This morning, it wasn't good. Guinness refused to eat breakfast, refused to drink water, and was just lying on the couch. He looked obliterated.
"He's been like this all the time. I don't know what happened yesterday, why he perked up . . . " my mom explained.
"He hasn't eaten or had water for days . . . ?"
"Well, he has off and on, but not consistently, and he just throws it all up anyway."
"Mmm . . . "
It's a precarious time in our house. I don't even like writing about it. I don't want to write about it. But it matters.
I had my oatmeal sitting next to him. He looked at my oatmeal as if he was interested in it, so I thought maybe he was hungry. I offered him some food, but he just sniffed it and turned his head. I was just sitting there all morning, for hours, just watching him breathe. Any change, any increase in speed, any delay in breath, anything noticeable—I wanted to notice it.
"Mom . . . I want to eat something so badly . . . "
"Mhmm . . . " She knew that I meant that I wanted to eat something other than what I bought with my $18.
"Not even because I'm hungry. Don't get me wrong - I am hungry, but I want to eat something because I just want something comforting . . . "
"Yeah, it's emotionally draining watching him, I know. You just sit there, and you do nothing, but it's absolutely draining."
"Yeah . . . "
I kept watching him and reflected more on why I wanted to eat something. I realized that yes, I wanted something comforting (hence the term "comfort food," I suppose), but more than anything I wanted something good. I wanted something that felt good. I wanted the feeling of feeling good. Guinness' condition was making me so, so sad, so broken, so despairing . . . I just wanted to feel good.
Mind you, that's what I wanted as I sat huddled in blankets in my own clean, comfy clothes on a soft, bedbug-free couch in a reasonably big house with a working lock on the door in a calm, quiet neighbourhood sitting next to my mom, who was also clean, comfortable, and calm. And safe. We were all safe. Guinness may have been dying (and maybe still is—who knows) but not from fentanyl, overdose, or some other impact of system oppression.
Not that I couldn't understand it before, but more than ever as I sat there watching Guinness breathe, I could see why people turned to drugs and alcohol: to feel good. I wanted desperately to feel good.
"I think I'm going to eat something."
"Are you sure you want to do that . . . ?"
"I think so . . . I just need . . . "
" . . . you need to enjoy something."
"Yeah . . . I guess I could eat my banana."
I didn't eat my banana. I ate, of all things, potato chips. Mrs. Vickie's jalepeño flavour potato chips. I have a habit of eating those when I come home, and it may be a bad habit (don't really care), but they have become a comfort food. In any case, today, I thought they'd make me feel good. And they did.
It just kept going from there. I kept watching him breathe his shallow, awkward breaths, and I was feeling better from the chips and I wanted to feel even better.
"Is there coffee . . . ?"
"Uh, I think we might need to make some."
My eyes lit up. "Can we make some . . . ?"
That easy. Coffee.
I felt amazing. I was on a high. For sure. I got up and went to the fridge.
"Oh my god. Is that pasta? Is that tortellini?!"
"No . . . !"
I think she wasn't sure if I really wanted to ditch the Challenge.
"Why can't I eat it?!"
" . . . yes, it's pasta. You can eat it."
I ate it. There were maybe only four pieces of tortellini. Four pieces of delicious beef tortellini boiled perfectly and cooked in tomato sauce with herbs and spices and everything.
"Mom, I feel so much better. It's amazing."
She paused the TV and looked at me. "Wow . . . "
"I can't even believe it. I mean, it's not like I was going to pass out before, but I wasn't feeling good, and now . . . I mean, I'm still sad, but I feel like I could shower and maybe even blowdry my hair, probably even do stats." (I'm in a statistics class).
"Really . . . ?"
"Yeah. And maybe I'd stop eventually, maybe not even after long, but I feel like I could do those things. Before I ate chips, coffee, and four pieces of tortellini? No fucking way."
"That's incredible. I mean, well, that's horrible . . . that people live like that."
"Yeah . . . "
And it is. And I feel terrible. I feel like a shitbag. And then I feel like a shitbag for feeling like a shitbag because that's not helping anyone. I worry about my friends because I worry that it's possible to forget what it's like to feel good like that. Like this. (I still feel good). I ate dinner with my parents. In fact, dinner was interesting.
"Well, I need to go to the grocery store," said my mom.
My dad looked at her, confused or something.
"I need to pick something up for dinner. I don't have anything for dinner."
I was sitting on the floor rubbing Guinness, just trying to transfer some positive energy. I looked up at them.
"You have lots for dinner . . . "
"Oh, yeah, I guess so . . . !" She knew, of course.
I couldn't believe how much food we had when I thought about it like that: something for dinner.
I went on, "A full pantry, a full fridge, a full whole freezer downstairs, another pantry . . . we definitely have something for dinner."
"I guess, yeah, there's some Stouffer's things downstairs!" said my mom, offering the idea.
"Yeah, I mean, let's do it!" He seemed particularly accepting of Stouffer's tonight.
My mom called out that dinner was ready, and I walked up the table. Oh my god, how humbling three days can be. Dinner was incredible. To be clear, by Stouffer's, I mean we ate Stouffer's brand Complete Skillets: Thai Style Ginger Chicken. And by that I mean we ate frozen vegetables, pre-cooked chicken, and pre-cooked rice out of a bag. And it was INCREDIBLE. I'm not religious, but my dad's family is, and I think he is, so we say Grace at the table. And I have never—never ever—said Grace with more heart than I did today.
Guinness is lying at the foot of my bed as I write this, sleeping away. His breathing seems to have steadied a bit. His breaths seem easy, relaxed, unhurried.
But he's the skinniest he's ever been and he didn't eat all day today. He drank water twice, in the end. We gave him some new medicine, which hopefully helps. I am going to keep eating the food that is available to me because I need to feel good. I think even just for myself, I can't spiral into an everything-is-terrible-and-nothing-is-possible doom hole, but also for him I need to feel good so there's not an everything-is-terrible-and-nothing-is-possible doom monster sitting next to him watching him breathe.
The thing about the welfare rate is I don't even know what to say. It's not fucking possible. No one can live like that. I tried the most contrived, elementary version of one aspect of welfare and I couldn't even do that.
—I just had to scratch Guinness' head because he was too weak to move his back leg to be able to do it himself. These are the moments for which we need to feel good. Food, I have learned, is integral almost or just as much for morale as it is for physical nutrition. I have to sleep.