When I eat I gobble I devour. I take three bite sized bites in one bite. I don’t stop eating until the thing I’m eating is gone. I compact a sandwich in my mouth, condense the whole thing in to three or four heightened moments of flavour. On bigger sandwiches (or cakes, or chips, or bags of crisps) this means that my throat will feel dry and swollen before I get to the end. My throat constricts and I eat in slight, then mild, then noticeable discomfort, until the thing is gone. Then I drink the glass of water or, more often, the can of Coke that sits in front of me. I drink it down in one swallow.
Tip a whole packet of M&Ms in to your mouth in one go and the flavour becomes almost unbearable. Your mouth stings with sweet sharp citric acid and fills with saliva. The juice of the sweets runs down your throat for twenty seconds, thirty seconds, forty. And then the flavour dims and all you’re left with is a mouth full of sticky crunchy rubber that you chew and chew until it is gone. Then, if you have thought ahead, you can open the second packet.
Weight gain is a side effect of this need for flavour. Excessive eating is only a problem if you swallow, and I haven’t yet got to the point of spitting out food once the flavour goes. Not yet. And I can’t stomach bulimia. Fingers down the throat, bringing food back up; the taste of bile and vomit and stomach acid, all rising and swilling around your mouth. In my mind I see the acid corruption of a million taste buds. I cannot stand acid reflux.
In the last few years my weight gain has become more of a problem. When I was young I ate foods with natural sugars and delicate flavours. Pulses, vegetables, fish. At first I was content but later I sought more instant gratification. I left these gateway rations behind and I lost myself in the salts and sugars and chemically boosted flavour of fast food. Corruption worse than acid. The delicate flavour of steamed fish no longer registers in my mouth, al dente greens taste of starch and water and nothing else.
I live alone and now, each evening, I phone and wait for the doorbell to ring. I open the door to the motorcyclist and he hands me a white plastic bag filled with a pile of takeaway boxes. I tip him and thank him and close the door. I turn and find that on the journey back I lean more heavily on my walking stick than before. I find that when I sit back down in my armchair my heart is beating fast in my chest. I sit there and feel it and I wait for it to slow. My heart, beating beating beating in my chest.