Sliding With Svetlana

HOLLYWOOD—An army travels on its stomach, they say, and there are times after midnight when an army must be inside me. I break this tenet of my diet: to cease eating three hours before bedtime. It’s odd. Sleep’s magic wand casts a spell, and I’m an automaton, a zombie, my own free will relinquished, as it were, to dreams that murmur it’s a good idea to stuff myself.

On this occasion, I had babysat my daughter and tucked her in at my ex-wife’s apartment. I was soon foraging at midnight around the kitchen. I nibbled some roasted unsalted sunflower seeds, took out an unopened quart of milk that my daughter had vaguely indicated ownership in. Sampled a plate of lasagna; bit into candy balls with a milk chocolate veneer girdling a nougat of peanut butter, and poured milk over puffed rice cereal containing almond slivers and raisins—that had to be healthy because its main ingredient was air.

The night had made inroads into the wee smalls, and I heard the unmistakable grinding sound of a ridged Kwikset key being inserted into an outer lock. I started and recoiled, prey to a cumulative embarrassment for my midnight gluttony, and Houdini-swift I made my remnants of cereal and milk-smudged utensils and cups disappear. Me: the diet guru was caught red-handed.

Well, it was Svetlana—a roommate whose presence I had avoided enough times for her to be comfortably out of my thoughts when indulging that behavior best hid from the sun’s revealing rays. Svetlana was very slender and chipper, just having got off from a trying night at the restaurant where she works.

“My knees are sore. Have you ever had bad knees?”

Really I hadn’t, but made reference to some half-imagined knee ailment to keep up my end of the conversation.

“Will you have some mochi?” she smiled. I smilingly accepted. “Have it with some milk. It’s my milk.” (I apologized for opening it.) “Don’t worry, I bought it last week to make some jello to help my knees. I’ll never have time to make the jello,” she spooned it, evaluated it on her tongue. “The mochi is too sweet, so I have to have it with something: milk or lemon water.”

She poured milk into a glass containing the piece of slimy ice-cream for me. I realized with a renewed flush of shame, that most of what I’d found appealing in the cupboards and fridge belonged to Svetlana. When had my ex-wife showed a liking for unsalted sunflower seeds or chocolate-coated peanut butter balls?

“We had an arrangement with my old roommates,” was Svetlana’s response to my “I’m so sorry.” Everybody could share all the food. It was everyone’s. It certainly cut down on the hostilities and having to watch if somebody was watering down the milk and it absolved me for everything I had nibbled on tonight.

So Svetlana and I shared our midnight snack, a fine pair of fiends, and she was the motherly voice promoting indulgence. The pusher, “How would you like some cereal and milk?” she cooed. “There are some strawberries—they aren’t mine—but so much gets spoiled and goes to waste. I’m sure your ex-wife wouldn’t mind. Have you had everything you want to eat? Here have some chocolate covered banana slices,” she pulled a sample one out from a colorful box of divinely decadent delicacies with a chimp on it. I turned the chocolate-banana wafer down, however, foreseeing a bit of digestive mayhem. That was the saving grace: at least I turned that goodie down as I surrendered to the Svetlana’s blandishments—“Have you had everything you wanted to eat?”

Those chocolate-covered banana wafers did look pretty good, I thought. In no time, Svetalana and I were sharing this indulgence and obeying the joyful commandments to eat, drink and be merry, which becomes a mindless justification for gluttony. Making a choice to before finishing the box or emptying the bottle: leaving a few drops in the bottle can make all the difference. And that’s another significance of leaving a bit on the plate after finishing: demonstrating to ourselves we can stop. Well, next time, there’s always next time. . .

Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten up Now: The Grady Diet,” available on Kindle. He may be reached at

By Grady Miller