I went off my vegetarian diet yesterday. Yes, it's true. I ate an animal. One that was alive—at least until I ate it. Now it's dead, and I feel bad, in more ways than one. It wasn't even tasty.
It's not that I intended to become a meat-eater again, mind you. It was just something that happened. I was in the park at the time, riding laps on my bicycle. There's one place where the road goes uphill, and I was gasping for breath, trying to keep up my speed against a stiff headwind. That was when this unfortunate creature, whatever it may have been, apparently mistook my open mouth for an inviting cave, and flew right in.
Now, you'd think that at the point the bug entered my mouth it would have realized its mistake and made a quick exit. ("Uh-oh, those stalactites and stalagmites look strangely like teeth! Mayhaps this isn't a cave after all!") But instead, he or she just compounded the problem by making a bee-line (yeah, I suppose it could have been a bee) down my throat. At that point all hope was lost.
I tried to keep from swallowing the poor thing, of course. I coughed and I spit (much to the chagrin of the other bike riders passing by), and I probably looked like I was having convulsions right there on my bicycle. But no matter what I did, I couldn't get rid of that "bug-in-the-throat" feeling. As a matter of fact, I swear I can still feel it the next day. Maybe that's the kind of psychological damage that meat-eating causes!
Before yesterday, I had been a vegetarian for almost 30 years. (Thirty years?! Is that possible? I must have been a very small child when I started.) Now all of that is history, and I feel deceitful even using the "V" word. I feel like all of those people who say they're vegetarian, but what they really mean is, "I've been vegetarian ever since I finished breakfast, and I intend to stay vegetarian right up until lunch." I used to make fun of those people, and now I am one.
If I was going to end my vegetarian diet I suppose I could have picked more pleasurable ways of doing it. I could have eaten lobster dripping in butter, or a greasy cheesesteak sub, or any one of a dozen things I loved back in my meat-eating days. But to tell you the truth, I have no desire for any of those things anymore. They probably would have grossed me out even more than eating that bug. At least the bug was small. At least I didn't get sick.
Of course it's tempting to rationalize my way out of this thing entirely. Last night my neighbor's daughter tried to cheer me up. "You don't know it was a bug," she said with the kind of optimism 14-year-olds often display. "It could have been a piece of a plant." Yeah, I thought for a second, maybe something just fell off of a tree and floated down into my mouth. Then I realized how unlikely that was. No, whatever I ate felt like it was going from point A to point B with a purpose when I got in its way. If it wasn't a bug exploring a cave, it was probably a bug intent on committing hara-kiri in the back of my throat.
So now I have to start all over again. Here's what I'm going to tell people: I'm a new vegetarian. I've been a vegetarian for almost 24 hours now, and I'm proud of myself. I intend to stay a vegetarian too. …At least until the next Oriental restaurant I eat at slips chicken broth into the sauce or hides a piece of shrimp in the "vegetable" spring roll. …At least until some well-meaning friend who doesn't read labels serves me something with gelatin in it. …At least until my next bike ride in the park.