Just Jam

This story contains discussion of eating disorders. If you or someone you know is struggling with eating disorders, please reach out to FRCC Mental Health Counseling Services, or call The Colorado Crisis line at 1-844-493-8255.

It all began when I was eating breakfast at my regular diner.  They offer a good deal if you get there early enough, two eggs as you like them, toast, and “a breakfast meat” of the chef’s choice.  Usually it’s bacon.  Sometimes you get sausage but usually bacon.  I pay the small up-charge and get the toasted English muffin.  I like to spread jam on the muffin, the jam in the small plastic tubs.  I like the small plastic tubs, they feel safe to me, contained, clean.  So, you can imagine my shock when the waitress put a small ceramic bowl on the table with this wiggly red glop in it.  No small container, no clean-feeling sachet, just a heap of gelatinous goo staring at me next to my food.  

I looked to the waitress and asked “What is this?”

She stopped mid stride away from me and tilted her head, “Huh?  What is what?”

I pushed the small bowl away from me a bit with my fingers, to avoid its close proximity, “This, what is this?”

The waitress smiled at me, but her eyes didn’t really focus on me, she seemed to be thinking about her other tables when she answered, “Oh, that’s just jam, we ran out of individual packets so it’s from a large jar, enjoy!”

As she hustled away I looked at the bowl of jam.  It had an odd color to it, reddish but as I rotated it in the light it seemed to shift into a more purple tone.  I sniffed it, carefully, and it smelled of fruit and sugar, but I couldn’t place the kind of fruit.  Reluctantly I spread it on my English muffin and bit down on it.  

The flavor was fruit.  I wish I could be more specific, thinking on it now as I pen this, but that is all I could think of at the time, fruit.  Fruit and sweet.  It wasn’t particularly memorable, it was just a generic fruit flavor.  I enjoyed it on both sides of my English muffin, between bites of egg and breakfast meat, bacon again.  But while eating it I sort of lost track of time, my mind felt like it was a cross between a low static hum and a white blankness.  It was peaceful, kind of a drifting space.  I came back into my own head when I heard the sound of a spoon scraping on ceramic.  I looked down and in front of me was the bowl of jam, now empty.  I’d eaten the entire wad of jam.  

“Good huh?” I looked up startled and the waitress had reappeared, she was collecting my plate and the bowl, putting the check onto the table.

“What kind of jam was that?” I asked, a bit of a hitch in my voice, it is unsettling to lose some time and realize you just automatically ate something.

“Oh, it’s just jam.  Have a great day Hun.”  The waitress smiled at me and left.  I paid my check but I had an unsettled feeling in my stomach.  How could you just sit down and spoon up an entire bowl of mystery jam and not realize you were doing it?  That question kept nibbling at my mind, it stayed with me as I rode the bus to campus, through my classes, and back onto the bus.

I couldn’t let it go, because my stomach remained unsettled, I could feel something in there squirming.  At first, I thought it was just a normal upset stomach, you know that feeling you get, when your stomach gurgles and shifts, and you get little acid burps.  Throughout the day I would rub it periodically, trying to get it to calm down.  But as the day wore on I gradually concluded it was not my stomach being upset, it was something inside my stomach moving on its own.  It is a very different feeling, subtle at first, but then very uncomfortable.  It also raised a serious question in my mind by the mid-afternoon, how does one get something out of their stomach they don’t want to remain there?

It has to go through your intestines if you want to get rid of it, and I had a very firm feeling that I didn’t want that to happen.  I don’t know why, but the jam had left me unsettled.  I don’t know when I concluded it was the jam that was still in there, but somehow by the time my classes were done for the day, I was firmly convinced.  The problem was with the jam I’d had that morning.  I had to get it out.

Prior to leaving campus I quietly looked online for solutions to the problem.  There are a surprisingly large number of suggested ways to make yourself throw up, including many pages of advice not to do so, and to seek help for bulimia.  I found a method that seemed pretty reliable, I used to use my fingers to throw up in the past, but I’d done that enough it wasn’t reliable.  But I found a technique that seemed reliable so back to the bathroom, and after a surprisingly long-time dry retching, I was able to heave up the jam.  I swear the jam fought back, like it was desperately trying to stay put.

Then the static came back and the white space, I panicked when I felt it coming, but it overwhelmed me.

When I came back into my own head again, the toilet bowl was empty, little swirls of water.  Had I flushed?  I didn’t remember.  I was unsure where the jam was, or what happened to it.  I went home confused.

I’m writing this before bed, I feel my stomach gurgling again and definite movement, like before.  I’m scared.  I really don’t want to go to sleep, but I’m feeling very tired at this point.  It has been a long day and maybe I’m just overreacting to things.  After all, it’s just jam.

Written by Edward Chusid

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