This was written at the mid point between my trip to Russia in August 2006 and right now. There is a fair bit of real life inspiration in the opening paragraphs, although the gorging on junk food didn’t follow.
The junk food diet.
I started the diet in Russia. Perhaps the diet really started the night before we went to Russia. I vomited, and vomited, and vomited. Nothing stayed down. I felt feverish and sweaty, but managed to get to the bus for the airport. I had always dreamed of visiting Russia, and there was no way I was not going. On the plane, I vomited, and vomited, and vomited. Then I was dazed, and sweaty, and tired. We queued at passport control – I was glad of the rest from motion. I was in Russia! Soon we were in the baggage claim area. We all waited, and waited. Then the bags came, but not mine. We both waited. My baggage didn’t come on the carousel. We found someone to tell us it had gone to Budapest. I went into the toilet, and vomited.
On the minibus into Petersburg there was only room to stand. I looked out at Russia. Russian cars, Russian people, Russian buildings! You insisted, before we checked in, on buying me some 7 UP and I drank it. I kept it down. I did not feel like eating. We checked in. I insisted, despite your objections, that we walk a little, and we walked along by the Hermitage to Palace Square. Our hotel was in an excellent location. The staff seemed nice. I noticed little about the room or the decor. We walked to the Neva, and looked around. You insisted I drink more fluid, and we agreed to go in somewhere. I did not want to go to McDonald’s, but you suggested the food would at least be familiar. I had some chips, or French fries as they called them on the menu. We heard a young Frenchman ordering his meal in halting English. There were a lot of rather stylish young people there.
I did not vomit, but couldn’t stomach any more food. It was late, and even though I did not want to be a burden you cheerfully said you were tired and it would be good to go back to the hotel. I fell asleep straightaway. The next morning, for the first time in over twenty four hours, I felt hungry. The hotel served a continental breakfast – bread rolls, croissants, fresh-looking fruit. I tucked in. I felt fine. Then I had to get up and run. I vomited, and vomited, and vomited. That day we went back to McDonald’s. I did not want to hold you back. We also visited the Hermitage – we had two day passes, booked in advance. It was wonderful. My luggage did not arrive, so I bought new clothes, from a trendy boutique on Nevsky Prospect.
The rest of the week there, we were immersed in the culture of Russia, of Petersburg. We ate in McDonald’s, but also Pizza Hut, and KFC, and Burger King. You did not mind, you said. I knew that you meant it. We were freed from one of the great burdens of travel – the need to prove oneself not to be a tourist by becoming knowledgable about the local cuisine. Freed, by my sudden projectile vomiting if anything remotely healthy passed my lips, from this obligation, we could relax, and open ourselves to Russia. Tourists do things locals don’t, because they are tourists, and are strangers. Tourists who try and emulate the locals miss out on a lot, as they by definition do not possess the localness that locals do, and are too arrogant or stupid to understand the humility of tourism. My luggage did not arrive. We communed with the culture that was everywhere. I, normally so slow with languages, picked up Russian with dizzying speed. Reading Cyrillic was as natural as reading English. All this in a week, and I also understood – and I made you understand – the glorious depths of the Russian soul.
When we got back, I continued to eat fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Everything else made me vomit, or experience lengthy sessions of horrible crampy diarrhoea; either way I would be camped in the bathroom. I began to feel bloated and gross, and sick of the burgers and chips and pizzas and kebabs and breakfast rolls. I longed for fruit, vegetables, white fish, wholemeal bread. Every time I tried to eat these foods, I would be betrayed by my intestines.
Now I feel muscular and vital. I am still eating junk food, more than ever. I have embraced it. It is now my defining feature. You laugh, remembering our time in Russia. Other times you warn me of the health problems ahead. I don’t believe you. For me, these foods are health food. I am a different kind of person, one who needs ultra high calories, grease, and saturated fat. I am not the only one. You have seen us, guzzling, stuffing our faces, indulging ourselves. You have looked disapprovingly at us, feeling that we must be little better than pigs. Pigs are fine animals, and I will not hear a word said against them, but we are more than pigs. We are evolving, on our diets of junk food, into a new type of high energy human. I do not sleep more than an hour a night. I write, I paint, I sing, I create. I have never been so productive. I feel free, weightless, always moving. My luggage has never arrived.