"Fruity Pebbles! Fruity Pebbles! Fruity Pebbles!" The twins would sometimes chant together in the mornings while they ran around upstairs in their Superman underwear. Fruity Pebbles were one of the only foods they would eat. I couldn't believe they had the nerve to be picky when we barely had enough.
For breakfast I usually had a Pop-Tart. I didn't care that much what I ate - I just wanted something to put in my stomach to stop it from growling. We rarely had hot good. When our stove was broken, I tried to heat up some ravioli from a can by putting it up against the radiator. That didn't work, but I gave it a shot because I wanted my little brothers and cousins to have something warm for a change. One time I did manage to heat up some hot dogs on that radiator.
"Come over here, you guys," I said, trying to round up all the little ones. "Sit down here on the floor and eat." I lined them up acrossss the dirty carpet and handed out the not-too-hot dogs one at a time. We didn't even have buns. Hot gods, ramen noodles, cereal, SpaghettiOs, and ravioli - those were the things we always ate. Most of it came out of a can or box.
She also took me pleaces - my parents let me walk to Arby's with her because it was in our neighborhood. "Get whatever you want," she sould tell me, pulling out a few dollars from the back pocket of her jeans. I usually ordered the fries; they were so good, especially with hot sauce slathered on them. April was mad cool - mainly because she got me out of that house.
By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was starving. Other thatn a turkey sandwich I'd ripped off from a grocery store a couple of days before and a few scraps of food I'd found here and there, I hadn't eaten a crumb. To be honest, I'd almost forgotten it was Thanksgiving; when you're homeless, you tend to lose track of mine.
I stuffed my face at the southern-style buffet. The crispy fried chicken was so good, it practiclaly melted on my tongue. I dug into mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I sampled the baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens, and corn. And the bisuits! I must have gobbled up five of six of them. For some weird reason there was no turkey, but I didn't care. I ate so much, I had to unbutton the top button of my jeans. As soon as I devoured the first plate, I went back for a sescond. Then a third. I didn't want to look greedy, but I didn't know when the next time would be that I could eat again. And everything was delicious; it seemed like the best meal I'd ever had in my life.
As I was cramming in another buttermilk biscuit, the man with the triangle haicut stopped by. "People tell me I look like Arsenio Hall because of my hair," he joked.
"Do you think I look like Arsenio?"
I smiled, nodded, and put another bite in my mouth.
"Slow down there, honey," he said. "If you eat any faster, you're gonna hurt yourself!" I kind of laughed with my mouth full of biscuit.
Plus I got to eat a lot of scrumptious fried chicken and haer the best music I'd ever heard in my life.
The next morning I woke up to the smell of sizzling asusage. Sniper thumped up the stairs and tapped on my door. "Good morning, Michelle," he said. "Come down when you're ready for breakfast."
One afternoon in my sophomore year I was sitting in the lunchroom. Alone. I was about to eat my cheeseburger, which I'd slathered with my favorite hot sauce.
I grabbed a fry from my tray and began chewing it. Maybe he's some kind of religious freak, I thought. I kept eating my fries until he eventually got up and left.
"Sketti!" he shouted, trying to say "spaghetti." Then he lifted his spoon up in the air and clapped it against his left hand. We had a joke that whenever we ate spaghetti and meatballs, he'd try to steal one of my meatballs and I'd pretend not to know where it went. He'd laugh hysterically as I looked all over for it.
After I'd return from job searching, she'd sometimes cook me up one of those packets of ramen noodles.
I showered, threw on some knee-length jean shorts, a plain white T-shirt, and my most comfortable pair of sandals. I then shoveled down a toaster pastry.
He took the wrapping off the sausage sasndwich and tried to shove it into my face, but I presssed my lips together and shook my head from side to side. Then he grabbed my by the jaw and tried to force it in.
"You need to eat!" he shouted.
