Yogurt. Yogurt taught me something yesterday. I was eating a yogurt, not one I’d bought, something one of the lovers picked up for me, a really creamy one with a crust of fat, not at all my usual style of yogurt. Maybe it was the creaminess, or maybe it was the absurd clashing of the fruits (apricot and mango, of all combinations), but I could really taste it; first thing I’ve really tasted in months. The fruit was only there in shreds, but there was enough juice in those shreds, juice or sugar or something, electricity for all I know, to give my mouth the feel of something vivid. And I thought – first thinking I’ve done in months, too, I dare say – I thought, illness is a failure, that’s obvious. You don’t have to be well to know that. But what is it a failure of? And at that moment, the answer seemed to be: imagination. It seemed to me then, reeling as I was from the impact of the fruit in the yogurt, that with a little effort, with a little imagination, I could taste anything, take pleasure in anything.

The yogurt didn’t stay down, of course; it wasn’t such a new beginning as all that. But what it had to teach me it taught me on the way down; on the way up it had nothing to say. And even that was a lesson of sorts. It was no more unpleasant to vomit that yogurt than it was to throw up my usual watery potlet. Its curds were no viler as they rose in my throat. I suppose I’ve been following a policy of appeasement with my stomach, and that’s always a mistake. I’ve been behaving as if my insides were just being temperamental, and if I could find some perfectly inoffensive food for them, they would do the decent thing and hang on to it. And it just isn’t so. I might as well eat what has a chance of giving me pleasure. My stomach will lob it up indifferently.

At the end of all that, after I had vomited, I was – I imagine – just fractionally weaker than when I had started. I had used some energy (vomiting is hard physical work) and I hadn’t managed to get any nourishment. Trying to break down the yogurt had been, as it turned out, a costly waste of gastric juice. But in spite of that, I had had three distinct phases of pleasure – one, the taste of the yogurt itself; two, the long, incredulous moment when it seemed that it would stay down; three, the euphoria, after it came up, of having expelled poison, of knowing it wouldn’t be fizzing in my guts for the rest of the day – and only one phase of unpleasantness when it was actually coming up. In some strange way it seemed that I was ahead on the day’s transactions. That’s when I thought of making this tape.

America's Secret War