Father eats his stew, grunting in satisfaction. My stomach is bleeding, but he doesn’t notice. I cry and clutch my side, trying to catch his glance. Mother kicks me under the table, widening her eyes desperately, begging my silence. Mother covers up our silent conversation, asking Father about his day as she consumes the hearty stew and I stare at the leafy greens in front of me. It’s a cycle after all. I still have enough excess to last another week before I rest and eat properly again.
Mother explained the rules to me in the kitchen over a year ago, shortly after my first bleeding cycle, standing in the kitchen as she pinched all the fatty parts of my body before deciding on the love handles, skillfully slicing downwards while I bit on a rag. She never paused to let me breathe. Best to make the knife as sharp as possible. Cut quickly as you can. She gave me gauze to wrap my wounds and hid my amputated body mass with a cloth so I wouldn’t have to see it sitting there raw and fleshy. She wiped my face clean of tears as my meat sizzled, frying in butter.
There must always be something worth cutting off, she guides me, showing me on her body where she cut herself and how often, all while preparing the family meal. Tenderly choosing the right cut from my thighs, upper arms, stomach, butt, hips, calves; slicing quickly and with ease; hiding the tender crop; tending to my wounds. Teaching me how to eat properly, how to gain and maintain weight in order to remain slender, yet with enough of my body to give. She never told me whether Father knows what our preparations mean. I watch him closely at each meal, but his eyes give away nothing. He eats eagerly. Effusive in his praise of the richness, tenderness, juiciness of the meat he eats nightly.
Tonight, Mother handed me the knife and went about in silence, boiling water and chopping potatoes and carrots. As she stood over the simmering stew, I realized that I had never asked who prepared her meats, even though I had noticed the occasional bandage, or what rules her bandages adhered to. Or why each woman gifts her girls the tools to cut off what is necessary.
It is the first time in several months that I’ve cried during dinner. I have grown numb to the brutal hacks of the knife, and the areas of my body that I tend to most (the pesky lower abs and flabby upper arms) barely bleed. But there is a new pain tonight in the self-mutilation and willful destruction of my body and the bent head of Father as he purposefully fishes the meat out of his stew so as to have a piece in each bite.
Art by Lucie Salgado
Lucie Salgado (a.k.a. Luciana Salgado/Lucy Salgado) is an independent multimedia artist based in Curitiba, Brazil. Her work consists mainly of graphite drawings, though she actively experiments with various techniques and media, the later including painting, photography, and creative writing. Find out more www.luciesalgado.com or Instagram @luciesalgado and Tumblr/Ello/Etsy/Society6: luciesalgado.
T. A. Stanley lives in Brooklyn and is doing her best to get by. She has been published in The Atlas Review, Crack the Spine Literary Journal, The Bookends Review, Belleville Park Pages, Potluck Magazine, and Paper Darts. For a good time, follow. @ladytstanz.