1024 Words

Cannibal Dreams

Lisa E. Cote

At first we were just roommates. He answered the ad I placed in the paper, along with several others, and I chose him, as I might have chosen a dress for a funeral: plain, unremarkable, conservative, neat; he seemed to be all those things. He worked as a banker, didn't smoke or drink excessively, and, unlike the other male applicants, didn't come on to me when I showed him the spare bedroom. Yet when we became friends I discovered he was many things I hadn't expected. For one thing, he could cook.

"Amanda," he said to me one night as we ate canned spaghetti together and watched TV, "have you ever eaten frog?"

I looked at him suspiciously and after a short silence said, "No."

"Would you like to?"

Another pause, after which I responded, "I don't know." It seemed a rather forward thing to ask, a strange and presumptuous question. Or maybe he was joking.

He wasn't.

"There's a guy at the market who sells frog's legs," he went on, "and I bought some from him this morning. Would you like to try some? I'd love to share them with you."

"Well... OK, sure. I'll try some."

At the time I barely knew him well enough to remove his underwear load from the dryer; so it was strange to consider sharing delicacies with him. But there was something so sincere in his face and his voice, so innocent and inviting in his, "I'd love to share them with you."

When it came time to actually eat though, I was worried for a moment that I wouldn't be able to after all, that I would insult him, and worse, that I would reveal to him a weakness, a fear. But as I watched him savor every mouthful, chewing slowly with mute rapture, I couldn't resist, and took a tiny bite. It tasted like tender chicken thighs, cooked to perfection and basted in herbed butter sauce.

I groaned my approval without thinking, and he smiled at me, saying nothing and everything at once.

After that night exotic dining became a weekend routine for us: sweetmeats, rabbit stew, Cornish hen, ostrich, buffalo steak, calamari, sea urchin, shark. Then there was the vegetable and fruit kingdom Jerusalem artichoke, kohlrabi, blood oranges, plantain, guava, pomegranates. We devoured it all, and I grew more happy and fearless with every new discovery. I also learned a lot about him from his culinary crusades: "Tonight's sushi night," he would say, "because it reminds me of my stint as a DJ in Hong Kong," or "Try this Jambalaya. I got the recipe from my landlady in New Orleans. She taught me voodoo hexes too." Once, in the forest, as we picked wild mushrooms to eat with our asparagus, he pointed to a patch of dainty little flesh-colored fungi with round caps. "Those are magic mushrooms," he explained, "I tried them once---it was an experience."

Here was a guy who ironed his tee shirts and wore a tie to work, and he had partied at Mardi Gras and eaten magic mushrooms: maybe on the same night! I was intensely jealous of him then, and, of course, in love.

We continued to spend time together since he hadn't made many friends yet, and since I had let my other friendships slide. One of the friends I still talked to on the phone was always at me about him, asking what was going on, if it was going anywhere, and gee he wasn't that good-looking but what was he like in bed anyway? Of course I didn't have a clue, but I was convinced I already had the insight to say, "phenomenal." I told her that he would try anything, was open to everything. It was true. He watched "B" movies on late-night television one night, and showed me how to taste wine the next. He had a tattoo of a skull on his shoulder and a bird-watcher's poster on his closet door. More than that, however, he was entirely at ease with all his private contradictions, those of the world at large, and my own.

Soon I began to obsess about him leaving. Not that he had said anything about moving out or moving away; but I knew it was inevitable that he desert me, just because there were still places he hadn't been. And one of those places, I reminded myself, was my bed. I would not let him go without, as he would say, sharing it with him. So I waited for an opportune weekend, bought an extra bottle of wine for our supper, dabbed on some exotic perfume. Sandalwood.

"Amanda," he said to me after it was over, "I should tell you I'm already attached."

There was a picture of a pretty woman in a military uniform in his room. I had hoped it was his sister or his cousin, but had never asked, just in case.

"That's fine," I said.

He had an admirable physique, as I'd guessed, but the sex had been commonplace, almost nondescript. I wondered if he'd made it that way on purpose.

That night, after he returned to his room, I dreamed I was having dinner alone. The meat was choice, delectable, tender and rich, with the flavor of wild game. I knew in the dream that I had cooked it, that I had even hunted the beast myself in the forest, but I could not remember what it was. Venison? Rabbit? Pheasant? I couldn't say. But I knew the sauce was made from magic mushrooms. I thought I must be in India, because of the Sandalwood trees, and I wondered if eating this flesh was therefore sacrilege. I thought that even if it was it was the finest meal I'd ever had. Only when I woke did I realize I'd been feasting on him.

He moved away not long after, to be with the woman in the picture, and didn't leave me a forwarding address.

As for eating frog, I've recently learned that some species of them are cannibals, and I haven't been able to touch them since.

Copyright ©1999 Lisa E. Cote. All Rights Reserved.

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May, 1999
Issue #37

1024 Words