Or, sometimes, they paid to eat food off of my body. The first time was in college. A boyfriend, or something between a boyfriend and a hookup, asked me if he could eat some peanut butter off my stomach. “You mean, off my boobs?” I said. And he said, “No, I really want to eat it off your belly while I squeeze it.” At first I thought he was kidding but he was already unscrewing the jar of Skippy. I nodded, then pulled off my blouse and lay down on my bunk because I liked him okay, and because I knew that the remnants of the peanut butter would wash off easily in the shower. I let him lick the peanut butter off of me because, back then, I didn’t know that I could ask for more.
The first time I requested payment for this, I was a few years older. The man I’d met online showed up with a bag from Wholefoods and pulled some food out of it. He placed a still-warm, broccoli-cheddar quiche on my stomach, then asked if it was too hot. “If so, I can put a paper plate underneath as a buffer.” He said this as he caressed the part of my stomach that wasn’t covered by the quiche. I could feel the calluses on his fingertips and as I lay there, I wondered if he played the cello in his free time, or my favorite, the viola. The quiche burned my skin a little but it wasn’t scalding so I shook my head. “No, it’s okay for now. But eat it fast before it actually hurts.” I felt a surge of pleasure after speaking up, felt it buzzing all through my limbs.
I watched him steadily take bite after bite, watched him chew, grinning the entire time. When he finished the quiche, he lifted his head. With crumbs surrounding his mouth, he asked if he could watch me eat something now—like a slice of strawberry cake or some pizza from the options he’d brought. “Whatever you want,” he said. “I just want to watch.”
“Good. Give me the cake,” I said and grabbed a plastic fork. Just before I dug in, he put his hand up to stop me. “Can you wait a second?” he asked and pulled out his wallet. He wanted to record the sound of me eating with his iPhone.
“Just the sound?” I said. “Sure, for five-hundred dollars.”
I put out my hand for the cash, felt the buzz in my fingertips as I waited. He immediately placed the five bills on my palm, one by one.
He then watched me as I sat and tongued the sweet pink frosting from the slice, leisurely, like it was my birthday. Like this was all my idea in the first place. In the mirror, I noticed my posture was perfectly straight. Regal, even. When I finally took the last bite of the cake, I wasn’t hungry anymore.
By the tenth time I required payment for this, a couple had solicited me. It was actually a man who had done the soliciting but claimed his wife was very open-minded. I charged double what I usually charged, and over the phone, I set immediate boundaries like: No food on me hotter than 90 degrees and Nothing that’ll be difficult to wash off or make me stink for a week. The man agreed. The next day, a couple in their thirties showed up smiling at my door. They had blond hair and perfectly straight teeth, like a former prom king and queen couple. After they greeted me, the husband handed me some scented candles and purple flowers—a sweet gesture, different than usual, surely the wife’s idea. I took off my blouse.
“So what’s the meal du jour?” I said.
“Whipped cream,” the husband said. “Nothing crazy, just some whipped cream. And my wife—my wife just wants to watch.”
“Sounds good,” I said and lay down on my bed. While he covered my belly with the cream, the wife searched her phone for music. She settled on classical—a surprise, but a welcome one. The husband licked the cream off of me like an eager puppy while the wife rubbed my hair. “Your curls are so beautiful,” she said with the sincerity that comes from a woman.
“Thank you,” I said and looked her right in the eyes, noticed a hint of crow’s feet. The pressure of her fingers on my scalp was calming.
I closed my eyes and thought about that first time in college with the peanut butter and the boyfriend-hookup, and how this was immensely more satiating. Once the whipped cream was mostly licked up, the husband smiled, his mouth lathered like he was mid-shave. He got up and I pointed him to the bathroom to wash off. The wife poured some water from a bottle onto some paper towels and wiped my stomach clean, asked me if she’d gotten it all. “Yes,” I said. “You got every last bit of it.” We both smiled, and I stood up. She put down the paper towels.
I pulled her against me then and she kissed me. I kissed her back and I wanted to consume all of her, lift her up and place her body inside of mine, through my mouth or my stomach somehow. She put her arms around me and we held until her husband returned, car keys jingling in hand. We held, long enough to hear him exhale over the strings playing in the background. We held, long enough that I thought: We could meld together like anglerfish this way. We held so long that when I finally let go, I was more than satisfied. I was infinite.