Abject Permanence

On sex, metamorphosis, and inconvenient desires

Larissa Pham
Gay Mag
Published in
8 min readApr 24, 2018


YYesterday I learned that the butterfly obliterates itself before being born again. There is one thing: the caterpillar. And there is another: the chrysalis. And then there is a third, which is the butterfly—a monarch or something else with symmetrical wings. But who knows what happens in the chrysalis? For a while, there is only a glittering fluid. Then there is something. Then it has a name.

Not unusual for a woman to always want to be smaller, and a host of possibilities as to why. In this story, I am 13. A friend is starving herself. We all watch her at lunch, and no one says anything about it, because it is already written as if in neon lights. She is a gymnast. She eats only apples, grass-green and hard, bitten down to the quick. She talks about her body constantly. She is strong. Someone notices and thinks I am like her, but I know we’re different. Someone forces an intervention. For me, nothing happens, and I am too young to understand my own mania anyway. The answer is not a disorder of the body but of the spirit.

Not the weight of the body but the fact of the body. Not the shape of the body but the needs of the body. How inconvenient to be made of desire. Even now, want rises up in me like a hot oil. I want so much that it scares me. I don’t know what I’m made of; I wish I did. That I could gut myself like a fish or a fruit.

At 18, something sparks a change in me, and all of a sudden I’m alive and aware of it like an animal. I could spend years interrogating who or what could have possibly twisted the cap off of my need, but why bother when there it is, already, spewing. All of a sudden the night takes on a new significance; it is when things become both real and possible. Daylight seems flat and washed out, like a digital rendering. Uninteresting. I find I feel more myself at night, my pupils huge, a plastic cup of something in my hand and the whole world stretched out like a hallway with…