Ravenous

Snake and frog and horse and sea cucumber and crickets and grubs. I’ve eaten all of it, plucked from the spinning center of a banquet table; shoved in my mouth on a roadside. This kind of barbarism, they say, is where these deadly new viruses come from. White mothers march to Manhattan Chinatown with pictures of their dogs, scream deportation at families who rooted into their tiny inch of America decades ago.

I eat everything with my mouth watering. I don’t chew enough, I lick the sauce off plates, pick the last crumbs off the table, scrape the yellow skin of scrambled egg off the still-scalding pan. I have eaten from the floor, from the trash. My ma found granola bar wrappers in my desk drawer, silvery like fish skins, and shouted at me in front of school that I would get fat. There was a tomb of wrappers behind the drawer that she hadn’t yet found, wrappers I had pushed so far back they fell somewhere that could no longer be reached. A boneyard. My ma said to stop eating like I’d never eaten before. I tower over her, maybe because of the half-whiteness, but maybe because her nanny had stolen her food ration stamps when she was just a baby. Stunted growth: a result of malnutrition. Maybe they ate meat a few times a month. There was a lot of stealing. Her aunt’s family had their stamps stolen on a train. Or there was the tapeworm that had lived coiled in her intestines, a slow threat. She didn’t know which parasite had caused the shortness. People do bad things when they’re hungry, she said. I am always hungry.

When she found out I liked girls, she said, why? Don’t you know how hard it is, how bad they treat people like that? She’d grown up learning people like me were sick. And I had infected the future – sent disease through my American traditional nuclear family, killed off the husband, the 2.5 kids, the white picket fence. I had murdered the life she thought she’d birthed for me, because my mouth watered between a woman’s legs, mouth open wide to taste, and taste, and taste.

And because she knows me she knows I am ravenous: sucking and biting blood-filled lips and breasts, licking and licking until there is nothing left to lick, my wanting teeth dragging along soft skin, Chinese daughter sick with the wrong desire, and she knows I bite and swallow so much – their love, their whispers, their moans, their dreams – without chewing enough, like I have never eaten before, choke them down whole so they live, pumping and alive, in my stomach, affections dropped like seeds to grow inside my emptiness, filling with sweetness and salt, because I never fill enough, because I want all of it, all at once, don’t hold anything back from me.


—Samantha Xiao Cody (from Jellyfish Review)