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On the first day of summer art classes, I apprehensively set off for the urban campus. The commuter train stopped at the bottom of my street and six stops later deposited me a short walk from the fine arts building. The schedule called for morning instruction then after lunch spend the rest of the day in the studio, which was divided into workspaces, each with two easels and a common worktable. The workspace assignments were marked with our names on placards. I located the easel labeled ‘Monica’ and since I was the only Monica in the class there was no confusion. I shared the workspace with Carl. He was older, outgoing, flamboyant, dramatic and slightly effeminate. He was also an extremely talented artist. His caricatures aptly exaggerated features and expertly captured personality traits. Perhaps it logically followed that his specialty was people.
For most of the students this was their second or third summer session l and were at least acquainted with each other. I was younger, new to the group and a bit standoffish. At lunch while most of the crowd went across the street to a sub shop, I took my sketchbook and walked to the nearby park. The park’s marble balustrades, sculptures, monuments and fountains harkened back to a more cosmopolitan time. Nestled among the old residences that now were subdivided into apartments, churches and offices, the park serves as a haven from the urban grittiness that surrounds it. This was my lunchtime retreat. I would find a vacant bench, spread my home packed lunch beside me, open my sketchbook, pick a subject and draw. Usually I chose an architectural feature of an old town house or perhaps a freestanding statue or just a building. It was always a still life, and never overwhelming.
For the first few days in the studio, Carl and I kept out of each other’s way. Occasionally he would stare at my boring attempts at still life and give a dramatic shrug. I often took a peak at his drawings and wondered at the amazing detail and lifelike composure he gave to his subjects. When the instructor was going about this business, critiquing students’ work or outside smoking, Carl could grab a charcoal pencil and in effortless, flowing strokes render a true to life image. The faces were accurate in the most exacting detail.
At lunch the last day of the first week, I sat under a tree feeling a bit overwhelmed by the class but not defeated as I sketched. I was trying to capture the detail of a weathered gargoyle mounted at the corner of the museum. The high sky and bright sunshine provided sharp shadows and distinct contrast across the monstrous figure. I held the edge of the sketch paper against the breeze with one hand as squinted to pick out the details. My concentration was broken by Carl’s sharp falsetto voice. “Monica! Why there you are! I have been wondering why you aren’t lunching with us. You really should make a point of socializing with your classmates.”
Carl stuck a swishy pose, which he emphasized by delicately holding a cigarette with his thumb and forefinger. Add to this a voice that was not natural but so affected he sounded prepubescent. I almost expected to look up and see a child with an ice cream cone standing over me.
“I pack my own lunch and I enjoy the weather,” I said diplomatically omitting the fact that I did not care for most of the other students. “I take advantage of the opportunity to practice.”
Carl seemed satisfied with my response as he awkwardly lowered himself to the grass before me. “Well, I just wanted to let you know that you are welcome to join us. We are not the snobs you think we are.” The words ‘snob’ seemed to hang on his tongue as he exhaled the word in a cloud of cigarette smoke.
“I appreciate the offer and I will join you sometime. But as long as the weather is so nice I prefer to be outside. Please don’t take that as an insult.”
“I understand completely. You do not have to make apologizes to me. I will see you back I the studio.” He awkwardly rose, brushed a few blades of loose grass from his slacks, turned abruptly and walked away with a slight sashay before turning his head, “Ciao”.
That afternoon Carl seemed to intentionally avoid any contact with me. I would catch him glaring at me from over his easel and when I did he abruptly turned away. I did not have strong feelings for him either way and his behavior earlier would not be considered flirtatious, but his actions this afternoon seemed very peculiar. I passed it off as a male hormonal problem and forgot about it.
The next Monday Carl was not in class. This wasn’t unusual since cutting summer classes seemed routine. But it struck me as unusual since he took such an interest in the subject matter.
At lunch I wandered about the perimeter of the park trying to decide which building feature I would attempt to sketch. Nothing caught my eye, so I decided to take a position on some steps at the east end of the park that looked out over the industrial side of the city and draw the casino şirketleri skyline. A large dome, church spires, smokestacks, billboards, rooftops all cluttered the urban landscape. It was a view that suited me and I quickly settled in to drawing.
