The Longest Fast

After a night of hard partying, Dog Bites decides to clean up her life -- and clean out her system

An old friend of Dog Bites had a barbecue at his parents' house in Lafayette. Friends flew in from New York and L.A., the kitchen island was laden with jugs of Mojitos, semiclad revelers choked the hot tub, dogs chased after Frisbees and bocce balls. Our ride -- Sean, our boyfriend -- left at 11 p.m. Not Dog Bites. At 3 a.m., we crawled out of the hot tub and onto our friend's couch, only to be awakened five hours later by another friend desperately trying to drag her turntables out from under the sprinklers.

She drove us to BART at 9. Our linen pants were wet with dew (they had been left outside as we slept in our bikini), and we had forgotten our flip-flops in Sean's car. We took the train into the city, and as we waited outside the Civic Center station on that drizzly Sunday morning for Sean to appear in his SAAB and whisk us back to the Elysian realm of hot showers and clean sheets, a homeless man came up to us and asked, "Why aren't you wearing any shoes?"

It was time for some serious changes in Dog Bites' life. We needed to take the first step on a new road to sobriety. Friends had sworn by a fast called the "Master Cleanser": For 10 days one eats and drinks nothing but water, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and maple syrup. The idea is to put nothing of consequence into one's system for enough time that everything already in there can work its way out the other end. The only evidence of the fast we could find online was a 1976 paperback called The Master Cleanser by Stanley Burroughs (the avuncular name evoked images of a nebbish writing in a corner of his Manhattan apartment). Yeah, the fast sounded weird, but we were desperate.

On Monday we embarked for our temp job carrying a 26-ounce jug of maple syrup, a 15-ounce bottle of lemon juice, and a jar of McCormick's cayenne pepper. Rumor had it that one friend had made it only six days. But Dog Bites is made of hardier stuff. We would make it to 10. Indeed, we had fantasies of making it to 15. We had hope.

DAY 1

After work we go to our friend's house in Lafayette to help clean up. He makes burgers. We feel this is unkind. We watch About Schmidt, unable to concentrate during the funeral scene, wondering what kinds of casseroles people brought over.

At home, when Sean takes the dog out, we pull the leftover pizza from the fridge and smell it deeply. We hear Sean coming and slam the pie back in the fridge. We go to sleep fantasizing about chili cheese dogs, chili cheese fries, and cheeseburgers.

DAY 2

We are edgy and irritable. Why are we doing a fast we've barely researched? Our stomach starts to cramp.

When Sean picks us up from work, we dream of spending the weekend at the Mark Hopkins, watching HBO and ordering room service. We become obsessed with the idea of room service.

We buy "Smooth Move" tea at the health food store. At home we make a saltwater flush -- two tablespoons of sea salt in 32 ounces of warm water -- something we've read about on the Web. The salt makes us gag, but we choke down our "oral enema." We start watching Taxi Driver but our bowels begin to churn after half an hour. We rush to the bathroom and open the "Weddings/ Celebrations" section of the New York Times. A quart of water is expunged. We return to the living room. Sean wants nookie. For his sake, we decline.

We go online before bed and look at the Mark Hopkins Web site. The room service menu is nowhere to be found.

DAY 3

We run for the bus. This is extremely difficult in $200 Fluevog boots, not to mention aboard legs starved for energy by a caloric intake of zero.

Our co-workers are supportive and curious. Our supervisor shows particular interest in our bowel activity. We go to the Mark Hopkins Web site again. The room service menu is still not there.

That night, with Sean sequestered in the bedroom, we inhale deeply of all containers in the fridge. We sniff tubs of Gorgonzola cheese, pasta sauce, leftover hot-and-sour soup, and salsa with tiny mold islands floating in it. Then we unscrew the lids off all the condiment jars: olives, Heinz 57 sauce, Safeway honey smoke barbecue sauce, A.1. We linger over the A.1.

DAY 4

When we wake up, we feel rested and serene. Sean says we look emaciated.

Fasting is particularly difficult while working with the special events unit at JPMorgan. All day, our co-workers plan dinners for investment bankers. One of them, Amy, is planning her mother's 60th birthday dinner as well. She shouts over the partition, "Do you think I should do the vinaigrette with the fish sauce, or the Mediterranean? I have to do chicken, shrimp wrapped in bacon, melon with prosciutto, and carrot cake."

Our eyes bulge.

"When you make prosciutto and melon, do you make it thin or do you slice it in squares? Prosciutto already is thin, right? This recipe says, 'Drape prosciutto over slices of melon, or roll melon in prosciutto, stick in a toothpick, and serve.'"

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