I remember the good old days when I wasn’t starving to death.
Remember when you could drive your car to a fast food window and get a day’s worth of calories in a single Extra Value Meal? Do you remember how a pint of that hippie ice cream–the one they made out of monkeys–went right to the pleasure centers of your brain? Do you remember those milkshakes that didn’t contain milk and didn’t need to be shaken, but were just some sort of chocolate-colored colloidal slop?
I do. What I wouldn’t give for one of them now.
I don’t want to complain. Everyone in the Zone is living this spartan lifestyle. Everyone is hungry. Everyone is sacrificing. Everyone is suffering. Everyone is hungry.
But they all have something that I don’t: homegrown insulin. They’ve got C-peptides in their bloodstream. They’ve got the ability to starve to death the old-fashioned way, by chronic malnutrition.
I’ve been an insulin-dependent diabetic since I was seven years old. I got pretty good at it. I had a good life. I could eat cheesecake and drink beer. Have seconds and thirds. I’d just hit some buttons on my insulin pump and check my blood sugar a few hours later. I’d adjust it with more food or more insulin.
The hardest part was picking up my supplies every three months. Because I knew how to conserve (and my doctor played along) I was able to stretch those supplies out to four or five to save a few bucks. I actually complained because a three-month supply of insulin cost me eighty bucks. I wish I could get that sort of deal now. Do you remember how cool it was to have health insurance?
I ran out of supplies for my insulin pump about six months back. I’ve been dosing myself occasionally with a half-cc syringe the Krezner gave me. I don’t take insulin like I used to. I’m down to about fifteen units a day. That’s a third of what I used to take. It’s not enough to cover my meals. I can taste my blood sugar. My breath smells like rotting fruit. I can’t drink enough water and I have to piss all the time.
I can’t burn glucose, so I’m burning nothing but fat, whatever’s left, that is. My life is a 24-7 Atkins diet. Last Christmas, I treated myself to enough insulin to bring me back to normal. I ate two slices of bread. I never noticed how good bread was.
Insulin’s getting harder to find. Most of the pharmacies have been looted and the heat last summer made the old stocks lose their effectiveness. I’m not going to make it much longer. If I ever run into that president that banned stem cell research, I’ll hit him with my ZED. That eight-year head start could have made a difference. Then maybe I could have starved to death like a normal person around here.
Brooks put me in Corpse Corps because I was a bad bet. Everyone’s polite about it–they don’t mention it–but they know I’m expendable. I don’t think I was that way in my old life. I probably was; I don’t know. I think people liked me because they’d joke around with me. I used to pretend I was crazy and talk about how much I hated Peeps. “The Peep armies are coming and they must be destroyed,” I used to say. It was dumb, but people played along. They’d leave Peeps for me in my mailbox or on my desk. I’d make a big show of destroying them. I’d impale the chicks on pencils or stomp on them like I was Ozzy Osbourne. Everyone thought it was crazy. Sort of the way that they thought the outbreak was crazy. I hated the taste of those things. They were awful. That sticky, chewy insubstantial, non-resisting foam.
If I had one now, I would eat it just to remember how much I hate the way that they tasted. Even though it would make me thirstier and that much ironically closer to starving to death. It’s just not fair. I’m in the middle of Ethiopia, and everyone around me gets to eat like kings. I like food just as much as they do. Eating will kill me. Not eating will kill me. It’s just not fair. It’s just not
“JENSEN! You’re getting all spacey. You having an attack?”
I wiped the tear off my left cheek with my glove. It was on the window side, away from him. He may not have seen. I mumbled something so he would leave me alone. It didn’t work.
You gotta focus on the mission, man. What are you thinking about anyway?”
Marshmallows. I’d kill your fucking mother for a fucking marshmallow.
I turned my head back to the window, and this time, I didn’t bother trying to wipe away the tears.
For Marty, the only person who will get the jokes.