“Monica! Why there you are! I have been looking all over for you. Are you hiding from me?”
Carl sat on the step next to me, crossed his legs at the knee, and languidly fluttered the cigarette in front of his face with one hand as he held a large sketchpad in the other. His manner seemed more affected than usual or perhaps he want to just put on a show for me. He shook his head approvingly at my efforts, as he pretended to gather courage to speak.
“Now, I wanted this to be a surprise and I will be mortified if you take offense. So don’t be judgmental, just tell me if you like it or not.”
He raised the sketchpad, thumbed the corner of the pad until he found the page he wanted and then dramatically flipped back the pages. There on the open page was picture of a woman reclining on an antique sofa. It was an ink sketch filled in with watercolor. The woman wore a long green robe with a fringe collar seductively parted down her front. Her hair was abundant, sensual auburn and languidly fell about her shoulders and the arm of the sofa. I was the face. They were my eyes, mouth, chin; even my pendant earrings lasciviously stared back at me. The hair was styled, fuller and with more color but it was me.
All I could do was gape. It gave me an eerie feeling. I had never seen myself in a picture even photographs of me were unusual. And yet there I was arrogantly staring down at the mortals who dared look upon the portrait. Then in an instant Carl closed the pad and tucked it under his arm.
“That is enough for the first time. I do not want to spoil you. Perhaps I will treat you to another viewing later.” With that he turned on his heels and sauntered off in the direction of the art class. I checked the time. My concentration was shattered so I decided to follow suit and return for the afternoon session.
When I returned to the studio Carl was standing at his easel working frantically. His actions were more than just frantic they were furtive too. He worked in fits of manic activity with an over the shoulder paranoia. As someone glanced in his direction or walked near he abruptly turned the page on his pad and assume a casual attitude.
I took my position at my easel and started to arrange my pens and inks with no mention of what had transpired in the park. I occasionally caught Carl staring in my direction and when I did he turned away and I even sense him blushing as he did. I presumed he was just being dramatic.
The day at the art class winds down slowly. Students begin packing their things and drifting away at least 30 minutes before the scheduled end. Some to catch rides or busses, others out of boredom I stay until the last possible minute. It is therapeutic to stand in front of a broad sheet of paper and thoughtlessly sketch without any critics in the room. I am never sure what I will draw, just latch on to an idea or form and sketched it as I imagined it.
Today it was only a few of us left at the final bell. The instructor left the room and we began gathering the odds and ends, replacing them in their proper places. Carl kept his sketchpad closed, scanning the room for an unwelcome intruder. As I walked behind him he turned and in a barely audible breathe said “hey”. I stopped and turned. He rose to his full height, looked about the room, assured that no one was watching and opened the pad to a page in the middle.
There I was languidly on the sofa; my hair full and flowing and a temptress look on my face. The detail was as precise as the earlier drawing. There was one decided difference; I was now naked. Not teasingly naked with wisps of hair and fragments of clothing covering the lascivious parts but unabashedly naked.
In the pose, one arm draped across the back of the sofa and the other hanging listlessly to what would be a floor if one was drawn. My breast were plump, my hips full and round with their outline inscribing a precise patch of hair at the intersection of my thighs. My expression was unadulterated sensual. My thin lips slightly parted in a sly smile, eyes closed to almost a squint and my head titled at a come-on angle. It aroused me.
Carl blushed, expecting me to be angry or throw a tantrum. Instead I extended a finger towards her full breasts and glared at Carl. His blush of embarrassment, which I truly though was not possible for him, grew deep red extending to his forehead and ears. I continued making a circular motion with my finger hoping to solicit a response. He recovered slightly and began to nod nervously but not sure of what to say. When he started to speak, I raised my finger, and wagged it at him. As I did this, I thought he stopped breathing completely until I placed my finger behind the top button of my blouse and tugged casino firmaları it forward. I glanced down at my puny breasts hidden beneath my flimsy bra. I motioned towards the picture as I kept my blouse slightly extended and said, “That is NOT me”.
