she had seemed to be recovering, sandwiched between hospital sheets and topped with wires and tubes through which drugs and nourishment licked into her veins. but now the doctors consult in hushed tones, standing above her bloated body and shaking their heads as if she wasn't there.
people arrive. she doesn't understand why so many of them are gathering in this place—some dabbing their eyes with kleenex, others kissing her cheek—until gradually it occurs to her that they are here on a solemn mission. she realizes how very old she is, and that these people—whoever they are—have come out of kindness. soon it will be time for them to cover her up, turn off the lights, draw the curtains, roll her away.
but first she is exploring the world with colleagues and friends, life in full swing. she has written many books about her travels—and about food, always the food. interspersed throughout the chapters discussing faraway people and places are her thoughts about the foreign dishes she discovers and tastes year after year in these different lands. her taste buds are extremely discriminating: boar's head, caviar, brain masala, moussaka, elk, pates, terrines, turbots, papillotes, paupiettes, and wine—oh the wine—she sings the praises of all the local gastronomia.
but first there are the crazy all-nighters—and a diet rich in high calorie, college food-service fare, chinese take-out and beer—culminating four years later in a much deserved top-of-the-class graduation from a fine university.
but first she impatiently slams the refrigerator door after grabbing her brown bag lunch containing a veggie and cheese sandwich on whole wheat, carrot sticks, and one cookie. she turns and reopens the fridge and peers inside, hopeful for something else to add to her bag. she finds there's nothing but leftover carrot soup, salad, and rice, none of which seems appealing. the school bus will be here in a minute. she leaves the leftovers behind, kisses her mother good-bye, and runs out the door.
but first she sees a vision, an array of lovely colors—bits and slices of red, orange, yellow and many, many shades of green. the colors are so beautiful that she can't peel her eyes away. she stares and stares at them for a long time. how about one of these? someone says and she is coaxed to pick up a finger-sized portion of asparagus, clementine, or strawberry off her highchair tray.
but first she is surrounded and wondrously enfolded by hilly mounds—the curves are so soft! one at a time she sucks them forcefully and at length to produce sweet, warm spurts in her mouth, which she quickly swallows.
but first it is time for her father to drive her mother to the hospital, three weeks early but she's ready, yes she's ready.