By Samir Sirk Morató
Content warning: This story contains themes which may be triggering for certain individuals.
The first time you have sex with a woman, she jams her tongue in your mouth and her fingers in your holes until you have a seizure. Then you both lay there. As you stare at cracks on your ceiling, you realize there is something truly, deeply wrong with you. No doors opened. No pleasure bloomed. The act didn’t illuminate your body like it should have. You are still a passenger in a cold, windowless vehicle, unable to control or know it: a child in an adult’s lap pretending to drive the car. And the woman, like past men, could’ve fucked your corpse and been just as satisfied.
While you make your hook-up breakfast, that revelation curdles teaspoon after teaspoon of your blood. You step outside your body to avoid it. The woman, unaware, smokes a cigarette at the table. She casts a leg between yours when you amble over to small-talk how people are supposed to. She smirks when she asks you “How was last night?” and you, gaze downcast, mutter that you’ve never done anything like that.
Which is true. Intimacy with men hurts. Intimacy with her felt like nothing. Like being a machine meant for button-pressing.
"Women do everything better,” she says.
Is this better? You want to plunge your hand into the pan of boiling oil at that thought. Since that would ruin the tofu, you don’t. Maybe you aren’t a woman. If so, that’s no victory either. All you know is what you aren’t. Your hook-up sidles up to grab your breasts and thighs—fatty appendages you’ve never cared for—and waxes poetic about them.
“You tasted delicious,” she whispers.
How does she know your taste? You exist how nothingness does. How voids do. She didn’t tongue the slit between your legs; she took no full, bloody bite out of you. She’s lying in the way everyone who believes in figurative speech does. You stand there, stiff, a toy for her until the splattering oil chases her away.
It’s a relief when she leaves and doesn’t message again.
You’re thinking about this encounter when you begin eating yourself. That isn’t why you do it. You do it because you are what you eat. You've never been yourself before, yet you'd prefer that less of you existed. The world would too. Autocannibalism seems like a pragmatic solution for all quandaries.
You're sensible about it. When you sharpen your knife, you knock the file on the table after every pass to clear the metal shavings. You pile gauze alongside the spice bottles then spread newspaper on the floor. All the parts of you the hook-up complimented are written on a post-it stuck to a pork chart, which sticks to a pork chop recipe, which sticks to an anatomy diagram. The skillet is greased. The cutting board is clean.
After anguishing over where to start, you balance the knife on your kneecap. Whatever breeds hesitation in others doesn’t exist in you. You carve from the knee inward to be neat. As your knife creeps up your thigh it slides through layers of muscle. Blood sheets your skin. Your hands shake. Not at the pain of it, but the ease of it. The knife edge trawls through your leg in an oval before it kisses the beginning cut and makes a thin, red ouroboros. You wiggle the blade under. Peel the meat with your other hand.
What the woman squeezed comes up and away.
Wet newspaper clings to your heels as you slap the meat onto a cutting board. You pack gauze into the hole it left. A spritz of lemon juice goes in too before you seal the wound with bandages. For taste. A shudder wriggles through you; your muscles contract in body-wide lockjaw. Then nothing. Just more boring excruciation. Quantifiably, this isn’t the real person reaction you hoped for.
Disappointed, you prepare to rinse your chop when you freeze: there’s hair on it. You didn’t shave. Terror claws at your guts. You clench the counter. What now? You didn’t plan for this. Burnt hair will sour the dish. You’ve ruined everything.
“We’ll shave it. Yes. That’ll do it.”
You’re relieved before you think about all your ingrown hairs. Shaving only addresses half the issue. The idea of hair hiding in your chop assaults you. Your throat closes. The urge to beat your head on the countertop throttles you.
“Wait, wait, wait!” You drum the counter. “A needle. I can use a needle.”
You limp to your bathroom for a razor, tweezers, and darning kit. Your bandaged leg is gushing by the time you return. That doesn’t matter. You shave your thigh slab with a disposable shaver and rinse it. Then you hunch over it with the needle, scraping at any hairs that slither beneath the skin until they’re revealed before prying them up. After they’ve sprung free, you tweeze them.
There are eight ingrown hairs. One takes five minutes to remove. Your eyes hurt. Your hands shake. Knowing you’ve set everything right makes extraction worth it. You hum, your body tingling with aftershocks, as you season your meat with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Blood dribbles onto your ankle.
As the chop fries, you think about what people have said about you. The lack of that. No one wrote anything about you in the yearbook. When acquaintances imply you’re freakish, it’s polite; the psychiatrist you couldn’t afford classified you on the cusp of several disorders without qualifying for any. If you didn’t wear a nametag, the gas station customers would mistake you for any other cashier. They already do. You’re a staple in a corkboard to them.
Likewise, your partners always give you chocolates and copulate with your body as if you’re in a separate room for both events. You now know they’re planning their next relationships when they enter you. Such things would bother you if you knew yourself. Maybe they bother you regardless. It’s easy to exist without being anyone’s favorite. It’s harder when you’re not hated either. Once, you might’ve had presence. Then teachers disciplined it away. Your noteworthiness vanished so quickly after that you aren’t even sure it was real.
How much of you is real? Did the woman finger a tangible thing or a delusion?
The timer pings. No more considering that. You flip the chop. Your remaining thigh muscles scream. Red lace throbs across your vision. You don’t hate yourself. You want to know what’s keeping you here. That’s all. You don’t want to be gone, you just should be. The disciplining made that clear. If you must disappear you’d like to know who’s disappearing. Surely this is reasonable.
When the chop finishes cooking you let it rest. Its aroma tickles your nose even while you’re donning sweatpants and more bandages across the studio. Once you’ve carved the chop, you collapse your seat at the table. Your plate is two inches from the edge, as it should be; the fork and knife are aligned, the napkin folded sharp, the glass filled. Everything is proper. The meat tastes nice, tastes like pig, not like anything special at all, but while eating it you learn that you oversalt your chops, which is a positive fact about you. A reality that takes space.
After you’ve eaten you get on the bus. Doing so without a location in mind is daring for you. You even sit in your third-most-preferred seat while your first two choices are open. It’s evening, not yet night, so tides of commuters hit the bus. Nurses in scrubs, laborers in hardhats, and young people in headphones cycle through at every stop. Panhandlers come and go. Humanity’s many shapes wash around you.
As you watch a mother chastise her toddler you realize that for once, you possess something special. The people on the bus don’t know that there’s a perfect rectangle of oozing muscle, adipose streaks, and tendon slivers quivering beneath your sweats. There’s a window into astonishing, moving things nearby they can’t see. It’s your window. Your rich inner workings. They’ll never know it.
You smile until it hurts. And though you’ll continue eating and eating, swallowing yourself up and shitting yourself out, filling yourself as you dwindle into a little rotten thing bound for death in a faceless hospital, you will never know more than you do right now.