March 17, 2021, noon
TW: mention of EDs and behaviors
The house smells like a bakery at 7a.m. The kitchen is too small to confine the scent that boldly bursts through the open door, into the living room, making its way through the hallway, and into all four rooms. It waves its wand, casts its spell and charms everyone out of their rooms. They appear to be floating weightlessly, almost as if hypnotized, sleepwalking their way into one shared space.
That is the power of baking: it brings us all together.
Faith comes in many shapes, and it can be found in places we least expect. Some seek their faith in church and devote themselves to a Sunday mass or prayer. I am not religious, but I found a faith I am never willing to let go of. Saturday mornings are my sacred ritual. My temple is my great-aunt's home. My priest, my confidant is Mana. My Bible is my family's recipe notebook. My prayer is the list of ingredients of the day.
With Mana, I find my faith in mindfully baking our way through the recipe notebook, carefully written by hand. Each page tells me a secret, reminds me of a special feast, and introduces me to people from the past who continue to live through that notebook. Each page has its almighty lesson that I will carry with me to grow inside, to be someone better, to have a fulfilling life.
There is no sacramental bread in our temple. Each week we put in our mouths a different prayer. Sometimes we leave the oven on for too long, or sometimes we knock into the bowl one too many cups of sugar. Regardless of the outcome of the recipe, it is always heavenly. This one tastes like a crispy sugar crust that bursts with a pop at the top of your palate. The sweet bread is not too dry. It's perfectly moist. No matter what, our food will always taste like a symphony in perfect tune. Why? Because of the maestro.
Mana has the most illuminated smile and the warmest of hugs. She gives herself fully without ever expecting anything back from anyone. She has the divine ability to grasp the most thorny and grayish day and swipe it all away. She will take a bucket and spill it on you, splattering all the colors, offering you a rainbow. She's my great-aunt, my priest, my confidant, my fairy godmother.
But not even my superwoman can beat the monster. It doesn't have seven heads, it's not 40-feet tall, not even green, nor does it have skin like a snake. In fact, you can’t even see that monster. And neither can I. But I can certainly feel it, and I know it lives.
Our Saturday tradition was broken by this monster - Bulimia. Shattered into pieces. Splattered on the floor. Tiny bits all over. Untraceable crumbs. Invisible. Gone. How do you whisper your secret to that sweet, selfless lady without hurting her? How do you tell Mana that the delicious recipes you've carefully prepared together during the last few weeks have all been deliberately wasted, just like that? How do you get away from the long-awaited Saturday mornings? Is it easier to just walk away and creatively come up with different excuses every seven days? (You'll either be hosting a friend visiting Rio, have a load of exams to study for, be sick, travel, or God knows what.) No. It's a lot fucking harder. It smashes her heart. No—you smash her heart. You rip it out, throw it on the floor, and jump on it with heavy, war-like boots.
I don't know why I’m not honest with her. She knows what I have. I've never hidden my eating disorder from anyone. But for some reason, within my family, it's an unspoken truth. So I don't know how much she knows. I'm afraid that this truth might do more damage. She would certainly be the first one to put on her heavy armor—helmet and all—draw her sword, and bravely go after the monster. But to go to war with that monster, she would have to struggle through the darkest and most haunting of forests: me. And I fear she would fail. I cannot let her fail.
So I keep this a secret from her, and our Saturdays are now merely nostalgia. The fresh perfume of sugar is fading. You can barely smell it anymore. Our favorite bakery is closing. Not for the night, but for good. There is a big sign on the door painted in red, capital letters: SOLD.
That is the power of Bulimia: it tears us all apart.
About the Author
Márcia Ramos was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro and moved to Montreal in September 2017 to pursue a masters degree in Nutrition. She decided to quit halfway through the program in order to recover from her eating disorder and follow her dream of being a writer. She recently graduated in Honours English Literature at Concordia University and is a poetry editor of the literary journal Soliloquies Anthology.
Connect with Márcia on Instagram @marcia.brunolobo