Volume 3 Number 1


Winter 2004


Elizabeth Scott

I see you walk in, sunshine smile on your face. You are wrapped in bright color, glowing. You are starving, you say, and one hand -- so prettily plump -- waves a basket at me.

You think you know hunger. You don't. I know the sound of people crying out of something past sorrow, past need. I know the silence that comes after your stomach stops rumbling, stops hoping. I know bright eyes and thin skin grown waxy cold and placed in the ground; brothers, sisters, husbands. Children. I know these woods and what they look like stripped bare.

You walk through them and they are full of color, of life. You fit right in. Perhaps you look at me and wonder what my place is in them, if I still have one.

I do.

"Sit down," I say, and watch your legs swing as you settle into a chair. You place the basket on the table between us, sigh as silence starts to stretch.

You do not want to come see me. I am a stranger to you, greeted always with a title, never a name. Who I was and who I am is lost to you and you do not mourn that loss. You don't even notice it.

"Grandmother," you say, and in turn I call you "dear."

Sweet words are easy to say but they do not fill you up.

I heard you coming today. I heard you stop and chat with a stranger, greet him and wish him a merry day. Once upon a time I talked to strangers as you do, flirted with, and then embraced, the waiting world.

It narrowed as I aged, was whittled down to these woods and my little home in them. There is talk, in your house, of what is to be done. I have not heard it but I see it in your eyes. Am I not so ill? Do I not need constant care? Are you not required to bring me comfort nearly every day?

When the woods were empty, when everyone was empty, there was no one sent to comfort me. I survived hunger, children, husbands.

I look at you and know you could never do the same.

Outside a bird breaks into song. "How pretty," you sigh.

When I dreamt of food even while awake I hunted. I brought birds like that one down from trees and into my home. I pulled their little red feathers off and then ate them.

Would you like to hear that story? Of course, you wouldn't. I am here, right in front of you. I am dressed in clothes you know. My skin is still my own. But you don't want to see that, do you? I stand up, walk about the room. Your smile is fixed in place. Your eyes look straight through me.

There is a smear of frosting on your lip, a piece of cake resting in your hand. Such hunger, you would claim if I asked. Such need. And -- with a secret smiled whisper -- you would say I'm not supposed to have sweets, am I? Mother sneaks them in because she knows I am so fond. You are doing me a favor. I am old and need your care. This is all you know of me.

You know nothing.

I know you. You sit with frosting curled around your lips. You think the hunger you know is the fiercest one there is.

My eyes may be blurred, tired, but they still see. You come here, bearing gifts of food and smiles. You think that is all I need.

I sit back down. My bones creak, my body sighing. I lean in towards the basket, towards you. My hands are like paws, my fingers cramped so they can only grab, tear. I can smell the food you have brought for me, a basket full of plenty. My stomach is silent but the hunger is still there.

When it is allowed to sink so far inside, it never truly leaves.

"What big eyes you have," you say, laughing.

"The better to see you with," I say, and reach for the piece of cake you are holding.

You smile and open your mouth, swallow it down. Your teeth are white and sharp.