Carl relaxed and broke into a smile. “What about the rest of the anatomy?” I made a quarter turn and place my palm against the cheek of my ass. “That is not me either” I sighed dejectedly. Carl regained his composure and with his normal, dramatic flair assumed the role of promoter. He stood before the reclining figure and explained, “Well, I was not drawing from memory, I was drawing from my imagination. If I had the opportunity to have studied the subject au natural it would have been exact in every detail. But, alas, I was not privy to that.”
I smiled as best I could, “Well, you never asked. You don’t know until you ask.”
My blasé assessment of Carl’s work gave me a sense of confidence while he assumed his affected pose, rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and brought his fingertips lightly to his lips. “What time is convenient, then?” He was calling my bluff but I was ready. “Anytime! After class I am available at least for an hour or so.” I was calculating my free time when neither my father nor my sister would be around. My father was off to work before three in the afternoon. My sister was more of a wildcard. It depended on the combined schedules of her work and male friends. She also may want uninterrupted use of the basement. However, my sister is negotiable.
“Well then, I propose tomorrow, immediately after class? I will cadge a car and we can find a suitable retreat where you can freely model in the buff. Do you have any such place in mind?”
“Of course I do. We can work undisturbed at my house.” I feared that Carl was posturing and would back out. But in case he did not I had to prepare myself for what was expected of me.
Carl cocked his head back and lightly caressed his chin as if deep in thought. “How is the light?” North light, I presume? Without the proper light I cannot make any guarantees about my work.”
“No. We will be in the basement with one small window that opens to a sunken window well. There is adequate artificial light. If that won’t do we can call it off.” Was he serious? This would tell. I looked for a sign in his body language but his dramatic persona masked his true emotions.
“If that is the best you can do . . . “, he paused and brushed his hair from his forehead, “then it will have to do. But I make no promised about the results.”
The die was cast. After class we would ride to my house and I would disrobe for the sake of art. The prospect excited me. I mentally set the stage. I would arrange the basement room, as best I could, as a studio. The bar and barstools would be props along with a robe which I would drape across the bar for effect. I could clearly see it in my mind’s eye. Did I need anything else? I did not understand enough about lighting to make a decision, so I would move a floor lamp there for Carl to manipulate if need be.
The next day, class just seemed to go. My anticipation was high but controlled. Carl affected an oblivious air to me the entire day, leaving for lunch with the others without a word. I revisited my fear that he would back out. Instead, as the class ground to a halt, Carl gathered his supplies at the earliest convenience, lowered his head to the side of my easel, glanced furtively left and right and breathed in a low gasping voice so as to not be heard, “Ready?” I did not reply but collected my things at my normal pace, checked that all was secured and casually walked towards the door leaving Carl at my easel. As I approached the door I turned towards him. He had a quizzical look and must have thought I had lost my nerve. But when I stared back at him and made a gesture towards the door with my head, he gathered his things and scurried after me down the hall. We walked in the same direction but apart until we exited the building.
On the street he looked about with an air of secrecy. He dropped his nonchalant demeanor and exhibited an uncommon air of nervousness. He gazed awkwardly up and down the street, obviously, trying to feign nothing more than casual. On the contrary, I was quite at ease and flush with anticipation. When nobody from class was within earshot, he rapidly spit out his instructions.
“The car is on the lot around the corner, a blue sedan. I will walk this way” pointing in the opposite direction, “and meet you there. If anyone is nearby I will circle the block again. Just wait.”
“Are you a spy?” I asked sarcastically.
“No! No! Nothing like that. I’ll tell you in the car!”
With that he took off in the opposite direction from the lot. I, in turn, proceeded down the block to the parking lot and looked for a blue sedan. I had a few choices and none looked like a car Carl would be associated with.
I mingled with the small crowd assembled güvenilir casino at the bus stop and waited. After a few minutes I hear a muffled voice call “Monica” from somewhere behind me. I turned to see Carl with his car idling in the alley. Without a care I walked over, opened the door and sat in the seat beside him.
