A few years ago, when I asked a girl I’d been with what went wrong between us, she told me that I had a “chilly demeanor.” My presence made her cold. She told me I was disembodied from my body, that if someone put a blue collared shirt and brown pants on another body and put my head on it, I wouldn’t notice the transference.
Later, I was walking around the campus where we went to college. I was passing through the art building when I came across a napkin tacked to a bulletin board among other glossy advertisements and solicitations. “Nude model needed, weekly, $50 dollars, quiet group, novice, but friendly. Call Dolores at xxx-xxxx if interested.” I was interested. I’m always interested in working, if for no good fucking reason but to have something to build some disinterest. If I was in fact disembodied, what would it matter to me if the body sat on a platform for a few hours while people drew it? My head could read the complete works of Jane Austen or play gin rummy. And fifty dollars. I hastened to my room and made the call. When Dolores answered, she sounded old (perhaps explaining why she was named Dolores). When she told me it was late (it was 7:30 pm), I thought again that she must be old. In any case, the arrangements were made. When she asked if I had experience, I said yes, of course I have experience—why, it’s nearly a career with me. I was a nude model, with calling cards, although I’d unfortunately just run out! My card has a picture of a Chinese screen with my silhouette visible. My name was not Jaye, it was Hans, or Richar… Hans. I even had my own robe!
I was to be there, expert or not, at 10:00 am the next day. Dolores told me the group preferred females, but they would have to take whatever appeared on the pedestal. I was excited at this unique prospect to humiliate myself and to undercut the judgments of my estranged intimate. I would need provisions: a bathrobe, a suit (I was professional), a joint (for the sake of full perceptual removal), and a car. I would need to borrow these items, so I decided to admit my purposes when asked what I wanted with the necessary materials. I asked my friend down the hall for his robe. I was going to nude model. “Oh,” he said, reticence lifted, “I thought you were going to take a shower.” For the car, I asked my old girlfriend. “I would like to borrow your car tomorrow, all day. I have a gig.” “What kind of gig do you have?” she asked. “Oh, you know, I’m nude modeling for the Swannanoa Arts League.” She was nonplussed and apparently familiar with the organization. “Dolores, right?” “Yeah,” I said, “have you modeled for her before?” I asked her, my calm colleague. “No, but my old roommate did. I’m amazed Dolores is still alive.” Do you have a robe?” she asked. “Yes, yes of course I do.” “Well, take it off slow.” I smiled at her flirtation. “Look, don’t look so pleased. You’re no steed. These people are really old, and the sudden glint of your pallid flesh might upset some pacemakers.”
Apparently, Dolores was the director of the Senior Citizens Art League. Now I was interested. I went to bed forthwith, and when I woke up, I would shave my chest I was so enthusiastic. The morning gave rise to a cooler head, however, when I realized what I’d truly committed myself to. I enjoy wearing clothes, not in some sense of decorum, but that I enjoy the conditions of apparel. More so, my physique wasn’t exactly the boast of the Renaissance. I was a lean white male. As for endowment, well, I wouldn’t embarrass anyone. They preferred women because women have dimension. I had elbows.
The drive to the place was a trial. If only to spite she who judged me disembodied, I persisted. After an hour of possibly willed misdirection, I pulled into a lot to turn around and go back. It wasn’t meant to be, the consolation. But, blessed be the convergence, behind the small building of a nursing home, I saw a small shed with a sign for the Swannanoa Arts League. I quelled my apprehensions and parked. I decided to wait on the perceptual removal (the joint) until I wasn’t so horrified, maybe at the break, if there was to be one. I looked at my face in the rear-view mirror before heading in. I’d grown a mustache for a role in a play as a young Albert Einstein. Considering what he had accomplished at a relative age, I would have to be an actor fit to please a bitter king to pull of Einstein. As for the present role as Hans the Model, the mustache was happily appropriate. I buttoned my overcoat and closed the car door.
