I yearn for the model to look at me as I sketch the far away stare in his eye. He has been studying the wall with determination for the last ten minutes. Retreating into his own brain possibly to avoid thinking of the pairs of eyes on him. I silently try to call him back, “Look at the way my hair falls demurely over my cheek as I paint you! Look at how my eyes are licking every inch of you! Look at me, dammit!”
A figure made of impatient strokes emerges from my canvas. Hollow on the inside. I trace the curve of his hip with my brush and wonder if his skin is stretched thin over his hip bone, if the veins pulse blue beneath it.
“So now that most of you have the sketch down, let’s start with the darkest shadows,” the professor says. Her footsteps reverberate in the nearly empty studio. Across the room, other students emerge from the dark as ghostly figures.
A wet streak of deep blue for the spine, a mix of purple, blue, and black for the slope of his lower back, more dark blue behind his kneecaps and the seam between arm and torso. His chest is a wide field of soft hairs gathered densely in the middle. His skin glows in the pointed, artificial light. I dip my brush in the purple blob and darken the slight hollow of his buttock. He looks ripe and bruised. I want to run my hands down his chest and over his thighs. I want to bite his shoulder and press my breast against his ribs as I feel him respond to my touch. The familiar ball of heat in settles in my gut as my thighs press together.
“His stance is too stiff,” says the professor and I cough a small, startled sound at finding that she is directly behind me. “It’s more like this.” She guides my hand down the model’s standing leg making an exaggerated indent at the knee. He smiles—at least I think he does—at her use of “stiff” no doubt! A barely perceptible crease of the mouth, a watermarked parenthesis. The teacher’s hand on mine makes me feel uncomfortably warm. An unwanted touch makes the skin recoil. I think I read that somewhere. The other students are too absorbed to notice my discomfort. I nod to the professor, and she releases me. The skin on my hand is suddenly cool and prickles like soft static.
It must be the fluidity of the paint that makes the figure rigid. Or is it that my focus isn’t exactly on the painting or the stiffness of it? It is difficult to control such a temperamental medium, and I am still learning.
“A break, please?” the model’s voice cracks from disuse. I’m disappointed at the slip, a perfect mouth making such an imperfect sound. Men are weak creatures wrapped in muscle and pride. But I’m weak too.
“Of course. Five minutes everyone.” I lay my brush down and stretch my arms behind my head. In this position, my breasts look bigger than they are. To my disappointment the model doesn’t look at what I imagine is the flesh straining against the neck of my shirt. He slips on a robe and sits on the edge of the platform.
I release my arms with a sigh that is dramatic even for me. He must have heard, because he looks in my direction. I look away quickly, suddenly shy. Why do I do that? I look up and he raises his eyebrow and I look down again. What is the purpose of this roller-coaster of reticence and longing? Am I checked by my own (false?) modesty or by fear of rejection? Or perhaps of mockery! Am I shamed by my own desire? Or is it a reflex buried in some untouchable place?
My lowered eyes see his feet move apart. The space between his thighs, dark and promising. He sees me staring. I feel a thump between my legs that I can almost hear. He stands, holding my gaze, and lets the robe drop. He moves to the platform and arranges his limbs facing me. Does he feel this shift in power? He’s the one naked, yet I am exposed.
Every time I look up from my work, he’s looking directly at me. A tingling crawls up my spine and fans out across my chest. Every follicle stands at attention. I’m sure the heat of my body is wilting the tip of the brush. The melting bristles and oil paint mix together to form an ugly brown, which I use to paint the background. I imagine him kneeling in front of me in the bright light of the platform while the other students look on from the shadows.
“All right. That’s time,” says the professor. The model relaxes instantly, his muscles sliding back into their natural place. My legs feel fatigued like I’ve been walking for days. “See you all on Thursday. Thanks to Jake for his work today.”
There is a faint applause from the shadows, as this professor smashes the fantasy into a million paint chips. She has ruined it! She took it in her cold hands ripped it right down the middle. I don’t want to know his name. No one in a fantasy has a name! Names carry so much weight. I want a weightless fuck. A perfect anonymous love affair. Where he is the model and I am I. And we have a moment suspended in time, suspended on the platform with the light blinding us. A moment that doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t presume, it simply exists and we grab it with conspiratorial hands and wrap it around our joined bodies.
In mild despair, I pack up my things, and begin picking the greasy pieces of the fantasy off the cold floor.
*This is a work of short fiction inspired by Erica Jong’s novel Fear of Flying, which is written in a quirky first person style that is serious, humorous, melodramatic, and sexy all at once.