“An Anorexic Analyst” Antiphrastic Short Story by Antoine Bargel

"An Anorexic Analyst" Antiphrastic Short Story by Antoine Bargel:  Antoine Bargel writes poetry and fiction in English and in French. His stories have been published in Easy Street, Jellyfish Review, Harpang, and elsewhere. His first novel, Ma vie parfaite, is currently being translated into English. He has a Ph.D. in Romance Languages from the University of Oregon and has translated over 30 novels from English to French.

I had noticed that she was thin, but as we had started dating in the season of padded coats and woolen sweaters, wasn’t prepared for what appeared when sitting on my bed, after a fair amount of kissing and listening to Chopin, she enjoined me to undress her. Slender as they were, and most vertically inclined, her bones were all that supplied any shape; everything else was retreating indefinitely within, withholding her existence to an extent that challenged the mind. I didn’t know that there could be so little flesh between two hip bones, so much void above skin tense and curved like a ship’s sail; nor that an adult woman’s shoulder blades could look fully like the ungrown wings of an angel. Well, I had seen pictures of Auschwitz detainees, but not expected to find one in my bed, quiveringly eager to copulate! Her warm, wet hole, swollen as it was by desire, was all I had to chew on, like one steamed wonton at the tip of long ivory chopsticks. As the spare rest of her shook and rattled in ecstasy, I felt closer than ever to necrophilia or acting in a Tim Burton porno.

But I am not a picky eater, and accepted the menu as it came. Moreover, I really like Chopin and was not a little pleased to have found a person for whom a dozen piano studies constitute, as they do for me, ideal preliminaries to intercourse. In short, I was in love, and as such much disposed to bending my tastes and ideas in order to fit the declared object of my imagination. I renounced wholeheartedly any previous inclination for tits and ass, and focused instead on the countless freckles that dotted her pale skin like so many constellations, whose shapes and names I soon began to record, and revisit each time she granted me the opportunity. (Did I consider whether they would make nice lampshades?) She did not offer much to grab or hold on to, but pivoted gingerly around the axis of my pride, and bent easily, and was light to lift and carry, so much so that it felt like making love to the wind, hearing only, to stave off a daunting sense of aloneness, the faint moan of a ghost crossing my path here and there as I twirled and danced in the night, the ghost, judging by its vocal patterns, of a woman being repeatedly stabbed.

Laura, that was her name, was a psychotherapist working with terminal cancer patients. She had studied philosophy at an elite Parisian school that will remain unidentified, in order to allow me a free rein in commenting that I have never seen, although this was an extreme case, a healthy body on its grounds (excluding janitorial staff). The pressures of a selective admission process, over a period of three or more years, maybe coupled with the subsequent realization that being best of the best meant absolutely zero career prospects outside of teaching, resulted in many a shriveled cunt or cock, many a bent spine and tipping spectacles, before the age of twenty-five. But Laura had rebelled: she had wanted to do something practical with her talents, and through a further course of study, qualified herself to attend to the mental health of others. She went fast, she went big: her terminal cancer patients were children, and she worked with them and their parents to… ease their sense of doom? Regardless, I liked her character: she was my kind of gal, a maverick and a trailblazer, and this budding affection only began to preoccupy me when she revealed that, barring a rapid change in her eating habits, she was also going to die soon.

Not that dying is a bad thing, everybody does it, but when you are enamored or otherwise attached to somebody, the prospect of their imminent demise can appear in a dramatic light. I immediately resolved to act and, regarding myself a creative thinker, commenced looking for unexplored solutions or cures to that not uncommon condition: anorexia. Laura, since her early teens, could hardly eat a meal without making herself vomit afterwards. Every known treatment had been attempted, and over a decade of psychoanalysis had borne its fruits in the form of many an insight about her deep, unconscious tendencies, but not quite of a practical method for encouraging digestion. I myself was not a medical professional, only the holder of one of the lesser doctorates, those that actually require the production of original research but do not lead the general public to call you “doctor”, yet that did not in my view constitute a hindrance in completing my self-assigned mission: on the contrary, I judged that nothing but an entirely novel approach could succeed, and that I was therefore ideally qualified to break new scientific ground while also saving the life of my true love. It may be relevant to mention that I am a doctor of fiction.