When I arrived at the windowed door of the shed, I was greeted not by Dolores, but by a Bob Vila lookalike, who I suppose in this circumstance was more of a Bob Ross. In any case, he wore a flannel shirt, old jeans braced by suspenders, and a look of embarrassed masculinity so glaring one would think I’d caught him applying Dolores’ lipstick at the vanity mirror across the room. Our exchange was in mutual awareness of this fact. “Hello, you must be the model… what’s your name,” Bob Vila Ross asked, eyes downcast, wishing I was a dimensioned woman. Hans, you coward, say it! “Jason,” I said, with a touch of formality, yes. He directed me through the room to the dressing area. The dressing area was a spot on the concrete floor behind a flower-print sheet. For a moment I thought my dream of one day visiting nursing homes to read romantic epic poems to the elderly had been achieved. I sauntered as only a nude model could through the assembly of wheel chairs and walkers, the owners of which had either fallen asleep or possibly not yet awoken from the previous night. The shed was a brief step from the living quarters, after all. I was instructed to “dress,” which meant “undress,” and I did, by God, in a moment of courage it was fearful. I unloosed my tie, unbuttoned my wool vest, my collared shirt, my belt, and all was off and replaced by the borrowed purple robe in little time. I made way to the center of the room where I stood awkwardly as only a nude model that has never before nude modeled could awkwardly stand.
“Well Jacob,” interjected a finally arrived Dolores, the weathered former madam of the last speakeasy in Western North Carolina, “We’re ready.” I let her know that I was ready, too, by shaming the mother and father that bore me and showing my dick and bare ass to all and the comatose. “I suppose, uhhum, that is, uhhum, the, uhhum, platform I’m to, uhhum, mount and thereupon pose, madam of the last speakeasy in Western North Carolina. “You DO know what to do, Darling?” she asked. I showed her that I knew what to do by walking onto the platform and bending over in front of the now wakeful room of the aged novice painters and staring them down with the old hairy eye. I arranged some pillows and a rather ornate tapestry. It was February, and the thoughtful assembly had included a space heater in the motif for my comfort. By space heater, I mean a steel shoebox that was on fire. It burned the hair from my leg, in fact. I waited for Dolores’s instructions, although an experienced model wouldn’t need to. She was at this time aware that I was not an experienced model, but I was a Fabio and possibly a vegetarian. “How about some action poses, dear, to warm us up.” The aged novices didn’t have a space heater, so I would have to make steam of myself.
Instructed to perform action, I assumed I should be active. After a brief stretch, I activated. I lifted a leg, and as soon as I lifted it, I let it down, like the neck of a swan rising from a drink of the water that bears its delicate but robust form. I raised my arms and lowered them as if wings of that same elegant fowl. I jerked my head back and rumpled my lips like a lion, or a horse, or horselion straight from Bullfinch’s fucking Mythology. As I arched my back and threw my hands behind my head to make London Bridge (with a dangling tollbooth foremost amid the ruffled topiary), Dolores gently admonished me. “Jonathan, dear, what are you doing.” “Well, Denise, I’m doing some action stuff… ” “Have you done this before, Jeremiah?” I was abashed. Why, of course. “Action poses are a series of simple positions,” she said, “ held for at least three minutes, but no longer than five. Were you going to do London Bridge?” “Why, no, it was more like a hotdog cart. I’m sorry. I’ll hold some poses.”
With this minor but essential bit of professional custom understood, I settled long enough to notice what I was doing. I was naked! In front of senior citizens! My leg was turning red and possibly blistering! I had no choice but to overlook this quandary, and I moved my eyes about the room as much as I could. I settled into a position not unlike the one I am in now, with my left side lifted from the chair slightly to give a fart. It was then I noticed the mirrors on the ceiling, giving clear reflection of what these Goyas of the Confederacy were making of my vulnerable profile. As much as I could see, it was all forehead detail, a shoulder, with the most lascivious detail being the left nipple, though it could have been an ear descending a staircase. Just when I was beginning to find some entertainment in the carnival for which I was the barker and exhibition, Dolores informed me that sufficient exercise time had elapsed, and would I prepare a pose for an extended session? “How long is the extended session?” One hour, stationary, statuary, fixed. “I’m going to step outside to think about a good position.” “You might want to wear your robe, bud, these are rural but decent parts,” she said. Evidently, I’d become so liberated that I made way for the windowed door dressed only in the stuff of novice paintings. I grabbed my robe and the joint from my jacket pocket and went outside.
