I can’t eat.

The smell of the fried chicken churns my stomach. My neck tightens as I look down at the plate of spaghetti. My fingers twitch at the thought of putting it in my mouth, passing down my throat, getting into my stomach and swimming in my digestive juices. I can feel my friends looking at me, frowns on their faces as they notice my untouched plate. A cup of lukewarm tea will suffice for my supper. With a conscious effort to keep the milky beverage down, I get up and walk out of the dining hall.

I don’t want to eat.

And yet I’m absolutely starving.

No, I’m not anorexic. I’m not starving myself on purpose. Ask anyone who knows me – I love my food. But not today, not this past week. I didn’t have anything on Wednesday, surviving on water and an apple. It’s only when my friends look at me that I choke down a slice of bread. Every bite is a struggle. Summoning the willpower to swallow is a battle that I’m tired of fighting. Eventually I give up and put the half-eaten bread down.

I don’t want to eat.

And I’m starving.

It’s the stress. Stress from school. Stress from extracurricular activities. Stress from being homesick. Stress from not dealing with my grandmother’s death. Just stress. If I could talk to someone, I would. But who? My friends are amazing people, but I’ve never been one to bare my soul to my friends. It ruins the equilibrium: I’m the solid friend, the constant one, the one with no drama. It simply won’t do for me to break down and cry in front of them. Boyfriend? Ha! What boyfriend? My family then. I love my family. I love my sisters. I love my parents. But they’re still grieving, too. How are they going to help me grieve, when even they can’t deal?

I can’t eat.

And I’m starving.

I’m looking at the bread I took from the Dining Hall, wrapped in serviettes and buttered with love. My peanut butter stands next to it, my trusted table knife ever ready in my fingers. I’m not going to eat the bread. It smells good; like warmth, love, security. It reminds me of home, baking bread with my mother. I’m still not going to eat it. A box of honey flavoured rooibos tea next to my laptop. Honey. My grandmother loved honey. Before she got sick. Then she couldn’t taste anything. So she loved nothing. I’m not going to drink that. Litchi juice. My grandmother hated litchis. Litchi juice will be fine.

I won’t eat.

But I’m starving.

 

I’ll be okay, though. I have my fruit juice. There’s always water. The occasional slice of bread works too.  Rooibos will keep me going. I don’t need food right now. It’s a distraction, a pointless dirt road that leads you far from the highway. Too much is going on right now for me to think about food. Stowing my grandmother’s memories away, bottling up the tears that I never had the chance to cry, fighting the creeping loneliness inside me whilst keeping my anti-social behaviour in check, going to lectures and tutorials, doing assignments, studying, extracurriculars, being a good friend, calling my mom, cleaning my room, budgeting, avoiding the flu, oiling my hair, thinking of my little nephew…

 

I can’t eat.

I’m starving.

But not for food.