I looked at the problem as a story that cannot reach its end, and retreats miserably to its starting point, leaving only bitterness and unprocessed chunks of text in its circular and ephemeral wake. Laura, it seemed to me, was not accepting that she had a bottom, occupied as she had been all these years in developing the functions and qualities of her higher body parts, the brain, conceivably the heart, but anything lower, how horrid! How base! How ignoble. She refused to let God’s creation go through her, expressing a limited if useful value, and come out at the other end, reduced to sordid waste. Everything had to come back up, directed at the sky, at the enlightened spheres of knowledge and art, philosophy and the aspiration to a perfection of thought that discarded all physical comforts. Consequently, she was nearing the end of all spiritual quests, the ultimate liberation from the problem of human existence: but she didn’t seem stoked about it, and I definitely wasn’t, having only recently initiated a rather pleasant usage of her bodily being.

So it was clear: I had to make her feel her butt. I had to impose on her consciousness, by any means necessary, the fact that the breath of life comes out at both ends, and elevates the soul equally by either process, or at least that neither impedes whatever aspirations one might have of accessing real, or imaginary, but inherently glorious, realms of abstraction and ideality. I had to therapeutically spank her, in vigorous and recurring sessions, had to make her butt cheeks burn and bleed, smitten and outraged, until she connected that sensation with what happened in her head, and progressively acquired an acceptance of the parts of her that lay between. It would be arduous and time consuming, would require the sacrifice of whatever shame and modesty either of us had left, and would inevitably bind us for ever in the cataclysmic apocalypse of her individual neuroses, and a conjoined ascension to a fully accomplished togetherness as a healthy, committed couple. And we would not stop there.

Sufficient as this course of treatment may be, we had to ensure its efficacy and confirm the cure by pragmatic and empirical means, thereby guaranteeing not only her future and continuous well-being, but also the complete expression of all feelings and desires that our maieutic, soteriological, and I daresay, romantic sinapisms may have arisen in either of us. What I proposed, analytically, was to penetrate her, anally, following which, in the required position of a four-legged animal, she would reach directly with her mouth into a plate of various foodstuffs, prepared and conveniently arranged at appropriate height, and chew and swallow while I remained, moving moderately so as not to impede her deglutition, but innocent of retreating, a constant and firm reminder of whither must needs her efforts lead. Probably she would, despite her hands being otherwise occupied and unable to perform the usual trickery, vomit the first few times her full repast, but we would not allow it to break our resolve, nor our conjunction, and I would not concede the diminishment of my presence within her inner sanctum until the conclusion of our daily session. Thus repeating till she would, not only ingurgitate, but contain throughout the preponderant completion of the gastric phase, i.e. about two hours, a consequent plateful, we would further our union to unprecedented acmes, inscribing my therapeutical contribution into the depths of her newly integrated incarnation, and only then would I relinquish my post and give way to the promise of proximate and solidly sculpted successors.

When I exposed my project to Laura, adorned with full theoretical apparatus and bibliographical support, its expression dynamized by a mixture of scientific enthusiasm and of the most ardent, pure and romantic love that I had ever felt, she blanched. I cannot say whether she disagreed on principle or lacked the intellectual flexibility to appropriate an admittedly audacious approach on such short notice (as I had indeed gathered the necessary materials to engage in our initial session immediately), but the fact is that she stated her desire to repair to her own quarters in order to consider with suitable thoroughness all the implications of my genius (she didn’t say “genius”, but something similar) idea, and I never heard from her again. It was therefore with immense regret, both that our encounter had come too late to attain operativeness in her case, and that her illness had deprived her of the opportunity to communicate her indubitable gratitude, if not in her name, in that of science and the cohort of her congeners, for my discovery once she had been able to properly evaluate its import, that I learned a few weeks thereafter of her death.

Antoine Bargel writes poetry and fiction in English and in French. His stories have been published in Easy StreetJellyfish ReviewHarpang, and elsewhere. His first novel, Ma vie parfaite, is currently being translated into English. He has a Ph.D. in Romance Languages from the University of Oregon, and has translated over 30 novels from English to French.

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