Bodies decay under the light of day

Chaturanga dandasana. My shoulders are firing up. My pecs too. I can feel them expanding. My torso’s getting wilder. Tenser. I can see the muscles move underneath the skin. Expanding like tiny pumps with my every move. I do this every day. My chest grows my shoulders too. I see them working like a hidden factory when I look at my naked body. I don’t see much of it in my dorm room. I’m never alone. I don’t have a full mirror.

I miss my naked body. I need to see its flesh to remember that I’m alive to massage it touch it be in contact with its materiality.

I stare at my tired face and its dilated pupils when I wash my face at night. I do it thoroughly. Consistently. In the hopes of getting rid of the adult acne that has mangled my figure ever since masks became part of our lives. What I missed most about the outside world during lockdown was the freedom that came from my endless walks. Endless wanderings every day. Wind blowing on my skin freezing my extremities drying up my hands to the point of bleeding. I love getting lost in Paris. I hated walking before living there. I sat for hours on end watching TV shows. Wondering if life would someday maybe get better. If maybe one day I would feel inside the party the conversation my own fucking body.

I got lost in Paris for hours. Hours of pointless wanderings after going out of painstaking sessions with my psychologists. My brain felt like mush. A tangled web of unreconcilable desires. I had three therapists and a coach spanning over eight years. Towards the end I laid down on my psychoanalyst’s couch twice sometimes three times a week. I could’ve bought cars with all that money. It felt eerie as if I were speaking to a ghost I couldn’t see. I’ve only been therapy-free for the past year. Almost all my adult life was devoted to trying to understand what I wanted. What could finally spark the desire to live to achieve to exist. I’ve done enough I think. For now anyway. It’s been going pretty well lately. I haven’t had a debilitating panic attack in years.

I went back to smoking. Weed is once again part of my regular life. But I don’t smoke like I used to. Not a pack a day. Not ten joints a day. No. I smoke a few cigarettes. Sometimes I don’t. I don’t miss exams. I don’t get so shitfaced I stumble home barefoot because my shoes have disappeared. I don’t end up in the strange empty surgical apartment of a forty-seven-year-old man I met on the subway. I don’t lie down on the floor of my Parisian apartment for days because I don’t know how to find the will to live. It’s better. But it will always be a slippery slope. I’m like Jean Genet’s tight rope walker. Only aware of being alive when I could die at any moment. When I’m closest to the corner where death is lurking.


You were eight the first time you thought you were gonna die. You’d convinced yourself you’d die of Tetanus after scraping your knee on a rusty nail. You couldn’t sleep for days because you were sure you wouldn’t wake up. That’s how old people always died. In their sleep right? You were sitting drawing with your cousin in your grandmother’s living room. Your grandmother’s praying in the distance. You hear her mumbling allahu akbar under her breath. Islamic tradition forbids women from praying out loud. Your parents are watching TV. You look at your family thinking it’s gonna be so hard for them when I am dead. But you didn’t die. It took you a few weeks to stop expecting it. You thought your survival was a miracle.

You were eighteen the next time. You had a lump in your breast and were sure it was cancer. You didn’t speak about it for weeks. Months even. But it was the main fixation you had during your med-school induced nervous breakdown. You’d stay at home all day fighting off panic attacks rarely mustering the will to shower or clean and obsess over that lump touching it kneading it again and again sure it was the sign of your early demise. You weren’t crazy though. There was a lump. Un adénofibrome. You had surgery to remove it. But it was benign. In the operating room they called you sein bénin. Benign breast to distinguish you from the cancer-ridden bodies you were surrounded by.

At twenty-one you had a pain in your throat and thought you’d die of cancer again. You really weren’t well that year. At the peak of the crisis you really thought about jumping from your 4th floor bedroom when you auto diagnosed yourself with a borderline personality disorder that turned out to just be PTSD resulting from a very unhealthy relationship. You’d had a thought. What if I get better for a while and then go back to feeling like this? It was intolerable. You clasped your desk so hard your hands almost bled. Your mom was on the bed behind you but she had no idea what you were going through. She had been too busy sobbing herself to sleep after realizing you weren’t a virgin anymore.


Breathe in breathe out until your brain keeps quiet.

I am sitting on my violently purple mat my legs outstretched in front of me. My back as straight as an arrow. I start with muladhar my root chakra. It’s located on my cervix. I contract my perineum give a little spurt and send the energy to the next center swadisthan. The energy goes from the front of the body to the spine. Breathe in breathe out. This little game goes on muladhar swadisthan manipur anahat vishuddhi ajna sahasrara. Up and down. Front and back. My body pulses expands becomes my own once again. Or is it maybe the very first time?

