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“One gum has less than two calories. I can accept that.”  Read an excerpt from “Repulsion”

“One gum has less than two calories. I can accept that.” Read an excerpt from “Repulsion”

“One gum has less than two calories. I can accept that.”  Read an excerpt from “Repulsion”

Iza. Twenty years ago, an angry teenager struggling with loneliness, a sense of inadequacy and eating disorders, today an adult woman who is looking for the truth about herself. Read an excerpt from the novel “Repulsion” by Malwina Pająk.

Attention, the text contains phrases that may cause anxiety or other negative feelings, especially in people struggling with eating disorders.


I like to fall asleep curled up, preferably on my right side, legs under my chin, hands under my head. I can’t do that now, because when my knees touch each other, I feel pain, one bone rubbing against another.

There’s a hole between my thighs that a truck could drive through, they say. But what’s the use of a hole when fat is deposited on the thighs and buttocks, filling the space between the ribs? I pinch myself hard there, digging my nails into the skin, picking up the folds of fat with a clothespin, imagining what I’d look like without them. The flesh is burning and red, and I fantasize that I take a thin, sharp knife and carve off great chunks of flesh, carving my figure in the manner of Kate Moss or Milla Jovovich. Even extensive blue scars would be better than this drum.

The drum of the draw machine is empty. growls.

I turn over on my stomach, sleeping on my back is unpleasant, it’s a bit like a man exposing himself to the world with his whole being, as if inviting: look, here I am, I’m not afraid of anything, I will accept every word and look. But I don’t want to invite anyone. I want to shut up, disappear, hide from people, from their sin and stupidity.

From behind the wall comes the light wheezing of the mother and the snoring of the father. I get up without a sound, groping my way to the green cube with patches hanging on the back of the swivel chair. I take out a pack of chewing gum. After a moment of hesitation, I turn on the lamp, read the ingredients on the package: sorbitol, maltitol, aspartame. Nutritional value per hundred grams: one hundred and forty-four kilocalories. The package weighs fourteen grams, which is twenty kilocalories, so one gum has less than two calories. I can accept it.

– What are you doing?

I don’t even hear my father enter the room. I stiffen at the sound of his voice.

– Why do not you sleep?

“I was thirsty,” I lie.

I turn off the lamp and jump back into bed. My father turns on the light, looks around, searches for a glass of water, trying as always to catch me in the act.

“I drank from the tap,” I say. Let him go from here.

– What do you have there? He points to my hand.

I hide my hand under the covers, but it’s too late, he’s already by my side, he’s already forcing his fingers apart from the packet of chewing gum, he’s already tearing it away flushed, panting, ugly and angry.

– What did I say? Saliva appears at the corners of his mouth. “What did I say?! It’s that shit that makes you lose your appetite. And then you complain about being fed like a baby. And you look so unseen! Girls your age have butts, tits, what about you? Board in the front, board in the back, so pretty. Nobody will want you, they don’t want you anymore. You’ll end up like this, this…’ He stops, gasping for breath.

I raise my eyebrows. I’d love to know when I’m done. How’s Janis Joplin? Nancy Spungen? Christiane F.? I bet he doesn’t know these women, after all, he hasn’t listened to a single good album in his life, he hasn’t read a single book, and he’s never been to the theater either.

“Next time I’ll shove the whole package in your mouth,” he says through clenched teeth, then turns off the light and leaves.

Five minutes later, the silence is broken again by his steady, loud snoring. I squirm in bed, I hear my mother behind the wall doing the same, and I hear well because my father hasn’t closed the door to my room again. Although the door says a lot. A piece of faux leather folded into an accordion, soaked in the stench of small-town existence, you didn’t give a shit, you didn’t see shit, he says “dad”.

I still have the sandwiches my mother gave me for dinner under my pillow. So far I haven’t had a chance to get rid of them. The easiest thing would be to throw them out the window, but our windows are old, wooden, and they creak. I’ll wait a day or two until there’s a pile of garbage in the bin, then I’ll slide the bread under the peelings.

My hand touches the soggy cheese on the spongy bread. For a split second, I think about pulling out that withered bun and stuffing it all in my mouth. Fortunately, it’s just a flash, a temporary weakness. I take my hand out from under the pillow and wipe my buttered fingers on the sheet in disgust. The stench of melting cheese makes me sick.


– There is an alternation of generations in the yeast population, i.e. the succession of the haploid and diploid generations. Sexual reproduction of yeast consists in the copulation of haploid cells with opposite conjugation signs through formed appendages…

The air smells like spring. Birds are singing, kids are playing bubble gum behind the block. I close the window as the noise from the backyard distracts me, but it’s no use, there’s still an irritating “boom” coming from behind the wall as one of the participants gives the wrong answer. Mother and father perform their Sunday after-dinner ritual: they drink coffee, eat cake and watch a game show. I open the folding door-not-door.

“Could you turn it down a bit?” – I’m asking. “I’m learning,” I add just in case.

Mother gets up from the sofa without a word, reaches for the remote on the bench and turns the TV down three notches. I go back to the couch and reach for my textbook.

