meal my eyes wandered across the dining room. Other diners were filling themselves, one organ at a time. A couple looked deeply into each other’s eyes, which were swimming together in the balsamic vinegar. A baby at a nearby table cooed as his mother spooned something pureed into his stomach. He hollered then threw his stomach on the floor. The tired mother signaled to another waiter for clean up rags. The waiter brought her a damp bar towel and a hand.
I dined on wine and cheese and courses from soups to seafood. With each new dish I loved Marco more than before.  My stomach perked from a dull gray to a plump pink by the second course. No longer did it seem downtrodden and depressed. My heart had climbed onto the table and watched every bite that pleased my stomach, waiting for her fulfillment. Every bite brought forth fantasies of Marco and I knew we would spend late nights together when his shifts ended. I would untie his long apron and listen to his tales of plate specials and rude customer du jours.  We would count out his tips and put them into a jar, our love growing coin by coin, fed by satisfied hunger. 
At the end of the meal, Marco appeared with the dessert cart. My stomach sat up straighter on the table, pleased with the choices.
“How about a little love to top that happiness?”
My heart stopped beating momentarily, waiting.
He winked and set a bowl on the table.
My affection for this man grew, covered in treacle and my tongue didn’t miss a drop, caressing the ridge of the silver plated spoon. As my stomach filled, I knew Marco was mine for the rest of my life. It was time to give him my heart. He would accept, I knew, and carry our hearts together on a silver platter, the superior venae cavae twisted together. While the other diners applauded we would blush and smile sincerely at their congratulations.
The red muscle glistened in my hand, damp but still pumping strong. A sticky string of blood stained my shirt sleeve.
Marco returned to my table and eyeballed my dessert bowl, a cleaned affair. There would be no leftovers tonight. He brought me the check and wished me well. 
“So soon, Marco? You’re breaking my heart.”
My heart, upon hearing this cue, sank dramatically into my palm.
“I must go,” he sighed.
He gestured across the dining room toward the other diners.
 “There are other hungry people.”
Neat lines of clothed tables hosted single diners, their stomachs propped on tables. Some leaned against walls or drink menus in varying degrees of hunger and despair. One woman hugged hers, and sobbed.
“There are other hungry people,” he repeated.
It was a statement filled with suitcases in the hall, and barren pantries. A familiar hunger began, raw and gnawing, despite my large meal. My eyes burned with salt and I managed a nod before succumbing to hopeless despair.
I sighed, released a few wadded bills, and stumbled out into the cold, my full stomach distended past my malnourished heart.   
 

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