He stuck the plate of food under my nose. It was spaghetti with red sauce on top of it. "My mother made it," he said. "See, look - I'll eat some first." He used his fork to pick up some pasta and stuffed it in his mouth. "See," he said, chewing with his mouth wide open. "It's okay." Some of the sauce spilled out of the corner of his mouth. I thought he was trying to play a trick on me. But I was starving. How many days had it been since I'd eaten that toaster pastry the morning I'd left for my appointment?
When he put the fork up to my mouth, I too a little baby bite. It actually taseted decent. When he saw I was eating it, he put a lot more noodless on the fork and shoved them into my mouth. I chewed it up slowly at first, but then faster. He gave me more and more until I cleaned the whole plate. Maybe I'm going to die, I thought, but at least I'm not going down on an empty stomach. After the good was gone, he got the glass off the table. "Here's some waer," he said, holding it up to my lips. I drank it so fast that I almost choked.
He didn't say too much to me - he just fed me an Egg McMuffin and made me drink some OJ. On some days that was my only meal. So where he leavs out of the driveway, I thought, he must be going to McDonald's. He went there on most mornings. That's how the basement floor got covered with yellow wrappers.
At night or on the weekends sometimes he showed up with a little more food. It could be anything, but it was usually something that had sat around, like dried-up pizza, spoiled beans with hard white rice, warm runny yogurt, or a stale taco. It was all total crap.
My stomach growling; I'd have fantasies of eating my favorite foods. I'd picture a large order of Arby's fries with hot sauce, sizzling hot and smelling like heaven. In my mind I'd take my time, nibbling little bites of eath long, delicious fry until the whole container was gone. Or I'd go back to some of those meals at the church - the creamy mac and cheese melting on my tongue, the crunch of the crispy chicken skin between my teeth. Or those buttermilk biscuits, soft as a pillow, with a golden yellow pat of butter dissolving in the middle.
He showed up in my room with a white cake that had red and green sprinkles all over it. It looked like it came from the supermarket. "Here. Merry Christmas," he said.
In the mornings the dude came upstairs and gave us something to eat, usually still an egg sandwich from a fast food restaurant.
The meal was almost always the same: rice and beans. The beans could be any color: black, red, pink. They all came from Goya cans. The white rice was the cheap junk, the kind you pour out of a box. Every now and then I saw little bugs in the rice. Gross. After Gina and I ate and cleaned up the mess, Amanda had to cook her own beans and rice while we sat in the kitchen.
Then I'd dream really detailed dreams about food. I'd dream about the kind of fried chicken I had at the Baptist church. I'd imagine that I was having a big piece of chocolate cake. Then I'd wake up to my stomach aching painfully from always being empty. It was awful.
Amanda and gina were making our usual rice and beans, and Amanda was masshing some up to feed to Jocelyn.
"Jocelyn wanted to get each one of you guys a hot dog," he said. The only trouble was that the hot dog was smothered in mustard - and I am extremely allergic to mustard.
When I was eight years old I ate some deviled eggs. Fifteen minutes later my whole face swelled up and turned red. (...)
He knew it too: whenever he got burgers at McDonald's, I wouldn't eat it if he'd forgotten to ask them to hold the mustard.
The dude brought in some black beans from a can, plus some water. Gina mashed it up and fed me. I couldn't get my mouth open wide enough to drink out of the cup, so she used a straw to give me some water.
They blew up a bunch of colorful balloons, and the dude had bought a cake from a store. But we ate the same damn rice and beans. And, of course, he blasted his sucky salsa music.
Once I was allowed to eat solod food, my first meal was a cheeseburger (no mustard!) from Steak'n Shake, plus a cheesecake blizzard from Dairy Queen. For once I wanted to taste a hamburger that wasn't rotten. One of the police officer went out and got me the food himself. When I bit into that big fat burger, it was like going to heaven! Some of the juice dripped down my chin. The blizzard was just as good. I hadn't had ice cream in years - it felt so cold going down my throat.
As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, I have also really enjoyed doing to culinary school and learning to cook. After not being able to make my own food for so long, I love finding a new recipe and trying it out and, especially, feeding my friends. The look on their faces when my dish hits the spot makes me so happy.
Michelle Knight "Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings"より