– Yeast sexual reproduction is the copulation of haploid cells through formed appendages, cells with opposite conjugation signs, of course… I always repeat the material aloud, so I need peace and quiet. Meanwhile, a brawl is brewing behind the wall.

“Then who is in charge in this house?” the father growls.

– Oh, stop, watch – the mother tries to calm the situation, but it’s too late, the steam is already bursting from the nostrils, and the hooves are burrowing into the carpet.

Father raises his voice: – At her age, I had responsibilities, not just study and study! So smart and can’t even get a driver’s license. Izka! he yells. “Come here!”

In fact, I flunked. Not really. I’m just terrified of failing. I’ve already vomited twice on the examiner out of nerves.

I put the book down on the couch, get up, push the harmonica away.

“What do you think you’ll learn all your life?” “Father is very fond of rhetorical questions.

– No, but…

“Now I’m talking!” In the kitchen, wash dishes after dinner!

“They’ve already been washed,” Mother says under her breath.

– Pull out the vacuum cleaner, you’ll clean up – orders the father.

“Jurek, I was just cleaning things up. Besides, it’s Sunday today…’ My mother glances at me furtively. He’s afraid.

– She has Sunday every day. It just lies and smells!

“I’m not lying down, I’m studying.”

– Don’t talk! Are you comfortable with us? Then stand here and do squats! my father orders, pointing his index finger at me.

His jaw clenches so tightly that the shape of his face changes. The eyes become even narrower, the forehead furrowed. From a man with rather gentle features, he turns into a furious, purple newborn with a mustache in a few seconds. I am amazed at this transformation. That I had never noticed her before.

– Jesus Christ, Jurek! My mother floats up on the couch. “Look at her.” Not only is she so skinny, but you make her exercise?

– Be silent! my father roars, then turns to me. “Why are you standing there like a mute?” Move up.

So I move, imagining punching him in the face. Rach-chuck, rach-chuck. I hear the sound of breaking bones, feel the heat of gore, but I don’t stop, I hit on and on, so hard my hand goes numb. I punch breathless, unconscious, sinking my fist deeper and deeper into a mixture of bone, muscle, and sinew like a pepperoni pizza with double cheese. I used to like.

– Do you want to study? Here you go. Do squats and repeat. A pleased smile spreads across his father’s face. I see his even white teeth and wonder if he attracted his mother to them, or maybe to a body that was supposedly so attractive at one time that prostitutes would get into his police car and ask him to arrest them.

– Once! she counts down.

I stand still, I have the impression that I am floating a few meters above the ground and looking at everything from above. I’m not here. U. Mar. break.

– Once! – repeats the father, getting up from the couch. He comes so close I can feel his breath on my skin. It smells of chocolate and rancid fat. Out of the corner of my eye, I also see a purple stain peeking out from the collar of his shirt. I bet she wasn’t there yesterday. Maybe it’s melanoma, I think hopefully. My father puts his hands on my shoulders and pushes me against the floor.

– Once! Can’t you hear what I’m saying?! he shouts, drops of his saliva landing on my eyelids, forehead and cheeks.

My legs buckle under me, I do my first squat. I feel my stomach tremble.

“Jurek, please…” Mother comes over to us, grabs father’s elbow, but he pushes her away. She should scream, do something, but she disappears from my sight, loses focus.

– Two! And repeat!

“In a cell … that is formed … takes place … cario … karyogamy,” I stutter, trying to control the trembling of my legs and the deep need to sob. Thirteen.

My father leans over me, and I dodge, convinced he’s about to hit me.

– I can not hear! Louder! he yells right into my ear.

Twenty two. I’m shaking all over. I’m having trouble breathing, but I won’t cry, I won’t give him the satisfaction. It is enough that the mother is already sobbing hidden somewhere between the sideboard and the chest of drawers. Fifty-one.

This produces a nucleus with a diploid number of chromosomes. Then mitosis occurs, which is…

My thighs burn, my throat burns, I feel like my brain is about to explode. Seventy-six.

You died, I repeat to myself. You’re not here at all. You are out of body, out of this room, out of the house, even out of the city. Hundred. You’re floating in the sky, you’re watching

nice Art Nouveau buildings from a bird’s eye view, it’s some big European city, have you ever seen something similar on a postcard from aunt Zośka, one hundred and ten.

“That’s enough,” my father says after the one hundred and twelfth squat. “Because you’ll get tired,” he says, and goes to the kitchen.

He puts on water for tea, pulls a box of family ice cream out of the freezer, as if what just happened was a daily father-daughter pastime, playing together, family fun to the armpits.

I walk back to my room on soft legs. I close the door-not-door behind me and stand there for a long moment. I can feel the chill spreading over my body from the top of my head to my toes. Familiar coldness, tame coldness, family coldness.

I press my ever-cold hands to my hot forehead. I don’t know anything, I’m useless, I confused meiosis with mitosis, I have to repeat everything again.

Disgust – cover promotional materials of Wydawnictwo Otwarte

Source: Gazeta

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