Far from the shame of lust I was taught to fear feeling sexual organs firing up is a good thing in yoga. One time during a class in a yurt in Burgundy we were doing tiny contractions of the perineum breathing in and out as always eyes closed sitting in a stillness and silence that were only interrupted by the occasional cough and bird’s song. After the session while discussing what we had just experimented the teacher said that the practice we just did was a good training against premature ejaculation. The oldest lady in the room almost choked and yelled with a desperate eye « I wish I’d met you before ».

I wish I knew sex was healthy and normal as long as it was consensual. I was taught to fear it avoid it despise it until I’d get married. In a way that makes marital rape a logical non sense. If the only thing standing between you and sex is marriage your body becomes an open bar once you tie the knot. When I started having it everything felt wrong even what could’ve felt good. I didn’t know what I wanted what I should want what I should refuse. When you feel you’ve already crossed the line of sin nothing feels right nothing feels wrong either. You are drowning in muddy seas of shame with a broken inner compass. No way to know what side is up. 


I live naked in my Parisian apartment. It is in front of a hospital and many hospital workers take their breaks on a terrace level with my windows. I see them through the big panels lining the outside walls of my living room. I see them looking at me sometimes and I quickly squat in hiding overcome by the shame I was taught to feel. I recently took nude pictures with some friends. They proudly stood shirtless on the fire escape while I was cowering in a corner. And yet I am the one always saying naked breasts should be perceived like any naked chest. I draw the curtains before going about with my sun salutations. I root down to rise up. Leg to the sky on the inhale I feel my vagina taking in the air I exhale.

It took me a long time to get there. To the place where destroying my body isn’t the only way I feel its contours make sure it’s real and stop questioning my very existence. I’d sit in class so bored out of my ass I’d need to draw on my hands with a compass. It stinged a little but it didn’t bleed. It left tiny white streaks that I’d press delicately to see the blood finally returning to my hands recoloring my skin. My clumsiness was and still is legendary. Bruises are always blossoming all over my body. I was taught in a past life in one of my psychology classes it is a sign of depression in children.

For years on end I filled my body with ashes. I filled my body with liquor. I couldn’t even speak to someone who’d thrown up when I was a teenager. I had the obscene luxury of growing up in a house with seven restrooms. I wouldn’t go for weeks to one someone had thrown up in. Seven years of therapy later I still don’t know why but I threw up so often during my first few years of college it cured my emetophobia forever.


My mum sits me down on my bed. You know masturbation is bad. You shouldn’t do that. God likes us to refrain from our desires. I’m fifteen and confused. I had a phone call with a friend a few days ago. She was wondering if it was explicitly said in Quran that it was forbidden to masturbate and wanted me to research it. I seemed like a good fit since my family was a band of bigots at the time. My mum had had a work-related injury from all the fumes she breathed while treating her patients’ decaying teeth. Mercury poisoning that caused her to have terrible neck pains and weird neurological reactions that everybody confused with MS for a while.

She stopped working for three years grew obsessed with religion. She’d wake up at five to pray. Fast every other day. Listen to preachers on TV and take notes to make sure she wasn’t missing anything. She’d come up with a new messed up idea every day. One day we weren’t allowed to use the silverware anymore because it was a sin to drink out of silver. The next she’d decide our family project would now be to learn all the thousand pages of Quran. We’d sit with a mufti every Wednesday afternoon trying to learn longer and longer texts. Sourate Al kahf was the worst. It was about a cave and that’s where I was. Isolated in an experience I didn’t even dare speak about to any of my friends who were busy getting drunk and kissing their boyfriends. Shame.

I took the Quran out of my room. I couldn’t have it constantly commenting on my sins. I felt worse for having taken it away. I stopped fasting in Ramadan because I couldn’t refrain from masturbating for a month and I thought there was no point in pretending. I hid to eat. Stashed instant coffee in my cupboard. I’d make it with hot tap water to avoid the terrible withdrawal headache I’d experienced the first few days of my rebellion. I drank it fast like a med that would quiet down the growing feeling of having committed murder.

