I have an unfortunate affliction, very serious, and very specific in nature. I have no other illness, but this one can be quite a problem.

My disease is that whenever I eat and am later asked by another what I consumed, I must prevaricate, deceive, obscure. For some no doubt deeply pathological reason, I find that I must substitute one thing for another.  The questioner must never know, with accuracy, what I have eaten in their absence.  For example, if I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for supper, and a friend comes over and in the course of the conversation asks me what I had for dinner, I will say,

“Meat loaf.”

Then he will say, “Oh, I love meat loaf!  And I’m still a little hungry, do you have any left?”

I obscure, “Well, I don’t know…”

He goes off to the kitchen. “Funny, I don’t smell anything. Did you cook anything with it?”

Now I am thinking, what is the best sequence to maintain the deception?

I sit down on the couch and open a magazine. Maybe silence is the best disguise.

I hear the rattling of pans. “What did you use to cook it?”

I am thinking, what is it?  Is it shame?  Boredom?  But nothing is more important than to ensure that this assertion is accepted as real.

He pulls open the refrigerator. “Where is it?”

“It’s all gone,” I call from the other room, tentatively, gradually, realizing I have made my first move.

Jars jostle as the refrigerator door closes. “You ate a whole meat loaf by yourself?”

I hesitate, then, “Yeah, I was hungry.”

“No shit! So what did you have with it? Maybe I’ll have some of that….”

Again I hesitate. More thought is needed for these moves, but the timer has been pushed.


“Why doesn’t it smell in here?”

“I didn’t cook it,” I call out spontaneously, though I know well that ebullience is the enemy of concealment.

Another cabinet is pulled open. “Wait a minute. You prepared a whole meat loaf, cooked nothing with it, then ate it all yourself, raw?”

I have that sinking feeling, that something hardly even yet built is already collapsing.

“I said I was hungry.”

He comes out of the kitchen and stands before me. “You know you can die from that? Eating raw shit?”

I glance up at him, just for a second.  I don’t want to reveal any of my inner world.

“Do I look dead to you?”

“Not yet, but you do have some peanut butter on your chin. Are you lying about food again?”

I drop my head, then rise up again, “Can’t a man keep a goddam secret about meat loaf?”

He turns away and walks back toward the kitchen. “It’s just strange, you’re normally so concerned with honesty, accuracy in all things, and these food lies. Have you ever thought about seeing a shrink?”

“As you know, I’m becoming a shrink. I just need to… conceal some things. Shrinks need to keep secrets, have an interior life that no one else sees.”

“Shrinks need to keep secrets about meat loaf? I just don’t get it.”

“That’s precisely the thing,” I respond in a tone of righteousness, “When these problems occur you never know why or what purpose they serve, but,” I gaze malevolently toward the kitchen, “nonetheless they hold sway.”

“Meat loaf holds sway,” he says ruminatively, “I think I’m starting to understand. Where’s the peanut butter?”

“For Christ’s sake, it’s not about the meat loaf!  Forget the fucking meat loaf, would you? It could be anything! It’s about substitution, withholding… It’s almond butter, and it’s in the refrigerator.”

“How would you know? You just said you don’t know how or why it happens.” The jars jangle again. “Jelly?”

“Door rack. The point is to look into the darkness, to hypothesize, to risk interpretation.”

He came out of the kitchen and sat on the chair opposite me. He was holding a sandwich in one hand and a glass of milk in the other.

“I don’t know about that,” he said, “but I know I like peanut butter and jelly more than meat loaf.”

“It’s almond butter,” I said, “It’s a difference that makes a difference.”