Palate by the Numb Tongue
Eat because you like it, not because it is the only thing keeping you alive. Eat pieces of the sun when it spoils your skin full of vitamins. Eat the worst in everyone, and process it into yum. Don’t just eat because you have access to food, eat because the food will give you access to yourself. Don’t rummage for the seasonings, eat even when bland has a taste.
“How long have you been up?” Splashes of green juice sunk from the bottom of the blender. I warned Brandon about the crack, but he thinks it’s all in my mind.
Eat when the fan stops.
“Since 10, and afterwards I’m heading to the grocery.”
“We have food in the fridge.”
“It’s still plugged in,” I used my pen as a dart. “You’re going to electrocute yourself.”
He rubbed the sleep from his eye, wiping the green juice remains on his peck. “What would I do without you?”
Then what’s going to happen? To the fetus.
Eat because it is breathing.
He dragged the blender from the outlet and sat it onto the drying rack. Unwashed. The faucet hit the first layer of dishes, and ricocheted from the microwave plate, spawning to the rest. Brandon removed his hair tie from his wrist, unveiling the tattoo of Misha drawn in cursive. His mom. He looped his bubbly curls into a half eaten bun, and let the rest that couldn’t fit sit above his neck.
“Core, you should think about sleeping more.”
“I slept, I just woke up early.”
The dishes clanked against his wrist, against Misha. “You went to bed past 4 yesterday. I know because I was up.”
“What were you doing up?”
“Listening to you type. That paper isn’t due until next week. You can prescribe yourself some time.”
And then what? I eat?
“You’re great, and you’re better when you get sleep,” he turned around to catch my eyes. Our bed was across from the kitchen because that’s the only place it’ll fit.
“Once I have them, I won’t get enough time for myself. I’m going to go to the grocery store after this.”
“You’re only two months.”
“There are twelve in a year.”
“What does that mean?”
“There isn’t enough time.”
Behind him was a plaque I purchased from DollarDollar. It says, “Make it count,” or something else. The cursive is atrocious.
The Pakistani guy at the bodega questioned my pregnancy last week. He knew, without me spilling it across a cash exchange—he could tell. Now I like to visit him to talk about baby names, but it is a drop hint for a reason to get out of the pint studio. Get away from Brandon, and get away from that fucking Misha tattoo. Have a bacon, egg, and cheese at 1am when the bread has crusted and molded to ease my vocal cords. Crying cause it hurts to eat now. It’s not for me anymore.
It was the one thing I had control over.
“Can I have the pleasure of making you a coffee?” He looks better behind the steam chortling from a kettle.
“As long as you don’t use that fake sugar.”
“It’s called stevia.”
“Every time I drink it I taste blood.”
“What?” The faucet water flooded through the kettle’s horn.
I scuffed. “That was a joke.”
Brandon fiddled a loose curl back into his bun. “Pregnancy has made you extremely sarcastic.”
“I’ve always been sarcastic.”
“Well, I think the pregnancy has made it unbearable.”
Sometimes when he talks, all I hear is his parents. Telling him what to do through a landline, mistaking my name for Courtney, and convincing Brandon that he should’ve gotten with the girl with money. We used to be best friends, me and Stasia—and then she hopscotched her way to California. Now she’s married to a tech bum, and she doesn’t have to worry about tripping over her master’s at 2am—trying to impress her boyfriend’s faux-affluent parents.
“You still look good though,” even with dandruff sprinkling my hair and shoulder blades.
“You have that look in your eye,” I coughed.
“Huh? Tell me.”
“That look like you’re ready to have another one.”
“What would you do if I said I was?” I haven’t even had the first one yet.
I barfed in the paper shredder as soon as I found out. The paper shredder that encases the mail I can’t open, the bills I haven’t paid, the payment requests from my BA program, and the health insurance statements. When will this city turn my tears into currency? My purging into luxury, and my boyfriend into someone I could love? Even after all this time.
Brandon tossed some insta into the only mug I could drink out of, simultaneously stirring as the heat struck his pierced nostril. He was going to be late for work, but would rather that then pay five dollars for a small roast. He always poured mine first because that’s the way he is, and planted it onto the computer desk beside me that replaced a nightstand.
"Should I take the day off?” He took the empty side of the bed.
“You? Day off? Unheard of.”
“You know why.”
I used to look at him with a college days filter. The Brandon that would rollerblade off of the main hall’s fountain, and walked around with bruises as medals. The same guy who hated art but accompanied me to every gallery opening in Chelsea, drinking wine because it brought him closer to the bougieness he came from. Brandon, who let me cry on his shoulder right after Tyler Dury cheated on me—the first time. The second time he insisted I lived with him, out of dorms and in a one bedroom he shared with his then gf, Stasia.
She never liked me.
Especially when she found out I couldn’t eat.
“My parents don’t like paying for you too, Core.”
“You really want to remind me?”
“You know that it’s a lot for me to—”
I propped up, feeling the emptiness erupt from my stomach. “I never needed you to take care of me. I can take care of myself.”
“Then why are you acting like I’m such a burden? Me and my baby don’t have to stay here with you.”
“Stop it, Core! I’m not your enemy, and don’t use our kid against me like that.”
But, you feel like it.
“Look, I don’t mind supporting you—I want to! I just feel like, sometimes I’m struggling to meet you somewhere.”
And I’m still looking for.
“It’s like we’ve grown up, but you’re still in that place you were.”
A good place.
Where I can eat.
“I’m still with you, despite all of that. I know this is difficult for you, but I’m here Corinne.”
Leaving the letters off my name was the easiest way to forget about the nights over the cool plastic. Resurrecting to Core as the pits of my stomach still lose tragic accidents. The flush that comes right after my hair shoots a ray over the seat, and specks of my insides still come back to bite me. The aroma lost its reek, and now it’s just me and a migraine. My ass hitting the bone numbing tiled floor, and the sound of an angel singing from the shower-head is the only thing that grounds me.
If a baby can’t get me to eat, I’m not sure who will.
His arm took over my sight. My held vision arose from his anchored torso, looking down at my feet that have already started to swell.
The myth that I made that turned into a self afflicting pact. I’m all that I am in what gets digested, and what comes out grainy and inconceivable. From the kid inside me to the things that melt when I grip too hard. It’s the first time I’ve been nauseous in what seems like centuries, and there’s a standoff inside of my gut—telling me who I am, and who they could be.
“This isn’t something I can let go of,” my front tooth gnawed at the grittiness of his tattoo.
“Doesn’t it feel good though?” He sectioned me away from him. “That you now have something that is meant to stay with you?”
Jade Brown is a fiction author and poet based in New York. Her writing aims to liberate women who have had their voices stolen or silenced due to injustice, with a major emphasis on women of BIPOC descent. Many of Jade's work centers heavily around mental illness, and the dynamic relationships with the people that shape our identities. Through her writing she hopes to continue influencing conversations that are too tender for regular dialogue, but are far too important to be forgotten in literature.