Conversation VIII

Colleen Wagner
3 min readMar 15, 2022

I am fasting. Not because I am trying to lose weight or rid my body of some toxin, but for discipline. In case the food scarcity and increasing incidents of empty store shelves portents a famine.

While we are holed up, venturing out only to get essentials in order to contain this virus the business of food distribution, who has it and who doesn’t, and who will get it and who won’t, and what won’t we get anymore is shifting like tectonic plates.

I grew a big garden this year. I canned and froze fruits and vegetables. I made soups and stews and pasta sauce and jams and pickles and filled my freezer and pantry.

But what if you don’t have enough, I ask as I quickly look away from you as if the distance can create clarity. How many won’t have enough and how much of mine will I share? I know how that has played out in the capitalist system of winners and losers. Is that our human nature? The Bonobo monkey, a species of small chimpanzees who are matriarchal in their social structure tend to share what they have with strangers.

I am hoping fasting will help break my fear of scarcity. Fear of having nothing. No shelter. No food. No water. No access to toilets and showers.

I suddenly imagine a crowded refugee camp, barbed wire enclosure, haunted hungry faces of mothers and children, men trying to be strong, the elderly giving up hope.

I weep.

I want justice for all. I also want to have something left for me. I am not a communist.

Why must it be either or? I hear your voice.

I am fasting.

I must.

To overcome the fear.

You worry too much, you tell me, with your usual bemused smile.

Maybe I was a refugee in a past life, I risk a radical thought.

Maybe you were a bird.

We both laugh. Look at each other. You there. Me here. Lots of space in between. You delicately bite into an appetizer I carefully prepared for your visit. Many of our friends will not meet inside, even as the weather becomes colder.

Am I bribing you with food, like I have done with the feral cats around here until I’m able to trap them and get them to the SPCA. A trap disguised as kindness. I want to hug you but know better.

I made the appetizers for you, I say, encouragingly.

You smile. A Cheshire cat. Do you sense a trap?

Because I’m fasting, I intone.

For how long? And you fill your plate with several of the offerings.

I feel a twinge of anxiety. Will you eat them all and leave none for me?

Guess I’ll find out, I watch you chew. You are relishing it. My mouth waters. You know it too.

I had a friend who lived in a refugee camp as a girl. She told me about hunger, how she would steal food from others whenever she could, how she hoards food to this day, is unwilling to share, who will shave tiny slivers of flesh off the suet hung for the birds.

You offer me one of my appetizers. Darling, please, you say and I am relieved.



Colleen Wagner

Playwright, Screenwriter, Post & Prose Writer — Conversations in Isolation