Marcos Damián León reviews Christopher Gonzalez’s debut short story collection I’m Not Hungry But I Could Eat for Latino Book Review.
I’m Not Hungry But I Could Eat by Christopher Gonzalez opens with a narrator hungry to fill the void of his early twenties loneliness with a picture—A representation of lost love. Each of Gonzalez’s fifteen stories follows a bisexual Puerto Rican man fueled by deep pain and longing. In “A Mountain of Invertebrates” he writes: “So much effort and mess? All of that for so little?” This is a thread that runs throughout the collection—an exhausting fear that each protagonist and inevitably all of us must work so hard to find joy in life only to end up with the barest crumbs.
Each of these characters share a trauma from youth, of not knowing love from their families or even themselves, and all of them are scared that no one will ever love them fully. We join them on their journeys for companionship: Searching through apps or bars or even childhood memories for someone who might give them the love they crave.
Gonzalez’s response is to take these little moments of grief and loneliness on the journey towards companionship and explore the absurdity of it all. One story has the narrator attend a party thrown by a wealthy straight couple to celebrate their new washing machine, another has a narrator rent out an apartment he’s supposed to be watching for friends on vacation; in another, an eyebrow artist sews other people’s eyebrow hair onto the narrator to give him Chris Pine’s eyebrow shape. Each of these scenarios is ridiculous—fully playing up situations until we can’t help to laugh in discomfort.
Yet, despite each of these situations feeling like the worst exaggerations of millennial dating, a feeling permeates all of them which the story, “The Secret to Your Best Self,” sums up as: “And the craving dissipates. And he stops missing what he cannot have.” Each character wants to find something—be it food or casual sex—to serve as a stand-in for what the shared desire for connection. The collection is asking us: What wouldn’t you do to feel less lonely?
Yet, underneath that question and the absurdity of the stories, there’s a deeper pain. In the story “Little Moves,” the narrator Felix grieves his homophobic sister, and, as he tries to decide what to do with her ashes, he struggles about how exactly to grieve a sister who never loved all of him. The story ends with Felix thinking about the dancing lessons his sister gave him in preparation for his future girlfriend, then, he dances with her urn, so enraptured in the lost possibility of love from his sister that he doesn’t notice her ashes spilling everywhere. The fullness of the collection speaks to loneliness, for each narrator and us, but also of a fear that the people we love cannot love all of us. [. . .]