Thursday, September 22, 2011

Episode 4: The Death of the Secret Eater

A long while ago, at the Short Story Discussion Group, we discussed a story by Joseph Conrad called "The Secret Sharer".  We debated about the title, whether it was about someone who shared secrets, someone who shared in a secret (meaning, they were part of the secret) or someone who shared, but had to be kept a secret.  My post title sort of made me think of that today, and the meanings of secrets.

I'm not a very private person, but I am good at keeping secrets, unless they are my own. Then I tell everybody! I'm kind of an open book.  But one of the biggest secrets I have been keeping about myself most recently is that I am a Secret Eater.  This doesn't mean that I eat secrets, though like I said, I'm ok at keeping them, most of the time.  I try to be trustworthy.  But here is one of my biggest secrets...I used to sneak food.

 I've done it since I was a kid.  I would surreptitiously climb on to counters as a child and spoon Quik Chocolate powder directly into my mouth.  Mmmm.. powdered chocolately goodness.  It was sugar, I was 9.. it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Looking back, I realize how gross this is, but at the time, it was chocolately bliss, made even better by the fact that I was doing it on the sly.  My mother would be asleep next to her boyfriend, or the babysitter was engrossed in her soap opera. I would slide myself into the kitchen, and hoist my fairly rotund frame onto the counter, reach onto the top shelf of the cabinets, pull it down and happily slip one spoonful of chocolate flavored sand replica into my mouth.  I would shut the lid with a pop, put it back where it came from and slide off the counter with a thump.  If someone asked what I was doing, I would say I was getting a drink of water and turn on the faucet long enough to make it believable. Then I would skitter up to my room at the top of my townhouse tower and read my afternoons away.

If it wasn't Quik, it was something else. It was Cool-Whip, or chocolate frosting that was left with incriminating fingerprints in it. (It was a while until I learned to smooth it out with a knife first).  But it was always something sweet, and always surreptitiously stolen.  I thought I deserved it. Those extra calories, that little morsel of sugary bliss was exactly what I needed.

Once I became an adult, I no longer needed to sneak food.  I could go buy whatever I wanted to eat and nobody could stop me, but then it wasn't much fun. Leaving sticky fingerprints in a cake that also had AH's sticky fingerprints in it wasn't as much fun as the idea that I had taken something that may or may not have belonged to me in the first place. But I still found ways to feel sneaky about food.  I would get an ice cream cone from McDonald's and try to have it finished before I got home, so AH didn't see it.  I would buy an extra dessert and hide it away from him.

In retrospect, I am a very selfish person.  As I was picking up Subway for dinner tonight... (Mmm. Turkey Bacon and Avacado that I had saved my points for).. I looked longingly at the cookies sitting on the counter.  I thought "Oh, who would know if I just ordered an extra cookie and ate it on the way home.  I could toss the incriminating evidence into the garbage can and all would be well." And I realized just how selfish that idea seemed.  If I wanted a cookie, why couldn't AH have one too? Did I have to keep this sweets thing a secret? Was it the inherent guilt that I felt, that thrill of knowing that I could get in trouble if I was caught? Though the most trouble I would probably get into was a stern look and a frown from AH, this private guilt thrilled me like a teenaged Catholic boy knowing that he certainly had something to confess, but deciding to keep this little bit of guilt harbored away.

In the end, the cookies stayed behind the counter, encased in their plexiglass house waiting for someone else to claim them. They did not go home with me, and I savored the delicious dinner I had with AH without having to sneak around.  I'm even writing down every little thing that goes into my mouth.  There is no more sneaking, and no more secret eating. The rolly polly girl that climbed up on the counter and came down with her mouth ringed in chocolate dust is no more.  I am hanging up my spy gear and headed to a much healthier place.

McEwan awaits. Thanks for reading,


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