1. Once, I had a tiny pink lizard named Ike who consumed his freshly shed skin before it was entirely separate from his body. The act of shedding and eating was repulsive and entrancing; I peered through the glass to watch on the wooden stool I had swiped from the kitchen. The fluidity of the motion gave the illusion the tiny creature was grinning as he consumed his own flesh.
2. I am told we are animals. Our intelligence makes us superior, some say, but I think that’s bullshit. My body is fleshy and blubbery like the whale I once saw in captivity at Sea World. I look at myself naked in the mirror and I see the same desperate wildness.
3. A certain amount of self cannibalism occurs daily within the body. Unwittingly, we ingest dead cells from our tongue and cheeks; we swallow ourselves over and over.
4. Ike used to eat live crickets. There was something deliciously godlike about serving them up for consumption and watching them be devoured. The glass walls created an inescapable hell. I watched as Ike emerged from the shelter I had made for him out of molding clay. The tunnel was too big and didn’t hug his small body like a casket, but he still crept out silently from underneath. As he zeroed in on the cricket, the end of his tail started twitching. Only after swallowing did it straighten out again.
5. Before my first communion, I thought the bread my parents ate in church was just a snack before dinner. They told me, Eat this body and you shall live. I accepted the host from the priest like Oliver Twist and allowed the blood to flood my mouth. “No, it isn’t just a symbol,” my dad told me after mass. “You actually just ate the body of Christ. You drank His blood. Now He will always dwell inside of you.”
6. I pushed the white dress down to my ankles and shed my white gloves.
7. Jeffrey Dahmer, also called the Milwaukee Cannibal, was a schizophrenic serial killer who hunted and consumed seventeen boys. Dahmer described his lust for their bodies as one that could only be satisfied by consumption. When questioned about his sexual urges he responded, “I remember my first sexual encounter because I kept the recipe.”
8. As a senior in high school, I participated in a charity event that required me to eat a bowl of sautéed mealworms: a delicacy in other countries, I was told. The students to my right were served a toasted English muffin spread with bone marrow and further down the table sat a pig’s heart on a beautiful floral plate.
9. What is it like to crave human flesh? Is it like craving steak, or is it a more evolved desire? Perhaps, to some, it feels like the highest level of intimacy achievable.
10. The first house I lived in was ranch and the roof was as flat as a ballroom. I was still a baby when we left, but I’ve driven past it often enough to know it is dark and hollow. Anyone can creep up and look inside.
11. I long to slide out of my own skin; I want to unzip it and step out like the people in the wetsuits at Sea World.
12. The only adult show I was allowed to watch as a child was Survivor on CBS. Every Tuesday, I delighted in watching people voluntarily stranded on an island endure the most horrific things my eight year old brain could concoct. It prompted new questions I contemplated as I fell asleep at night. What would I put into my own body to survive? What could I stomach?
13. Self cannibalism, or Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, is an extraordinarily rare hereditary disease characterized by self mutilation. Over half of all Lesch-Nyhan patients forcibly have their teeth removed to prevent them from biting off pieces of their own bodies.
14. On Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Survivor was cancelled. President George W. Bush’s face was plastered on every channel. Too young to understand terrorism and still relatively untouched by death, I lamented the cancelled show and fell asleep in a bitter rage.
15. I am not sure why I stopped feeding my lizard Ike. The crickets were hard to get, I claimed, and I was too young to drive to get them myself. The week before Ike starved to death I picked him up and carried him outside to sit with me in the sunlight. He scampered in circles as though he could catch his own tail and I laughed, unknowing, or perhaps refusing to believe I was driving the small creature to madness.
16. A short fictional scene has haunted me for years. It is only a few sentences, buried on page 278 in Stephen King’s The Stand, but it comes back to me sometimes when I shut my eyes. One of the characters won a white rabbit at a school raffle. He adored the rabbit at first but slowly lost interest. For two weeks, the creature’s existence entirely slipped his memory. When he rushed back to the shed, the smell of death greeted him for the first time. The rabbit’s fur was matted and eyes infested with maggots. The paws were bloody and gnawed down, and the kid is faced with the notion that in the final extremity of the rabbit’s hunger it had tried to eat itself.
17. Twice, I accidently released my lizard’s crickets into the house like God did the locusts. In the days to come, I found their carcasses in the strangest places: the foot of my bed, in the folds of my training bras, between the forks and the spoons. It was as if they had grown weary and dropped dead; as if they were only allotted a fixed number of minutes to live. The ones who survived sang to me at night, bodiless and guttural, from inside my bedroom walls.
About the Writer
Gabrielle (Gabe) Montesanti is a recent graduate of Kalamazoo College, a new writer, and an old soul. As an undergraduate she studied mathematics and studio art. Her senior thesis was a nonfiction piece about her experience working for visual artists in Rome, and the project received honors from the college. After graduation, she completed her first residency at Sundress Academy for the Arts, where she tamed chickens and befriended a donkey. She hopes to begin an MFA program this fall in creative nonfiction.