artwork for Sarah Cipullo's short story In My Open Stomach

In My Open Stomach
Sarah Cipullo

We met at the supermarket. I was standing uncertain between fusilli and spaghetti. Leonie was hidden in my blind spot.

She wasn’t very tall and asked me to help her pull down a couple of packs of vegetable broth. She had the angular accent of a person who has crossed a distance, and I asked her where she was from. Leonie told me that she was born and raised in Berlin and had come here for a postdoc in biology. She smiled at me and I observed her moving along the edge of my body like a ship skirting the coast. She had round and welcoming hips, and when a subtle scent of cedar rose from her neck in a smoke-like wave, I touched her wrist with the tips of my fingers before she went past my shopping cart.

I still remember our first date. I enjoyed the sounds coming out of her mouth and she soon fell in love with something I could not know, while I was capitulating to a certain inconsolable je ne sais quoi I had glimpsed in the distracted depths of her dark eyes. At the end of that evening, I felt a baffling physical desire that sparked exquisite restlessness in my blood. I knew I had to have some sort of relationship with her or its absence would have left me unsatisfied and incomplete.

We were so in love we rummaged for months in each other’s things, in the bags and backpacks near the front door, in the sneakers abandoned outside the shoe racks, among the preserves in the kitchen and the perfume bottles in the bathroom. Once I returned from the office and saw her from behind, standing near my bookshelf. She had pulled out many books and was holding a heavy volume in her hands. I felt the longing for her in my open stomach and closed the door. Without turning around, Leonie said to me: “I was looking for you.”

At that very moment I realized that she had given up on the mainland. She had decided to sink, off any course, into my body. I was moved by her grafting herself into me, by this desire she had to stay inside me, walking slowly through the narrow streets, the secret passages, the underground tunnels. And even if she did so with astonishment, as if such human urban planning was not really possible, I knew there would always be something she would not understand, a place in which Leonie would not keep me any company.

“I truly love you. I never loved someone this way,” I told her while we were in bed the day I decided to welcome her into that empty space as well. I hugged her tight as she adhered to my torso.

“I love you too,” she replied sleepily.

“To the point that I’d eat you,” I added.

“I don’t think it would do you any good.”

“But doesn’t our genome already have the defenses that are needed against infections due to the ingestion of human flesh?”

She looked at me for a moment, impassive. Then she burst out laughing: “Are you going to tear me apart?”

“Well, if I could unsew your body with microscopic precision I would. Every molecule of your DNA …”

“… you could thread every molecule of my DNA onto a string to make a beautiful necklace that can be stretched from the Sun to Pluto and back 18 times.”

“It doesn’t sound very practical to me. Maybe tearing you apart is easier,” I concluded. She kissed me in a spontaneous smile which I returned.

The week after, it didn’t cost me any effort getting her to take the sleeping pill. I craved for her so much that I ate her in the manner of a royal prince of the Middle Ages, like game, breaking the bones and sucking the marrow. In the days that followed, I felt Leonie inside me as she was regenerating my muscle tissue. I had a strange hint of her around the body of my humerus down to the brachioradialis, and I smiled serene. I imagined her DNA stretching beyond the solar system.

I had never loved anyone like that. I was sincere when I told her.

Sarah Cipullo’s Comments

I was hungry (clearly craving pasta) and full of desire for a woman with tailor’s wrists. Plus, I love ambiguity. Merge everything.

Table of Contents

Frigg: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 60 | Fall/Winter 2022