I was sitting in my office, which was really just a small bedroom sans the bed, thinking about food. It was my lunch break and I did not know what I want. But I was hungry.
What am I craving for? Is it something sweet or salty? Is it a full meal or just light snacks? Is it something hot or cold? Am I looking for meat, veggies, or fruits? Maybe I want chicken, fish, pork, or beef?
My stomach grumbled.
I looked at the sheets of paper on my desk: documents, invoices, unfinished reports. Their disarray added to my discomfort and irritability. The sun light filtered through the jalousies but its brightness was still sharp. I looked at the books piled high against the wall on top of the table. Many weeks ago I bought several texts on business and entrepreneurship. I haven’t read any of them yet. I picked up the one on top of one pile, MBA For the Utterly Clueless and Confused, and leafed through its pages. I ran my finger down the Table of Contents and familiarized myself with the chapter titles. Then I lifted the book close to my nose and inhaled its scent. The smell of ink, vanilla, and rice intensified the violence of my hunger. I panicked. I tore off the Preface with my teeth. I chewed the pages frantically and swallowed the pieces hard. The ink slithered down the side of my throat, but I didn’t feel like throwing up. I tore out more and more pages with my mouth, one chapter after another, until I realized that I had consumed the entire book, including the dust jacket.
I stared at my empty hands in disbelief.
I leaned forward and examined the rest of the pile: The Philippine Labor Code; Guide to Valid Dismissal of Employees; Human Resource Forms, Notices, and Contracts; John Gokongwei, Jr., The Path of Entrepreneurship; and The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company yellow pages.
“What are you doing?” Kay said. I hadn’t heard her knock.
I stood up, startled, and faced her.
“There’s something on your mouth,” she said, stroking her belly.
I wiped my lips with my hand and saw the black stain.
“What is that?” she said.
“Business structures,” I blurted out, confused.
“The efficient frontier.” I covered my mouth.
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“Capital asset pricing model.” I tightened my lips but the words wouldn’t stop rolling out. “The efficient market hypothesis. Investment valuations. Discounted cash flows.” I rushed out of the office and locked myself inside the bathroom.
“What’s wrong with you?” she called from outside. “Are you sick?”
“Mergers and acquisitions!” I yelled. I used both hands now, pressing them as hard as I can against my mouth, but still the words came out through my teeth. “Keynesian and monetarist theory. Cash flow analysis,” I added.
I wished she’d stop asking me questions.
“This isn’t funny,” she said. She tried to open the door. “Open up, Mike. Mike?”
“Location, location, location,” I said. I banged my head against the mirror. It cracked lengthwise. My head started bleeding.
“Open this door now,” she said.
I opened the faucet and rinsed the blood off my forehead. I allowed the water to overflow from the sink. I washed my face and mouth and the water trickled down my neck and arms. My lips were still black.
Kay kept knocking on the door and turning the knob.
“Stop this foolishness, Mike,” she said. The door creaked. I imagined her leaning against it. “This is not funny. I’m hungry, you need to get me something. I don’t know yet what I want. I’m looking for something sour. Maybe an unripe mango and bagoong. But maybe not that. Maybe I just want seafood kare-kare. And remember that lechon we ate last week during Father’s Day? I hated that. It tasted too stale for a lechon. I want the one near that ugly beach in Talisay. It was an ugly, filthy, stinking place to eat in, but the lechon was way too tasty, so I wouldn’t mind going there again. And maybe I want some warm brownie cup, too. It doesn’t matter which flavor. I’m sure you’d love that also. And, oh, steamed crabs and sapin-sapin, Mike, I want those, too. Mike, you’re not answering me.”
I sat on the toilet bowl and covered my ears. I still could hear her faintly. I felt my stomach rumble and then a sharp pain pierced through my gut. I winced and let out a breath. I closed my eyes and tried to shut out the last remaining sound from Kay’s voice.
She banged on the door. “Mike,” she shouted. “You don’t want me angry. The doctor said it’s not good for me to be angry. She said that I shouldn’t have bad hormones swimming in my body…”
Her voice became unintelligible and then faded away altogether. I was safe, at least for the moment.