FEELING: The one where you’re sitting alone in a dark bar with a bitter drink on a rainy day and you suddenly realize that this is your life, the final verdict on who you are at the age you’ve gotten to, and in a pulse beat you’re crowded by the phantoms of everyone you didn’t grow up to be, every delayed breakup and untaken trip and turned-down job now hoisting glasses on the stools around you, pressed knee-to-knee with the children you failed to bear or raise, and you feel that all your breath has gone into them, that somewhere only a shimmering membrane away from reality these others are breathing for you.
HOW TO EAT IT: What kind of snacks do they have at this bar? Goldfish crackers? Perfect. Whole handfuls of goldfish crackers. Tip the extras into your purse.
FEELING: The pinch in your chest and gut the day after a disappointment you’d convinced yourself you didn’t care about; the feeling that something has slit you bloodlessly like a scalpel and you are now clamped open, peeled and pithed as a frog, all your sensitive organs fully on display.
HOW TO EAT IT: Jello shots.
FEELING: The one where you’ve met a new friend or you’re getting to know an old one better and the current running between you is so powerful that talking seems painfully inefficient, you’re always heading to the subway having turned over only a few paltry pebbles from the mountain of conversations you want to have, and you’re trying to stay cool and remember that you have years to chip through that cliff but only if you don’t scare them off right now by being too intense but you feel like running a USB cable from your head into theirs or better yet just clawing your skull open and holding out your brain like a ripe fruit: “Here, take this, know me.”
HOW TO EAT IT: Brie, crackers, tiny pickles, cocktail weenies, party shrimp.
FEELING: The one where you’re downtown on one of the first warm and long days of spring, and the sun is setting at an hour when your winter-atrophied brain thinks it ought to be dark, and great swaths of lavish light are lying across the trees and benches and buildings like brocade, and all of the girls are just so startlingly pretty, and you feel that your chest is a silver bowl that’s been struck and is ringing, high and bright and painful because what right do you have to live among so much beauty?
HOW TO EAT IT: The most ornate thing you can buy from an ice cream truck.
FEELING: The one where you realize you’ll never kiss a particular person again and even though it’s so trivial it feels like grief, it feels like someone has reached down your throat and is turning you inside out.
HOW TO EAT IT: Straight bourbon until you’re unconscious.
FEELING: The one where someone finally breaks the news you’ve been refusing to admit you already knew, and the bones in your arms turn to aspic and your ribcage is aspic juddering around your heart.
HOW TO EAT IT: At first, it will be too big to eat. When you can eat, seek cake.