how to eat in public

CW: disordered eating


I’m sitting on a peak-hour train with pickle juice running down my wrists

and everyone is staring. It’s not what I’m doing, rather how I do it;

sucking every bit of melted cheese off the wrapping, between an elderly woman and a suit,

it probably looks pretty funny.

The smell of it will linger on my hands all night; on my mind even longer –

knuckles red raw. I’ll blame the winter but I go through two bottles of Dettol a week.


I go to food courts just to watch people shovel oily chow mein, and sweat under those ugly lights.

And when my mother declares eating in public to be a disgusting habit

I want to tell her that every afternoon on the way home,

I hide whole slabs of chocolate in my jacket pocket.

Breaking off jagged chunks at one-minute intervals, no – every thirty seconds, then less – hunched at the bus stop dribbling Cadbury,

just to give the street a proper show.


One time I got really high and paced the aisles of Coles for what felt like an hour,

picking things up and putting them back again.

Sat cross-legged in the carpark with a loaf of sandwich bread and fingerfuls of peanut butter.

My tongue was thick with it and I couldn’t stop laughing

and even when the pigeons closed in, I couldn’t stop laughing


You surprise me with a picnic, tell me you’ve packed four kinds of dip and an assortment of crackers

for us to make our own hor d’oeuvres.

How refined, I say, as I drop a Savoy spicy-capsicum-side down in the grass.

My hands are greasy but I hold yours anyway and

we fall asleep in the sun, and when I wake up there’s dip smeared across my cheek

and I realise, suddenly, that I don’t give a single fuck



Clara is a writer living in Melbourne. She draws inspiration by eavesdropping on public transport and from the dramatic content emerging from her weekly scheduled existential crises. 

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