On Dry Gagging

Field notes from Hypersensitive Gag Reflex.

In the months preceding my ex-wife’s psychiatric collapse, she dry gagged every morning on white knees in front of the toilet. The knees came up with little red patches made by the linoleum floor. I remember checking my early morning email, still in a robe, and imagining drops of my urine on the rim, as she was always considerate enough to lift the toilet seat. In the months following said collapse, I latently researched symptoms of severe clinical depression to learn that such behavior was a common well-documented symptom. As for the drops of urine, those yellow tears from a man without aim, they follow me everywhere.

And in the months after our divorce, I too began dry gagging (though less committed, I simply heaved over the sink). It’s like you’re brushing your teeth, and you feel violated by the toothbrush — it flashes in your mind as a knife, or a weasel’s dirty long nail, something dangerous or disgusting — and the reciprocal part of you that you hate, as your own stubborn viscera, dies to come out. If the day ahead is putrid, it may call for the disfigured smiley-face of vomit on the ground. It’s less cathartic than nauseating, the involuntary apparition of oneself as formed by airless gasps emitted into the world.

Clinical psychologists have provided the term “emotional memory” to explain Hypersensitive Gag Reflex (HGR), asserting that our brains store unresolved — truncated, not fully developed — responses from past traumatic experiences, and that these involuntary gags or heaves are responses to the resultant acute anxiety. I only developed this after my ex-wife did, as if discovering the deep ravines of my own viscera from her, and our respective pleas for expulsion. Perhaps the divorce was in itself the traumatic experience, or it simply elicited the calm reservoir of my childhood, stirred its still waters into acid and bile.

Every morning I wake up and sigh. I look at the package of light in my window, some gift, or bomb. I walk naked to the bathroom and weigh myself, obsessed with controlling the digital numbers conveyed with little black slashes. I raise my arms and look at my ribs in the mirror, that bloody aviary for the small blind bird inside my chest. The protrusions look like a xylophone, in a minor scale, of course. I form a caterpillar of toothpaste on my toothbrush, insert it in my mouth, and begin moving my arm. The trick to being alive is to simply start moving and to not stop, to impersonate a functional human being, to get off the bus at the right stop, to take your food out when the microwave beeps, to smile when others smile, and to cry alone. The mirror hosts my greatest critic. If a million mornings stacked together into a life is sad, then it deserves a prayer. My ex got on her knees in so many ways, and sex was the last thing on our minds.

If the world is amiss, and you miss something, or someone, or some part of you. If is a word I could ask myself forever, a word that is in the dead center of life. If we were still together, if it was even possible to love her more. On her behalf, to commemorate my regret, and the monsters we became, I lower my face into the toilet, reduced to the same level as my future and earlier fecal detritus. “I am shit,” this seems to be a common sound bite around here. A tear forms, but only because I’m squeezing my face so hard, as some dry lemon in the desert denying the mirage of another life. A distant one that looks better, with softer edges and someone waiting. Then finally, the deep passionate one way kiss as I crane my neck, close my eyes, open my mouth, and excise the sharp nothingness within. Nothing comes out, but I flush the toilet anyways, as she had always done. TC mark

image – Eric Bryan

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  • Anonymous
  • Mw

    holy fucking christ reading this was like a 5 minute dry-gag, and i mean that as a compliment. I have been living this for the last 2 months of my life. My body wants to expel everything but nothing comes out, no purge, no release. But my eyes are red. I want to say that this is the best thing i have ever read but i cant catch my breath.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matisse-Jenkins/742298725 Matisse Jenkins

    Jesus. Where have you been?
    I know I’ve said this before, but I take back anything I’ve ever said. This is the most fantastic piece I’ve ever read on TC.

  • http://twitter.com/geology_rocks Haley F

    It’s nice to read some writing by grown ups on here. Great piece. 

  • http://twitter.com/beyoncefan3000 bf3k

    This is the best thing I’ve read on this site.

  • Colsheen

    “The trick to being alive is to simply start moving and to not stop, to impersonate a functional human being, to get off the bus at the right stop, to take your food out when the microwave beeps, to smile when others smile, and to cry alone.”

    Beautiful. thank you.

  • KurtCobain

    Beautiful, Jimmy.

  • jeff

    “I raise my arms and look at my ribs in the mirror, that bloody aviary for the small blind
    bird inside my chest.”

    damn

  • Emily

    Superb, as usual. 

  • http://twitter.com/aluminiyum Soraya

    beautiful/uncomfortable/truth

  • http://twitter.com/macabrecadabra terryl quixote

    FUCK YES.

    Thank you, man.

  • Rebecca

    I feel like I have  an over-heightened gag reflex, both physically and emotionally, but I could never have expressed these sensations so eloquently. Thanks for writing this.

  • Janelle

    I’ve just had a terrible day and this came along. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Jimmy Chen

  • Tyrone

    i stick my fingers down my throat :S

  • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

    Jimmy Chen, you are easily my favorite TC contributor.  

  • Anonymous

    this reminded me of jerzy kosinski’s “being there” mixed with the opening line to slipknot’s “duality.”

  • http://mrianmbelcurry.tumblr.com/ Mr. Ian M. Belcurry

    This is great. Seems an important piece to the Jimmy Chen collection, letting the reader explore your pysche even more. This seems to be a piece of the puzzle. I’m a huge fan obvs.

  • ohai

    Wow.

    “Then finally, the deep passionate one way kiss as I crane my neck, close
    my eyes, open my mouth, and excise the sharp nothingness within.”

    Beautiful/sad/breaks my heart a little.

  • Deirdree_lynn

    Thank you, amazing

  • Anonymous
  • Linarudkovsky

    Now this, this is a piece of fine writing. Now this, this is a writer. 

  • ofelia

    thanks for this. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=508371039 Rayan Khayat

    I don’t understand why these people are happy you’re miserable, further glorifying your misery.

    You need to take a shower and stop being a hopeless bitch.

  • splinky

    jimmy chen, you so good

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