I was guilt-ridden certain I’d burn in hell. I’d remember the stories they told children. Nobody had told them to me directly to scare me into behaving. My parents had actually had very good educational principles and a quite healthy relationship with religion until my mum went AWOL. But I’d heard the stories about hell anyway. They lingered around in the Tunisian air musky like the Jasmine smell that filled the hot summery nights. There was the obvious fire you had to avoid ending up in. The slippers you must never leave with their soles facing up because the devil might pray on them. The customary bismillah you had to say before your lunch so Sheitan wouldn’t share it with you and the more creative stuff like hanging misbehaving children by their eyelashes their bodies burning and reconstituting themselves to burn again like Prometheus’s liver. For some reason tradition says bodies become gigantic in Islamic paradise. I imagine hundred-feet-long puppets wandering around in eternal boring unbothered bliss congratulating each other for having lived their lives with a stick up their asses. Paradise also contains a wine river and most people I grew up around were waiting for death to dive into it. It makes me immensely sad to think of everything they missed out on and all the pain and pressure people experience because of normal earthly desires


The summer of my fifteenth birthday I’d go to the fridge open it and stare at bottles of water in the same way I sometimes look at things I can’t afford at supermarkets and think of stealing but never will. Those bottles of water became a line I decided to cross forever. And with them I opened the window of doubt. Systematic doubt. I would never again admit a rule without questioning its underlying logic. If it didn’t make sense I would stop obeying and fight the guilt until the new behavior felt as natural as drinking that forbidden water.

My mum’s crazy religious endeavor collapsed with her return to work and the arrival of Islamists in Tunisia. Her craziness appeared in its full intensity when she saw it in use to blow up cities. We drink wine together now lying on deckchairs by the seashore. But still the hypocrisy of Tunisian society towards religion stifles me. The way everybody hides. Gets fucked from behind so they remain virgins. Never drink or smoke in public. Pretend to be the perfect little Muslims no one actually is. Drives. Me. Insane.

I never set foot there anymore during Ramadan. People are supposed to fast to feel connected to the experiences of the malnourished but they often gain weight during that month because iftar dinners are more decadent than any Christmas feast you’ve ever eaten and they happen every night for thirty days. People feel allowed to become jerks because they’re craving their coffees croissants cigarettes. Sama7ni o5ti m7achech becomes the secret phrase that counteracts any harsh behavior. The worst meanest least charitable human beings become lesson-givers for a month feeling entitled to judge everyone who’s not taking part in the country-wide masquerade because they are going on a purity journey for thirty days before going back to their drunkard-misogynistic-wife-beating old ways and that gives them the right to judge you for eating a sandwich.

It’s not too bad outside of that sacred month. It’s tolerable. I can stay away from the mosques blaring Al salatu 5airan mina al nawm at five in the morning to encourage people to get out of bed and pray. I gaze at the sea. Go to Sidi Bousaid to eat a bambalouni. Enjoy meals with my family in the fanciest restaurants in town. I surround myself with people who feel inadequate. Maybe not as much as me. But at least a little in the hypocrisy floating around. I go to bars in the nice suburbs of Tunis where I can forget about that country’s deeply embedded contradictions. I dance till morning drink gin tonics gorge myself on Celtia the national beer and finish the night with the most amazing late-night sandwich in the world a ma9loub. In the Club Gingembre women kiss women and men kiss men oblivious to the law that makes being gay passible of a few years in jail. It hurts me to remember that I was born in a deeply homophobic place. Even people who are against the penalization of homosexuality have a very homophobic imaginary. My parents took in for a few days one of my friends that had been kicked out by his mother because he’d brought a Grindr date to their home. My mum trying to cheer him up told him his mum would’ve probably done the same had he brought a “normal” date. Had he been normal. I often wonder what slur she’ll inadvertently use when I tell her I’m non-binary.


Ōṁ Tryambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushthivardhanam Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaat Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritaat. You are chanting in a yurt in Burgundy. The yoga master is giving the tone with an Indian Harmonium. Its melody is eerie. Enveloping. Dream like. Your body pulses. You feel the energy of the people surrounding you. Their chanting meddling with yours. Resonating against the orange walls of the yurt transported by the incense and sage fumes thickening the room’s air. You are sitting in stillness underneath a blanket. It is fighting off the morning cold the crackling fire fails to completely overcome. You chant with the group going into a trance. It doesn’t matter who you are anymore. You don’t even know where you end and where they begin. Your body doesn’t feel real. But it’s a good feeling. Your brain has stopped its endless judging. Ōṁ. Tears are rolling down your eyes you realize it when the wetness reaches your chin. An electric jolt originates in your pelvis and your spine starts vibrating. You feel like it won’t ever stop now and a light bulb is gonna burst out of your forehead like Athena. The music resonates in each one of your cells. You become it. A strange awakened being who could be satisfied forever by sitting on that mat chanting Ōṁ hallucinating colors and shapes and floating on top of mountains like an eagle. Thankfully it doesn’t last. Your sannyasin brings you back. The stillness quickly subsides. You sometimes wonder if this really happened.


