This was a piece I had entered into the Oxford Literary Festival last year….or I tried to. Maybe it was fate but the email wouldn’t send….
A sense of adventure
Emily’s illness had taken its toll on her. Once young and full of life, she now finds herself imprisoned in her own body. The ravages of the human condition had taken over her body many years ago. Her senses are still active yet she is bed bound and unable to communicate with anyone, there is one thing that keeps her alive, her ability to chew. This involuntary action to something brushing her lips not only nourishes her body, it feeds her soul too. It might not seem like much but this minor action of consuming a meal, something which many of us take for granted, helps to take her on an adventure in her mind. It excites her senses and propels her through space and time, limitless and free.
The sound of food paints pictures across the otherwise blank canvas of her mind. The sound of bacon, sizzling and popping in the pan. The low hum of the oven as it cooks tasty treats. The scrape of the butter knife across the top of toast.
Her eyes can still see the beauty of a meal. Mashed potatoes, slightly off white in colour against bright green garden peas. The hot pink vein of raspberry cutting through the yellow of vanilla ice-cream. And boiled sweets in a jar, just like a stained glass window, twinkling in the light.
Her sense of smell brings forth anticipation and forgotten memories. Roast chicken reminds her of her own mother who is now long gone, and how she slaved over the Sunday dinner for her family. Coffee brings back whispers of youth and stolen kisses in seaside cafes.
Her sense of touch is now limited by what touches her now. The one guarantee she has is that food will touch her lips. The crumbs of biscuits feel grainy against the fine skin of her lips. Pasta slips around her mouth, sliding across her tongue. She feels the cold of milk and the hot of tea.
Despite all of these wonderful sensations, her favourite thing is always taste. The taste of food, what a marvel it is to her! With every mouthful, a new taste is discovered. Individual ingredients can be picked out, but when brought together they create something entirely new. For her, this is the climax of the meal, the melting of flavours across her tongue. She saviours every one of them as though they are her last.
Food is the most important thing to Emily in a world that offers her so little. So every meal is special to her as each one brings a new adventure into her life. And after every meal, she feels contentment, satisfied, and she can rest for a while. But it wont be long before her senses pick up the next meal being prepared, her mind will once again wander and another adventure will begin.