Guilty Pleasures

High up upon the dust-coated shelves of Citgo’s sparse grocery section sat the beloved bag of all-dressed ruffled potato chips. She imagined the familiar and pungent aroma, such an anomalous composite of flavors. Ketchup, BBQ, paprika, and vinegar jointly infused to create the strangest but most delightful of spud concoctions. “Just $2.00?” she thought wistfully to herself. Her face glistened with anticipatory feelings of relief at the sight of one of her trusted comfort foods; particularly a guilty pleasure that was relatively rare to stumbled upon at random. She proceeded to the cluttered checkout counter. She approached the cashier with a pint of Americone Dream, a large bag of Sour Patch Kids, and the sacred Humpty Dumpty crisps in hand. The conglomeration of junk food indulgences would serve as both her lunch and dinner for the day, after all, the clock above the check out counter was quickly approaching 7:00PM and her stomach had begun to growl with fierce tenacity.

She felt acutely aware of the look painted across the clerk’s face. She began an internal debate about whether or not to comment on her choice in purchase for the evening. Could she have avoided potential stigmatization if she just claimed the calorie-dense treats were for a friend? Perhaps she could have said she was en route to watch the football game with some comrades. After a brief moment’s contemplation passed by, she decided against employing a sociological disclosure technique to brush her norm breaking under the rug. Her metaphorical “give-a-fuck gas tank” was running on mere fumes that Sunday evening. She swiped her lime green bankcard, entered her 4-digit pin and grabbed her paper bag full of caloric indulgence. Her brisk gait toward the glass door exit of the mini mart was curtailed by the voice of the cashier who was waving her transaction receipt in his right hand. “I don’t need that. There’s BPA in those.” she muttered hastily under her breath before pulling on the handle of the entrance door graced with the word “PUSH” in large vinyl lettering.

Upon return to her apartment, she placed the brown bag on the counter and promptly poured herself a glass of pinot noir. After adding two ice cubes to her glass, she nestled into the worn cushions of her elderly living room couch. The snacks set out on the coffee table adjacent to her, she glanced at the chips, candy, and ice cream. In usual fashion, she proceeded to eat the chips first, stopping only when she couldn’t palate their taste any longer. That evening, she ate with haste, finishing over half of the salty grease tators within a short time. With salt and savory cravings satiated, she glanced at her remaining options. It was only a brief moment before the intense wave of craving flooded her body with fantasies of refined sucrose. She promptly opened the pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Much to her dismay (and partial negligence), the ice cream had melted into a frothy off-white solution, adorned with floating chunks of sugar cone. She ate it anyway, as waiting for it to freeze again would render to be a far worse torture than consumption in liquid form. Eventually, she also opened the bag of Sour Patch Kids and nibbled on the brightly colored child-shaped candies. The remainder of her evening “meal” was spent rotating between her various leftover Citgo delicatessens.

Food had always existed as her singular steadfast companion, a reliable enterprise in which to bury her most painful wounds. It served as both a soothing vessel to cradle her five senses and a physical testament to her staunch inability to sit amongst myriads of uncomfortable feelings. The sensory component of flavorful sustenance never failed to temporarily ward off her worries, fears, and emotion. When the monotonous days at work and school drew to a close, she would drown both her daily struggles and deepest afflictions in the pantry shelves of her small apartment kitchen. This night was similar to the rest. How quickly had another 24 hours slipped through the grasp of her hand, passed on into unknown abyss?

It was not until the mealtime had fully commenced that she noticed the familiar sensation of deep and pervasive regret. A feeling of guilt had been present for many hours’ prior to the meal’s conclusion, yet this was not a shared experience with post-meal regret. Before such indulgent binges, she routinely struggled to accurately conceptualize the potential for future feelings of regret and loss beforehand. She usually boxed these thoughts and feelings up into a dim compartment, to be stored in the deepest and darkest corners of her inner mind. She often envisioned a metaphorical “feeling box” of sorts, finding it’s forever home somewhere adjacent to her brainstem or near the base of her exceptionally thick skull. Other times she imagined the fragile box falling off of its cerebellar shelf, only to spill out its in analogous fashion to the bloody outpouring of guts from an animal struck by a negligent motorist.

On this particular evening, the feeling box fell high from its neuronal abode within her skull. It’s landing was far less than cushioned. It plummeted downward into the body, shattering open into the very depths of her fragile being. The sensation of bodily shame could be felt shooting through her viscera, pulsating through her vasculature with each “lub dub” of the heart’s rhythmic cadence. Yet the shame was not necessarily uncomfortable. Rather, it was sadly familiar, both a perverse old friend and diabolic comrade. In a twisted fashion, the shame felt much more comfortable than its opposing absence. Quite a melancholy notion it is, to be more at home amidst feelings of judgment and self-deprecation than those of esteem and self-regard, yet this prevailed as her undeniably awry reality. Years of fierce battle with this monstrous creature of the mind had landed her in a serpentine cycle of inner turmoil, a living hell. A cycle she desperately wished to change with a steadfast diligence. A cycle she equally wished to pursue with an arduous commitment. A cycle of pleasure, guilt, and shame. Such remarkable discomfort to endure. Such a guilty pleasure to procure.

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