I sit with my legs opened wide. I joyfully manspread in the subway when it’s not too crowded. I laugh and speak loudly. My mum’s voice saying it’s not how a lady should behave often resonates in my head. I shouldn’t fall so often either. I’d scar my virgin legs forever. She didn’t expect them to be covered in a thick fur of black hairs. She wanted me to do ballet when all I wanted was to play soccer. It was the only thing for which I was ready to get my overweight little body running. So bad. I was so bad at running. Always last. My body failing me systematically. I compensated by having a smart mind. Always first to finish exams. The word too hard wasn’t part of my vocabulary. All my classes were actually too easy too boring but my parents wouldn’t let me skip any grade. So I read to pass the time and not be a pain in my teacher’s asses. They knew it was the only cure to la bougeotte. The unability to stay still and silent I am affected by. Reading became the only long-lasting healthy habit I ever had.

Deep down. Even when I was saying to people my dream was to become an orthopedic surgeon I knew that the greatest thing I could ever see was a book written by me birthed by my scarred charred body. It would finally put to use its everlasting feeling of not belonging not existing disappearing into nothingness holding on to the thread of words coming out of the tip of its fingers like a climber to its lifeline.

My self-sufficient megalomaniac body creating the very net that would catch it when it fell.


My first my very first childhood memory is of a big white room. A room full of so many mattresses my sad baby body could roll and fall on them for hours on end without risking harm. They would always be there to catch it. It was hindered that poor thing. From the waist down a Pavlik harness. Its legs set in an awkward unwomanly fashion that would come to be a problem in its later years. I was born with a congenital hip displacement and needed that medieval torture device to keep me from developing an eternal limp. There was an iron bar in between my knees keeping them apart. Paralyzed from the waist down.

So my desperate parents set up a room for their poor crippled baby to be able to roll onto freely. And my first childhood memory is in there. I was barely fourteen months old. And I remember my dad cursing ezzah because he’d gotten adult toothpaste from his pharmacy instead of the strawberry one my dentist mum asked him to get for her crippled baby. She cried for hours when I first walked.


I walked out of a bad relationship. Not a romantic one. It was just friendship but it fucked me up worse than any lover ever has and I hope ever will. Imagine having someone constantly there to remind you of every little failure your day may bring. Every misstep you ever took. Every bad decision you ever made. Someone mocking your quirks. Your desires. Your very existence. Someone who had so skillfully infiltrated themselves into your head they convinced you you were worthless of love all your friends and family wanted to harm you and you needed them. Only them. Your loving devoted friend. To survive.

It broke me. I broke it off. I broke down. Like full-blown psych-ward-deserving breakdown. Except my mum showed up and pumped me up with medicinal plants and I didn’t actually end up in an asylum. I started yoga at that precise moment because I needed something to quiet down my crazy brain. Just a thought a mantra to focus on instead of spiraling into paranoid delirium. Yoga wasn’t enough though. I’d quit everything cold turkey. Alcohol. Weed. Smoking. Being a slave to another human being.

It was the summer of my twenty-first birthday and I was doing sports eight hours a day. Two hours of swimming in the sea. An hour of running on the beach. An hour at the very least of beach tennis. Two hours of weightlifting. Every. Single. Day. I needed that to keep my brain quiet and to keep thin while binge eating several times a day. Exercise bulimia is a perverse little thing. To most people I looked healthier than I’d ever been. 

I was doing jumping jacks when I heard a crack. A bad ominous one that sent searing pains through my leg for months on end. It was my right hip. I don’t know what happened to it cause I didn’t tell anybody about it. Old habits die hard. Once again I was that small tiny little child who was afraid they’d get scolded by mum for not having been careful about her precious baby’s body. The body she wept over so often when I was a baby. When I was a fat kid and she couldn’t understand how.


On rentre le ventre on serre les fesses on lève la tête. Tuck the belly clench the butt raise the head. My mum’s mantra whenever we’d walk together when my sister and I were small.

Clementines in winter. Strawberries in spring. Watermelon in summer. Pomegranates in fall.

My mum has binge eating seasons. She has always achieved the non-small feat of getting fat by eating healthy foods and has transmitted that talent to my sister and I. But she also loves cake. And ice cream. And chocolate. Whenever she eats sugar she eats too much of it because it’s supposed to be the last time for a very long time. Tomorrow is a new day filled with healthy food choices so she taught us to eat like we’re on war coupons and this may be the last good meal we’ll ever have. She always perceived our overeating as something unusual. In her head the normal state of things was dieting. Resisting. Indulging being the ever-repeating exception. Throughout my childhood I’d steal chocolate in her cupboard with the same excited guilt I later developed for my Ramadan water.

