I’m eight years old and we are in Benue. My family and I had been travelling for hours and had just gotten into Ucha. We children are gathered round the biggest bowl of pounded yam I have ever seen. On the white mound of the pounded yam, there is a small splash of brown water from hastily washed hands. But I don’t care. I sink my fingers in, twist and pull out a good chewy chunk. I mould it between my fingers and dip it into the brown pocho soup. The sweet tang of the dawadawa surprises me as always. I let it sit on my tongue for a beat before sliding it down my throat to nestle in my belly. I exhale.
I’m in JSS 3 and preparing to write the JSSCE exam. Provisions aren’t allowed in my school, except for cabin biscuits, milk, tea and sugar. Each night, everyone gets four biscuits and a cup of tea. In preparation for the exam, all JSS 3 students are given extra biscuits. To boost intelligence…or something. One night, we are given an extra biscuit. A female senior asks me for one and I do a quick calculation in my head. If I give you one of my biscuits, you’ll have five and I’ll be left with four. I say no and walk away. She calls me back and lies that I hissed at her. I kneel at the foot of her bed, hands raised above my head, singing softly to console myself. She kicks me and tells me to kneel in the middle of the dormitory. Even when the lights go out, I continue to kneel. Fuck you Debra*.
I’m in my 20s and in Southampton visiting my brother and cousin. As a treat, I order a pizza and some wings. I give everyone a share. But my cousin reaches into the pizza box and with the stubborn grip of an overgrown toddler he squeezes one more slice into his hand. I snap my head back and scream his name at the ceiling. It was the shout heard round Southampton. He opens his fist and the slice drops back into the box, mangled and ruined.
I’m in my early 30s and working in Lagos. Unfinished tasks roll in and out my head all day and push me awake at odd hours of the night. Failure burns in my belly. I am drowning and no one is helping. I stop eating. I go to Surulere stadium with a friend from work and we order goat peppersoup. I push the edge of my spoon through the soup, clearing a path between the pieces of meat. I remember jeering stories about girls who go on dates and pretend not to like food. Like an apology, I laugh and say “I usually eat you know.” I am a grubbido and I can’t recognise myself. I am mortified.
I’m unmarried, in my mid 30s and my younger sister’s wedding is fast approaching. I feel the pressure not to look like the miserable spinster whose body answers the question of why I’m still single. But I cannot stop eating. I go clothes shopping and nothing fits how I want it to. But every weekend I still eat a full English breakfast – salty bacon, crunchy toast with unreserved lashings of butter, juicy sausages, fried mushrooms that ooze when bitten into all dipped into moist baked beans. With with every morsel I push past my lips, I feel rewarded. I feel in control and I don’t care how I look. I think I’ve hit feminist nirvana until someone gently suggests “Are you depressed?”
*this is her real name. Fuck you Debra.
This is part of a series of blog posts Inspired by the structure of Matt Lucas’ autobiography “Little Me: My life from A-Z” where each chapter is based on a letter of the alphabet and his life.