In high school, it was the swimmer. You started out doing lengths of breaststroke in the adjoining lane while he trained, but eventually you got bored of the repetition and your hips ached from the strain and your hair got brittle from the water, so you stopped. Instead, you watched from the sidelines, perched on a towel by the windows.
He’d practice length after length of butterfly, send shimmering sprays of pool water across the floor tiles. The smell of chlorine made you hungry, so you’d eat granola bars and 100-calorie snack-packs bought for a dollar fifty from the school vending machines. Some days other teams would sell twenty-five cent doughnuts to fundraise, and you’d watch him ripple through the water and lick cinnamon sugar from your fingertips.
During meets the other girlfriends would join you on the bleachers. They’d sip their sugar-free iced lattes and chatter away, obviously bored by the proceedings. They smelled like vanilla and looked like they’d never eaten doughnuts a day in their lives.
When the swimmer lifted himself out onto the pool deck, he’d shake like a dog and you’d hand him the towel. He had the longest torso you’d ever seen, with broad, straight shoulders, and lean legs and forearms, which he shaved – for aerodynamics.
He’d wrap a damp arm around you and kiss your sugar-coated lips. The other girlfriends never let their swimmers touch them. Eww, you’re all wet! They’d shriek in chorus. He was always warm beneath the slick second skin of the cold water, and smelled deliciously human under the chemical overtone of the pool.
After his training and the meets he was always so tired that sometimes he’d fall asleep in your lap or on your couch as you fooled around or studied. His taught, upright posture would relax and his head would drift back, exposing an Adam’s apple like a gumball to be chewed, high cheeks like brioche buns, buttery sweat slicking the skin. His blonde hair – ever so slightly tinted chemical green – as soft as candyfloss that would dissolve on your tongue.
That was the first time you’d ever known real hunger.
Next, the cyclist, early into your undergrad. Bike rider, you called him, and he’d laugh. Pedal head, and he’d grab you, tickling your soft, cinnamon-sugar-doughnut-round stomach till you choked it out – Cyclist, cyclist.
His training was harder to watch, so when you tired, this time, of tagging along on your hybrid bike from Canadian Tire, watching him hunched over his low road bike handles so far in the distance, you’d sit and wait in coffee shops and diners. Sip on rich flat whites and thick milkshakes – chocolate, crème-de-menthe, peanut butter. Dip thin-cut fries and greasy onion rings in the smooth sweetness. You’d acquired an appetite.
You’d listen for the tick-tick-tick of his spokes, watch for his little wave, then settle the cheque and meet him outside. You’d plant a kiss on his soft shoulder, his height disallowing you access to his lips. His helmet would swing from the handlebars, his dark sweaty hair plastered to his head like chocolate icing.
Sometimes you thought about stealing the helmet to expose his head to trauma, so you could scoop out his brains and eat them like foie gras, some delicacy of understanding. Oh, but to read his mind. A feast for the imagination.
He let you have more of him then the swimmer did, never fell asleep. The cyclist liked to be tasted. You grew thick with affection, wide with lust.
There were his legs like braided challah bread, his lips fondant flowers on the cake of his head, his eyes beads of honey.
You devoured him and yet still there was hunger, always, hunger.
The runner was never going to satiate you. He was as thin as a reed, candy-cane limbs and not a lick of buttery, doughy fat on him. He was spun sugar, a delicate treat to be looked at but never eaten.
By now, what with the swimmer and the cyclist and all that watching and waiting and eating, you’d grown Pillsbury plump. Voracious. You searched out anything you cold get your hands on.
You didn’t understand why the runner, with his syrupy skin and his hair cropped dusty like a dash of cinnamon on his head, ever wanted to spend time with you. You chop-licker. Man-eater. You never watched him train or practice, not like the others. You only met him after, to gorge yourselves on pasta and meat in thick sauces, and wonder how he ever stayed so lean. He’d be gamey, you thought. Like venison.
He tried to get you to run with him once. You told him you didn’t think that was a good idea. If you saw him, loping along out there, legs extended, chopping-board chest heaving, surely you’d transform, and he wouldn’t be able to out run you then.
You’re starving now. It’s been so long since some sweet, sugary boy swam-biked-ran into your open maw. So long since you were given a reason to sit and wait and eat. You’ve grown thin again. Gone are the days of fresh oily pastries and milkshakes and pasta. You’re practically a wraith.
He doesn’t care to run, or ride, or swim. He works at a coffee shop and smells always of wet coffee grinds. He makes you flat whites but you can’t choke them down. Something’s soured in your stomach.
His skin is just skin, his hair just hair. But he is wide like you once were, his teeth sharp like yours. His hands big and deliberate things.
He says you look appetizing. Lox lips and sourdough breasts. A marzipan nose, olive eyes. Delicious, he says. Mouth-watering.
Hana Mason is a Victoria-based writer who can’t seem to stop writing about her home town. She is a part-time barista and Editor-in-Chief of This Side of West Issue 18. Read her also in Jellyfish Review.