By Christian Lozada
I’ve always been pretty fat,
but my parents have gone without food.
My mom was white-trash hungry,
the embarrassment of food stamps
and proving poverty on a bi-weekly basis.
My dad was third-world hungry;
I have no concept of that horror.
Both of them are driven by past empty stomachs,
ghost pains and scars where no one can see.
So growing up, my brothers and I ate,
pathologically, we ate.
Every morning, after Dad’s 7pm to 7am shift,
he’d scream into random fast food microphones:
“give me twelb of the cheep ones.”
By “cheep” ones, he meant buck menu burgers
and every morning, like it was Christmas,
we’d wake up and divvy our shares:
half for breakfast and lunch,
half for dinner.
To this day, mayo doesn’t taste right to me
unless it sits out for a day.
If we had leftovers when Dad woke for work,
he would scream about desperation and sacrifice
about love and devotion
about gratitude and hungry days,
days spent begging family and friends for food.
In response, we would eat and cry,
making the salty burgers saltier,
and hope our tears and gratitude would be enough
to ease his once and always hungry stomach.
If it wasn’t,
if he still felt slighted,
he would stop bringing home food
to make us feel what he felt
to make us beg friends at school
for the apples and carrots and celery they wouldn’t eat.
I would lie to my Muslim friend about pork in his school lunch.
You see, I never went hungry,
but I’ve woken up to hunger every goddamn day.
Previously published in Gutters & Alleyways: Perspectives on Poverty and Struggle