"Tell me why it's right to eat biscuits when other people are starving," my fifteen year old daughter said, looking circumspectly at a puck-shaped biscuit on her plate. She held it to the light and shook her head. She was too thin. I wanted to slap some ham and eggs on the biscuit, but first things first.
"Someone is always starving," I said. "That doesn't mean you should. Why should you be healthy when someone else isn't? There are skin diseases, cancers, even just plain old colds."
Her eyes widened. "That's true," she said. "Why should I?"
Later, I found her in the bathroom applying buboes with magic marker to her face, her shoulders, her stomach, her legs. On the way to her bedroom, she walked with bowed, rickety legs and breathed shallowly. Her eyes had gone gray.
"A little compassion would do you good, Dad," she said, standing beside her door. I tried to think of a comeback but couldn't. "You're just a privileged American," she added.
"But there are ways to actually help people by using your privilege," I said, without conviction. She shut the door on me.
A few weeks later she called from a leper colony. I didn't even know they had those anymore. "You'd be too embarrassed to see me now," she said.
"No I wouldn't," I said. "Really." I was just glad to hear that she was relatively safe and hoped that she was taking the necessary precautions-rubber gloves and things like that.
"You would be embarrassed," she said. "I know you would. You're a typical privileged American. Besides," she said, with pride, " I'm off to a mental hospital. I've started hearing voices!"
"What you're doing doesn't help anyone," I said, hoping to sound fatherly but not annoying.
"Neither does what you do, fat ass," she answered. "At least I'm pro-active." She had a point.
I hung up the phone and looked around my split-level home, at my stereo, my TV, my microwave oven, my air ducts. I shivered a little, and wondered if I was coming down with something.