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Starving For What?

I'm sure I've told you all this story before, the one where my eventual husband and I were shopping at Rainbow Market in San Francisco for luncheon items. We picked out arugula and olives and cheese and bread. We were in a festive mood, and we walked up to the register and put our goods on the counter, ready for check out. Laughing, I said to the clerk, "Oh, hurry! I'm starving."

The clerk looked at me--no irony this one--and said, "Maybe only spiritually."

I think I laughed. Or maybe I retorted. But mostly, I think we got in the car, deflated, thinking about how spiritually starving we both might be. After all, it was a Sunday, and what were we doing? Buying food. We weren't walking on our knees to Lourdes or beating a gong or wearing a hair shirt or breaking bread with anyone but ourselves, soon, because, dammit, I really "was" starving.

But all these years since, I've thought about the idea of starvation and now I know actually nothing about the literal term. I have never once in all my life been without food. Even in college, though I ate less than I ever would and much of it was composed of dried and then reconstituted noodles and cans and cans generic tuna. If things got really bad, I could have gone to Save Mart and stolen what I needed. Better and more legal, I could have driven home to my mother's.

I don't know how to contemplate starvation, the kind where there isn't enough food. We have poor folks who starve themselves for other reasons, and that I've seen, but in my neck of the affluent woods, we have food. Too much food. More than flipping enough.

So what am I starving for? Am I spiritually starving? I actually think not. I'm okay with the notions of life, death, and the fact that we are all going to die. I've kind of figured out the whole golden rule thing, and how we don't pay the piper when we die and go to hell but that if we live badly, we pay now. And pay again, paying all the way till death. So, I try to do what I know won't cause suffering, mine or others'.

Sometimes I'm too busy, so I might be starving for peace. But since in my spiritual quest I've determined that this life is it, I'm actually trying to live the one I have. I might not have a lot of time left, so I'm cramming it all in.

Maybe I could be a better everything (name the role and place it here), and I'm trying. So I'm not starving for realization or epiphany. I keep having them (no drugs involved) and I try to use them in my daily life.

Now, almost seven years since that clerk gave me the what for in the grocery store, I know what I could say to him. But I wouldn't say it. He was starving for something I didn't understand then. Maybe he was starving for my reaction--for others' reactions. He needed to be seen. He was starving for that, and I gave it to him. I fed him a little bit. I wonder if he's still hungry.