I only achieved the slimness she desired right before that summer when I was training my body to destruction. I’d smoked so much weed it fucked up my metabolism and my body kept thinning whatever I ate. It didn’t last long though. All the weight started coming back as soon as I quit. That’s why I worked myself out to the breaking point.

Working out has consistently been part of my mum’s lifestyle for as long as I remember. Ever since covid she developed a new routine. An hour of biking in the early morning. Followed by swimming in the summer. Rowing machine in the winter. And an at least hour-long fast walk at night. She’s not freakishly fast like Malcolm’s dad but she does it every freaking day. She’s intense about what she likes. Her brother’s the same. He’s a cardiologist with a marathon-habit and a very heavy partier. I take it from them. We go through life like a wild fire. 

Before my mum quit smoking she’d run through a pack a day. Got her two cancers that I’ll probably end up having too. I miss her left breast very bad and yet I often fantasize about getting rid of mine. I wish I could get a surgery-less flat chest.


I don’t know how to not go all in. I have two moods. I give it all or I don’t give anything. No in-between. Always fighting between the desire to live and the desire to die. Freedom is hard. Everything’s a struggle. It would be so much easier to let myself get enveloped in the wool of nothingness. Where no one expects me to do or be anything.

To stop obsessing over every little detail to actually be able to experience life to simply feel alive I need to go beyond my limits. To feel my body on the verge of crumbling and crashing. My psyche under such pressure it’s either fight or flight. I go so far I’m always on the edge about to fall from the thread. I push my limits further and further away. Feel them in every decision I take. Regret all the times when I didn’t push myself enough. When I could’ve done better. Been purer. Grown stronger.

No pleasure in my life escapes the yoke of guilt worry and death. They are tirelessly digging their hole through everything. Eros and Thanatos are always making love in my thoughts. 

I fear cancer whenever I lit a cigarette. Whenever I smell the stench on my yellowing fingers. I feel myself about to break when I’m pushing a too heavy weight lying on a bench in the male dominated free weights section of the gym. I feel alive when I’m sore when all my moves ache when my chest pulses tightens grinds when my lungs are burning from all the ashes when my throat is itching from all the fumes when my knees hurt from all the dancing when I breathe in breathe out pranayama kriya mudra when I cum hard and my brain shuts down stops finally stops obsessing spiraling undermining my every fucking move.


I dance ungracefully on a crowded dancefloor. I’m probably high drunk both. Who cares everybody’s fucked up anyway. I close my eyes. Breathe in breathe out. Feel the music coursing through me. Shutting down my thoughts. Pulsing in my head. Bringing a smile to my lips. Animating my limbs. I don’t care what I look like anymore.

I open my eyes. Look around. Find a prey. Look at them. A few glances and I advert my eyes. We’re insects on a web of stars. Ripe fruits ready to be eaten by the night. I go back to the music. I’m alone under the dancefloor’s treacherous lights. I glance back once or twice. I need them to come fast. The illusion won’t hold otherwise.

They always come. Think they chose to. My lure is efficient. I’m sure I want them. They’re sure they want me. Each flash of light draws us closer our bodies melting into one another pulling away melting again. We draw our shared four-limbed space. A monstrous creature of desire. The music pulses unheard. Its beats thundering. We’re breathing in breathing out to its rhythm.

In the dark corner of a bellowing club I grope kiss touch jerk get groped kissed touched jerked. I don’t know what’s happening where I am who I am. I don’t remember most of the names. Just the stickiness of the floor and the smell of their breaths. It doesn’t matter. We’re just bodies responding to the lure of night.

If the groping wasn’t too gross. If they didn’t use too much tongue or go for my breasts too soon. If they didn’t resort to annoying flirting as soon as I lit the cigarette they insisted on seeing me smoke. If I didn’t feel trapped. I give them my number. Always the real one. Out of courtesy or a tiny pang of guilt buried deep within me a tiny glimmer of desire for something more sparked by the night’s attire and the polish of drugs flowing through my veins.

If nothing goes so wrong that it breaks the lie I am overcome by the desire to believe in the possibility that this could still be something tomorrow morning. That what makes them human. The little things that already low-key annoy me the way they look at me touch me hold their drink speak about their job what they studied where they came from who they are how they dress. That what makes them human will not start pissing me off once the night wears off. Deep down I know it’s a lie. I only wanted to feel alive in their desire.

If all those conditions are united and the illusion holds and I convince myself this won’t be unbearable in a week a month a year and I give them my number I’ll enjoy the narcissistic validation their texts bring to my fucked-up psyche. Reminisce about the way their groping lit up my body. But I will never answer. Vain hopes only blossom at night. Bodies decay under the light of day.

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