I had a butcher’s knife pressed against my stomach when I realized I had to act.
* * *
I’ve always kept a journal written words have the power to prevent the slow dissolution of life they are the best way to not lose my place I scatter words wherever I go at any time of day
writing to crystalize the present moment by extracting sensation understanding thwarting time tomorrow in a few days in a few months years later to reread myself to untangle the threads if necessary
on the day with the knife I understood that it was a question of life or death
I had stopped writing months earlier
nothing more wanted to come out
I hunkered down and stuffed myself.
* * *
As far back as I can remember I was always fat not a little round or chubby but fat
in my view at least
my friends and family have tried their best to downplay the reality come on look you’re just a little plumpish no euphemism has ever had the power to transform my appearance or the image I had of myself
I was fat enough to be taunted behind my back
the year I turned 26 after having been on a dozen diets I made the first important decision in my life the era of deprivation was over losing weight was the best way to stay fat forever I had just understood the most important thing and I rejected my fate
my hunger threatened to swallow me whole I devoured what I could without letting myself know
I felt like a bloody package of meat a piece of beef strangled with a thick cord on a butcher’s counter
without words to keep me afloat to stop me from sinking to the bottom I was buried alive there was only one solution
emptying myself of my flesh removing the pus slicing the skin on my stomach finding a way to end it
that’s how it happened.
* * *
People say a picture is worth a thousand words
I began without thinking without questioning myself in a state of mind near sleep a first drawing in charcoal on large white sheets getting my hands dirty spreading darkness blurring it with a finger
slowly the shapes of people appeared an oversized woman with a prominent stomach a tiny city under her feet a hill then men very tiny frightened men fleeing I walked in the giant’s footsteps without turning back I followed her here
two steps from the edge
with the feeling of the knife against my stomach
this drawing the fourth in a series showed a scene that was playing out in reality the woman roughly sketched liked a child’s scribble wasn’t just a drawing it was my self-portrait
an impossible story to write.
* * *
When words came back I framed the journal’s missing pages put them on display for a while before hiding them at the bottom of a closet I didn’t have to search long to find them
time had passed the drawings are here in front of me
I observe linger accumulate points of view seek the incubating words I write with the ashes a text whose conclusion I didn’t know
I named each drawing there are eight the number that represents perfection balance and cosmic order the symbol of new life and resurrection the coherence of creation in movement
it’s a tale that keeps repeating
thirty years later the skin on my stomach has thickened my two hands fused to the wooden handle I still feel the sharp cold blade I press with all my strength to empty myself
to become a butcher to extract my organs drowning in fat to start everything over to notice the detail of the shapes the thickness of the line its hesitations its imprecision
to explore the core of the drawing its corrosive substance.
First drawing I appear face-on splashed with yellow light behind a window hanging in the black only the top part of my body is visible I have no legs I am a torso with wide shoulders I’m wearing a V-neck cardigan my breasts are U-shaped strokes my imposing body and my little head are slashed by one of the window grills
my wild-eyed look and a crack in the right corner of my mouth deformed by the horror I present to others crouched in the shadows the police sketch of a woman on the lam I’m a rough draft a scratch
the charcoal pencil was dragged around and rubbed on the paper for a long time to cover it with a thick layer of black
it’s nighttime the middle of a tunnel that never ends although the others advance in a tight herd in front of the single window shot through with light in the darkness
their seemingly human shapes have no limbs no arms no legs only a slender neck a stake connecting their perfectly round heads to the rest of their bodies that seem to float like ghosts
they are there I sense their presence the noose tightens I don’t move I play dead.
Translated by Michele Rosen