“Did anyone see you?” he asked nervously.
“Sure. All those folks at the bus stop” I replied.
“No. From the class?”
“Oh . . . I don’t think so. I didn’t notice”.
He gestured me to slide down low in the seat as he maneuvered the car out of the alley and on to the street. It lurched and stalled as he struggled with the clutch and the shift lever. A panic rush to restart the car caused it to stall again. It then started and the tires squealed forward as the engine over revved and the clutch gripped. At the intersection he stopped with a concerned look on his face. Without saying a word I motioned to go straight ahead. He nodded and continued.
“Is something bothering you” I asked curiously, “you seem perturbed?” We continued north for a few blocks without saying another word. When I directed him to take a left and head west, he made the maneuver and then relaxed.
“I don’t think we should be seen.”
“Oh, why not?”
“Well, your age. You are young. My friends, they would think it odd. You are not legal.”
“Well, I am nineteen and I don’t think you’re legal either.” I placed extra emphasis on the word legal. “How old are you?” I countered.
“I am twenty-five and most of my friends are older.”
His age surprised me. Physically he did not appear that old, although his classroom demeanor, perhaps juvenile at times, did comport with his age.
“And another thing, I am on the faculty!”
This admission startled me. I never suspected a faculty member of sitting in on a summer class. “I am a graduate student, a Teaching Assistant, in case you did not know. I am scheduled t teach this same course next semester. I am attending this session for familiarity only. Do you really think I would benefit from these rudimentary exercises?”
Carl was incensed, not because of my question about his age but because I did not recognize his credentials. “Ok, Ok, well, it seems we are both of legal age then.” Trying to get back on the agenda, “Do you still want to pose?”
“If you want”, was his tepid reply.
“I going with you aren’t I.”
I relished the high ground. This arrogant artistic prodigy was intimidated by my mildly aggressive, yet casual attitude to the scene we were about to play out.
I gave directions with hand motions as we silently slogged through the old grid work of narrow streets and cramped houses that defined the working class neighborhood of 150 years ago. I could tell by his expression he had never ventured into my area of town and he was not comfortable with such less pretentious neighborhoods. The car lumbered over the raised crossing over the tracks, once an old freight line but now upgraded to a commuter train. A sharp left took us up a potholed road, rising above and parallel to the rail line. On the right a series of aging brick duplex houses paired together. To our left beyond the metal guardrail was sheer drop, populated by junk trees and overgrowth, ending at the tracks below. The road ended without warning at a weathered stop sign posted before a rusted chain link fence.
“Here we are” I crowed, “the house at the end of the road! Leave it right here nobody drives this far back here.”
Carl stopped the car and set the brake. The car was parked along the edge of the side yard of my house. A long green swath wedged between the side of the house and the city owned woods and extended clear to a barricade fence along the alley the ran behind the houses. The house was slightly behind us with a flight of steps descending from a small stoop at the front door to street level.
I opened the car door, tucked my art supplies under my arm and sprang out of the car. “Coming” I asked. Carl nodded and cautiously got out of the car and followed me. I did not go in the front door but walked across the yard to a small covered patio and a door at the back. With my key I opened the door, entered then turned to beckon Carl. The alien environment washed away whatever facade of sophistication he previously displayed. It may have been an act of will or fear but either way he entered the small kitchen.
“Something to drink? Eat?”
He nodded “No” as he gazed about. The setting was clean and neat, because my sister and I kept it that way, and to some, quaint. To Carl it was strange. I ignored his obvious discomfort and opened the door that lead to the basement. We descended the narrow flight of stairs that ended facing a door to small bathroom. From the vantage point at the base of the stairs, the room was compact and orderly. Along the front wall was a short bar with two barstools and a mirror behind it. Opposite the bar against the parting wall was a futon set up as a sofa. My sister was an expert at converting it to a bed at the drop of a hat or skirt.
At the end of the futon, a door led to the back of the basement and a convenient exit to the yard if the need arose.
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