Comfort Food

By: Kitty Thomas

After I'd finished the water, I placed the bottle back beside the door and went to sit in the corner. I wanted to see if he was watching me closely enough to take the bottle right away, or if he'd wait. He was studying me, but I was also studying him.

I wondered if he'd tie me up to keep me from dancing, or doing yoga, or just plain moving in any way that had meaning besides mindless pacing. Tying me up would require violence on his part, something he didn't seem willing to bring into the equation just yet. Of course, he could always drug me again.

I stared at the empty bottle, my eyes widening. I couldn't remember if the safety seal had been on or not. I'd just unscrewed the lid and drank; I'd been too thirsty to think about it. Most mundane safety issues weren't concerning me right now.

Several minutes of paranoia passed, and I didn't feel myself getting sleepy. Finally, I relaxed and slumped against the wall. I didn't remember falling asleep, but I knew I'd slept when the sound of the door creaking woke me. The dream had been loud and colorful, my subconscious mind flooding me with the sensations I needed to keep me reasonably sane, to help me hold out through my waking hours.

I panicked for a second, thinking I'd been drugged and tied up, but my arms were free. I was alert, and sitting up, watching him warily as he came into the room. I could smell the chicken noodle soup coming out of the bowl and found I was hungry, much hungrier than I'd thought.

He placed the metal tray on the ground and sat across from me in the same manner as before. He arched an eyebrow as if questioning whether I'd learned my lesson or not. Would I throw my food again and be sent to bed without supper? My mouth remained shut but my eyes told him I understood. Throwing the soup was pointless. It wouldn't result in a reaction; it would only make it longer before I could eat again.

He crumbled the crackers in and lifted the spoon to my mouth. It was still soothing, despite everything, a microsecond of safety and warmth in every bite, my mom taking care of me when I was sick. I tried to shut out those thoughts.

The soup wasn't for my benefit. It was for his, to more easily break down my defenses. The water had been the same. Small kindnesses. So I would come to trust and depend on him. I couldn't forget what he was, that I wasn't his guest.

I'd been afraid he would fondle my breasts again, but he didn't. Instead, every few bites he trailed his finger down my cheek. I fought hard not to flinch and equally hard not to lean into his touch. I tried not to react at all. I just sat there and let him do it, and then it was over and he was feeding me again.

Every few bites he'd do that same comforting gesture as if I were a wild cat he was trying to tame. As if he were rescuing me. Sometimes he stroked his hand through my hair, and once, in a moment of weakness, I leaned into the touch. It was stimulation, connection, communication. It was something. But every time I leaned in, I hated myself just a little more.

When the bowl was empty, he left the room. I sighed, leaning back against the wall, trying not to hold onto memories of his hand on me as if it were a good thing. A few minutes later, he was back, and I tensed again. Was this when it would start?

He held a strip of black cloth in one hand and moved slowly toward me. I struggled to my feet and backed away to a different part of the room. Still, he advanced. Finally, I was backed into another corner and had nowhere left to go.

My eyes pleaded with him not to do it, but I didn't fight him. I didn't waste words because I knew he wouldn't answer them. I was shaking as he tied the blindfold around my eyes.

But I let him. I let him because I knew he'd do whatever he wanted anyway, and I was developing a sense of gratitude that he hadn't physically hurt me yet. He hadn't hit me, or cut me, or any of a million other things he could have done. He hadn't raped me, yet. And he seemed disinclined to do those things, at least in the classical way.

When the blindfold was in place, he took me gently by the arm and led me from the cell. We went down what I perceived to be a hallway, and he took me into another room, locked the door, then removed the blindfold.

We were in a large but plain bathroom. All decorations and picture had been taken off the walls, if they'd ever been there in the first place. The mirror had been removed, and there was a faint outline on the wall where it had once hung.

There was a sink with toothpaste and a plain white toothbrush and a shower with a plain white curtain. On the toilet seat were clothes in my size, gray sweatpants and a white top that buttoned up like an art smock. No panties or bra.

There was a chair in the bathroom where he sat and regarded me.

“Please turn around,” I said. I didn't believe he would do it, but he did. He turned his chair to face the door, as if he were a gentleman. I thought for a brief moment about wrapping my hands around his neck and squeezing, but I knew I wouldn't be able to kill him before he could break my arm.

I turned on the water, quickly shucked my clothes, and got under the spray. I drank in each sensation, the hot water spraying over my body, the scent of the soap and shampoo. After I'd finished, I rested my forehead against the cool tile and let the water run down my skin. I was afraid at any second he'd jump up and pull me out of there, but he didn't.