I am writing this from the desk in my bedroom. There is a can of strawberry lemonade Peace Tea beside a plate speckled with crumbs of bread and cake. This is my dinner after a five-hour shift working retail—my rightful reward. This desk is a complicit witness to chips crackling and spilling, to hashbrowns from Oscar Peterson Hall (OPH) dipped in syrup and dripping on furnished wood, Pad See Ew from the Davis food court steaming out of Thai Express boxes, saliva dribbling, Tim Hortons Iced Capps neglected and melting on winter mornings, teeth crunching, plastic forks splintering from the force of starving hands, chicken tenders drowned in brown sauce, stir fry turning black from rot as assignments pile and the brain drains into pages of readings and writings.
I sit at my desk because I like to be alone. On campus, that is where I sometimes prefer to be—locked away like a princess in a faraway castle, decomposing like the Caesar salad in my trashcan from a few nights ago. This desk is where I use food to process complex emotions, and exercise aesthetic pleasure and preference—it is where I appreciate the quality of food.
Many times, I spend my meal plan at the Davis food court. With Thai Express, Harvey’s, Mongolian Grill, Pizza Pizza, and Express Salad, the Davis food court is spoiled sickly for its choices. Even with all these options, I hardly have a taste for anything other than Thai Express and Pizza Pizza. They are as constant and reliable as a mother. There are days when my body’s axis tilts into a grave melancholia, when I want to give up, when nothing my professors say soaks into the cotton in my brain, when every second brings me a depth lower into hell and I struggle to remain present, when the only solution is to eat and cry, to eat to cry. The spiciest Pad See Ew/Pad Thai, a fried banana, Hawaiian pizza, and a drink of my choice usually do the trick. It is the spices in the Thai Express and the fullness of the pizza; I flood my senses with the sweet smells and meticulous flavors of pineapple, soy sauce, chicken, and Chinese broccoli. I keep eating. I watch an episode of Glee. I keep crying, and then I sleep. I wake up, and I am better. Maybe I shall try to get ahead on that essay for my political science course. Maybe I shall open TikTok and never close it.
The Starbucks in the Communication, Culture, Technology (CCT) building gives me a feeling of power because of its proximity to the library. In my delusions and romanticization, I have come to regard strawberry Frappuccinos, iced chai lattes, and matcha drinks as a kind of ale for the striving scholar—a salve for the tortured brain. In between classes and study breaks I find myself raw and chipper with hunger as I line up for my daily ration of iced chai latte. I am not unlike the young men that flock to bars at night after bending steel in warehouses, lifting heavy boxes, and huffing against their bodies’ protests. They have dreams to fulfill and people that are counting on them. So do I. I deserve this, this sweet thing to soften the toil, to keep me distracted from how hard being a student at this institution is just like those men deserve the warmth of rows of vodka at Happy Hour after a long day.
Many times, I take this food with all its oils, calories, sugars, and salts back to my room. Sometimes I meet with friends in these spaces, and we commune over food and all couldn’t be better. We are young and hungry and unstoppable as we eat.