Thursday, August 22, 2013

Moody: Feasting

UntitledBill and I went to one of the city's premier independent cinemas last week to see Blue Jasmine. They have great baked goods there and it's one of the few places left where you can get a ginger ale at all much less one from the fountain! That day I had paired my near-extinct ginger ale with a brilliantly dense brownie which was also special because I usually get the carrot cake. They have great carrot cake. I'm used to sharing it, though.

One of the revelations of spending time with Moody post-accident was exactly how limited his ability to serve himself was. We'd been seeing movies together at least once a week for several months before I remember sneaking some Junior Mints into the theatre. I was brought up polite so I offered him some and he agreed.

Then we stared at each other for a moment.

It was oddly familiar, that pause. Decades ago, when I worked for him, we had to go to the roof of our office's building to check the drains. While clearing a drain with his hand he cut his finger. This would have been about 1994 so prime AIDS crisis time in NYC and the world. Michael was gay. I immediately asked if he was OK and sort of leaned in to see if I could help. He was bleeding a bit. Then we stared at each other for a moment. You don't touch someone else's blood anymore, not unless you have a really good reason. Without acknowledging the many thoughts we heard in our heads we decided, together, that this small cut wasn't a really good reason and we went about our business.

More recently, with the candy, I realized pretty quickly that if he was going to have any I was going to have to feed it to him. After our short but loaded pause I fished a couple of discs out of the box and carefully laid one on his tongue. He looked up at me like a baby bird. I was terrified I'd accidentally choke him while his aide was in the lobby on a phone call so I fed him three or four but one at a time and with great slowness. We did our best to keep up our normal conversation to hide the fact that this was weird. Necessary and fine but undeniably weird.

Untitled It's a surprisingly intimate act to feed someone else. Think about the last person you fed. Was it a baby? A senior citizen? A lover? Did you use a utensil or your fingers? I might offer to share some food with a friend or co-worker but it's the rare friend indeed that I would physically feed. I remember that within an hour of meeting my ex-pseudo-father-in-law he was shoving a forkful of grits into my face to show me how amazing they are. Awkward didn't even describe how that felt but how could I say no? In "polite company" we proffer the plate and let someone choose a bite. We cut off the perfect melding of all the flavors and gently slide that portion onto the rim of someone else's plate. We cut a deviled egg down the middle with a knife and each pick up our designated half.

Michael broke his back in such a way that he could move his arms but not lift them higher than his shoulders. He had gross motor movement of the upper extremities but none of the fine motor skills required to hold a pencil or toothbrush or fork. From the moment he fell on those stairs to the moment he died several years later other people fed him. The people who performed this unusual, intimate act for him were sometimes family members or friends but were, more often, near complete strangers hired for the purpose. I imagine it must have been one of the oddest, most intrusive things to get used to. I don't know, though, if that was weirder than the moments with friends like the one he and I shared over those Junior Mints.

After that I held cups and straws for him. I forked up perfect bites of cake married with icing. I dropped morsels of candy onto his tongue. It became, for me at least, usual if not entirely devoid of the original weirdness. I will say, though, that it's not as much fun eating my own piece of cake at the movies.


  1. never really thought about that before, fascinating and yes it would be weird. so glad you did though, and sorry you can't anymore.

  2. what a lovely story about your friend :-)

    And eating devilled eggs that way? Who knew! I mostly take one and bite into it two or three times...interesting!

  3. I only eat them that way if I'm sharing them! When the egg is all mine I relish biting right in.