My Greatest Performances in Binge Eating

By Blake Butler

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, because the whole point of it is to eat like a hog and then lie on the floor and pretend we aren’t a country of tunnel-visioned murderers. Food fills your blood and brain, and if anybody talks to you it is acceptable to just grunt in response. Even sports start to make sense, which means to me that to live in America is to be approaching a certain death by endless, needless fat ingestion.

Having grown up a fat kid who lost the weight of a whole third grader over a summer to assume my current body shape of a normally-appetited guy, Thanksgiving is one of the few times I let myself feel like who I really am on the inside. “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach,” my mother used to tell me when our family would go to Morrison’s cafeteria and I’d try to take one of almost every item (they were eventually forced to limit me to five). Sometimes I think my entire life has been me trying to prove I can eat everything I touch.

Holidays not-withstanding, here are some of my choicest moments on my lifelong journey to becoming a lard ass. Some are marathon-like, and some stretched over years, because the truest form of binge-eating takes whole eras; each is pretty much the only time I’ve ever really began to feel like a person among people. In other words, a human.

1. Lettuce Soup-Rise You

My friend John and I were bored in the suburbs and we’d already watched Eddie Murphy’s Raw three times and Dumb and Dumber twice when we decided to go to the soup-themed buffet chain down the street and see who could eat the most. Lettuce Soup-rise You was a place that had a salad bar in the front that was hyped as the central draw, though every time I ate there I remember everybody walking straight past the salad to where they had the pasta with meat sauce and the pizza and the beefaroni and the bread and the ice cream and the chocolate cake. John and I ate plate after plate for three hours, refusing to say anything to each other while shoveling horrible things into our faces that we had stopped enjoying after the first ten minutes because all buffet food tastes like it was made for horses. At some point the food turns from seeming like food and into cement, and there you are. I don’t remember which of us offered a truce, but I do remember I couldn’t really lift my arm to shake on it. When we got home we both went into our rooms. I felt so disgusting I came up later to find John watching Dumb and Dumber again and told him I felt demonic and he told me I should force myself to puke like he had as soon as we got back. Having never been able to force myself to barf, I let John talk me into taking my first shot of vodka ever (I was straight-edge at the time) to induce the barf-desire and then hung over the toilet semi-crying and still not able to get it out. The food liked where it was in me and insisted to stay there. Finally I decided to go for a run for the first voluntary time in my life, putting on sweat-clothes that felt tighter than ever to go pudge-trudging through the neighborhood sweating grease. I have run at least six days a week every week since, trying desperately to rid myself of what the rest of me keeps making.

2. Taco Bell Drive Thru

Some percentage of my current total body is comprised entirely of Taco Bell shit. It’s probably my face. I don’t know what it is about the colors of that sign, but every time I’ve had even a drop of alcohol I find myself magnetized to the glass like a brain damaged vacuum toddler. You can tell you’ve eaten Taco Bell when the next day you wake up feeling like someone rinsed your chest with rubber cement. Once I actually called ahead to the Bell from the bar at 3:00 AM to verify they were still open on a Sunday. The most I ever spent at Taco Bell was when my friend York and I pulled through and pretended like we were ordering for all the other people we’d been at the bar with, even though they’d already gone home to bed. Somehow every time the lady asked “Is that all?” one of us said “No” until we’d racked up $50 worth of recycled beef and beans and flour and cheese. I remember somehow we were both riding in the backseat on the way home like blue-eyed human voids each hoarding nachos and folded taco shit into our faces while an invisible driver escorted us magic carpet style to the scene of the crime where we would each gain ~10 pounds in beef weight before passing out still listening to Danzig.

3. Breakfast Cereal Nightcaps

During my fat years, from around age 11 to 15, I had trouble sleeping. Every night late in the evening I would sit down at the kitchen table with a box of cereal, usually Corn Flakes or Crispix, and a thing of milk. I would eat bowl after bowl of the cereal until I could feel it in my stomach with a weight like something pinning me to earth. The quiet repetition of shoveling cold crunchy mini-servings of a quasi-uniform substance while thinking of absolutely nothing calmed me down and made me feel like I could sleep, even if all I would do was lie in the bed in the dark and cup my belly, finally at least silent of all the other mental bullshit. Compulsively overeating, if nothing else, makes you remember you are nothing but a rind around some blood. Most nights I would finish a whole box, not even realizing I had done so until it was over and the cells were already beginning to turn into more skin. Sometimes when I close my eyes I can see all that cereal in the darkness behind my lids like a wall through which light can only partially fit. When I die I’d like to be buried under the cereal aisle of the grocery down the street from my parents house in a soundproof container full of milk.

4. McDonald’s and Waffles Every Evening and Morning at My Friend Jason’s House

Somewhere around 50 of the pounds I didn’t need but had as a preteen were probably acquired on nights I stayed at my friend Jason’s house. His mom would always take us to her college while she went to class and we played on the tennis courts (or rather my friend played and I sat there like a lardboy). On the way home she’d stop at McDonald’s and let us order whatever we wanted. My order was always the same: two 20-piece Mcnuggets, XL fries, chocolate milkshake, Coke. Yes, two drinks to wash that new lard down into my existing lard and fill me up again and his mom never flinched. Then, in the mornings, she would make us waffles fresh on the waffle iron over and over until we said stop or until she ran out of batter. At that point she would ask if we wanted her to make more batter and Jason always said no, though I always remained silent hoping she would see in my eyes, obviously, Yes.

5. Ryan’s Buffet from Open to Close

A couple years ago three friends and I decided it would be a great idea to go to a Ryan’s Steakhouse buffet in Hiram, Georgia and continuously eat from when they opened at 7:30 AM to when they closed 14 hours later. The idea was that we would eventually be kicked out for abusing the privilege, at which point we could contest their offering of “all you can eat” as untrue, though at no point did anybody in the place show signs of giving the slightest shit. We ate 109 total plates of food between the four us, including 13 steaks, an entire plate of cottage cheese, my first taste of fatback (which I mistook for French toast), and more soft serve ice cream than I would care to mention, paired with 30 total visits to the men’s room, as if the food we were putting in was only coming right back out. Here’s a picture of everything we put inside us:

The aftermath was the grossest I’ve ever felt, both on a physical and emotional level, though I can also somehow remember every second better than I remember my birthdays or swimming or being nice. For days after my bent up stomach wanted me to fill it to the edge of bursting like some marathon porn star ready to break the world record for penetration. Not a day has passed that I haven’t wanted to eat it all again, but instead I force myself to go on pretending I don’t wish I and everyone else were being obliterated by food every second of my life.

@blakebutler

Previoulsy by Blake Butler - Just Because You're Bored Doesn't Mean You Have to Be a Surrealist

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