Packed Lunches: A Story of Possession

Mathilde Turner

Halloween: the one night a year when it’s acceptable, and even encouraged, to want to be someone else. This year, I planned to be a space cowboy. It seemed ideal: all the confidence of the patriarchy with none of the dull footwear! On the night, however, I couldn’t quite commit; no matter how hard I tried to get into the mindset of Buffalunar Bill, I kept being dragged back to reality by every Patrick Bateman handing me a business card. In the face of such convincing character acting, it was difficult to compete.

Thus, Halloweek came to an end having offered little of its usual identity-erasing respite. “Alas,” thought I, as November 1st dawned over me and my companions in the 68 towards West Norwood, “I shall have to remain fixedly human for another year.” Accepting the immutability dictated by flesh, I took off my Stetson with resignation. Little did I know, that very day, I would unwittingly initiate a process of transmutation more ghoulish than anything I could have ever foreseen.

Packed lunches are a staple of the hopeful student’s penny saving techniques. The idea is: eat and repeat. One week after Halloween, I am on my 7th day of sweetcorn and pea pasta. As the dew trickles from the lid of my Tupperware, I’m not sure it’s worth it. The act of boiling it is a remote memory. Each morning my dissociation deepens as I open the only pan I own to scoop out my daily portion, like a jaded Oliver Twist or a cage-raised hen. To describe my alimentary consumption over the past week as character building is an understatement. I feel like I’ve had a crash course in divorce, intimacy giving way to disdain as I munch upon the mulch I once loved.

I could recognise these peas by touch alone, by smell; I would know them in death, at the end of the world. These delicate mushy pearls, squishing alongside the sweetcorn which mocks a discombobulated grin in my Tupperware. The corn pops wetly in my mouth, sweetness turning sour by day 6. The joining element, the base of it all, is Napolina’s own rigatoni. They provide a rollercoaster of texture. The first day, firm, soon cedes to the second, clammy, passing through to moist, pasty and finally culminating in the unforgettable sticky. As I chew and I chew and I chew, I realise it makes no difference. This gluey mass will not descend into the tracts of my intestines. Instead, it moulds itself to the roof of my mouth, a palatial refurbishment I am keen to reject. The more I chew, the more I am besieged, until I am more pasta than person, pushing peas against my sweetcorn teeth with my pasty  tongue. I need no longer envy the Jordan Belfort impersonators; finally, I too understand what it means to get lost in the sauce. I have become a gluten glutton.

The saying rings true: you are what you eat.