I like to smoke pot because it instantly brings to bear, in a torrent of recognition, all the whole seething inhibitive barrage of my self-consciousness that otherwise causes me to walk oddly past a group of people in public, to think everyone is looking at me when I enter the library, or that the guards at the drugstore think I’m going to steal something when I walk down the candy aisle to find shaving cream. More than that, I will say to elevate the discourse of this digression, pot provides a sudden and forceful resumption of my relations to all that is divine and whirling about one in the flurry of impressions besetting the wakeful mind in the world—a fine experience for the parlor, especially the parlor with the heavy shades for the windows and three locks for the door. Arguably, a sudden embarkation into the realm of public nudity provides a fair simulacrum to such suspensions of personal control that any further transcendence would be transgression, and instead of vivid awareness, one gets vicious paranoia.
Nonetheless, I opened the car door and, feeling used to theatrics, pretended to look for a piece of gum in the glovebox while I took three massive hits, exhaling into the car and closing the door, all hazy output contained, and leaving the stubbed fatty on the seat as a calling card. At the precise moment I sat down and took my position—an Indian at a fire in the prairies gazing out over yon peak for signs of a much needed and prayed-for rain—I was high. And then I was anxious, and then I was paranoid, and then I almost vomited my anus onto the now seemingly floating platform. I began to think of the car. It was filled with smoke. There was a joint ON THE SEAT. I just needed a minute to clear it out. Why would I do that, or this, anything, I wondered, having some time now to reflect and ponder. I had the vision of the eye of God and with it I saw an inverted half circle of old people on the ceiling mirror—or was it in the mirror… which side am I on here? and they were all drawing me. And this is the approximate point of relation to my thoughts of the IRS. If the police were notified by the nurses smoking cigarettes outside the facility where I smoked a joint in a bathrobe in February, and if they were to come, and knock on the shed door, what would they do, anyway? Arrest me? Pity me! Back away slowly. These strange customs of the old South. My heart all but combusted, Dolores blew the whistle on the extended session that for me lasted nine of my failed lifetimes and the beginning of another where I was born naked and observed. I had made it, though, triumphed. As I stepped down, I cinched my robe and tried to mingle. I had a look at all of the pieces. In one, I was a lion, a horselion! mustachioed and virile. My stone blue eyes (I have hazel eyes, in fact) staring ahead from a furious pigment awash behind me. Nothing below the chest. The next was a picture of a bench, or a car with no wheels. Another, my face from the side, with an arm somewhere at the bottom. All the others, with the exception of one hesitant contour of the “rural parts,” were upper area sketches. Dolores bundled up the pictures and I asked her if I could have them. “Well, Joachim, if it’s OK with the group, I suppose you can.” It was apparently OK with the group. Evelyn was having a banana, and Bob Vila Ross was on the phone with his wife telling her that his interest in the arts was waning, and he was thinking now about moving to Maine to chop wood and kill moose. With one hand, Dolores handed me the sheaf of my likenesses, and with the other, the money. Fifty dollars and a few keepsakes. Dolores gently but decisively saw me out as I buttoned up my sweater vest. As I turned to wave, an old man, the only one other than Bob, asked me if I could “please tell some girls to come next time. Maybe a redhead.” Dolores grinned at me and I remembered, my old girlfriend, the disproved accuser, had red hair. Long red hair. “I do know somebody, actually.”
All quests fulfilled and all profits possessed, I opened the hatch to the opium den of the car and took my joint and 50 bucks to the Waffle House to retroactively panic about the circumstance of posing naked for a total of three hours for a senior citizens arts league.
Patrick Davison's humorous and detailed info-graphic schematic of a neighborhood shows us that we can represent far more than electrical input and output with diagrams.
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