I am in one of those art gallery shows where people chatter with their mouths closed. Speaking sluggish paragraphs, then pausing, waiting for you to applause their kindness with pieces of intellect. They are sipping coffee fashionably from unimaginably small cups. And I am standing alone, close to the painting at the door, waiting for one of the waiters to walk in with a mishkaki.
I do not know how to stare at paintings, their details confuse me. They make me feel shallow-unable to connect with art. I am looking at the painting of a meeting of the woman’s inner thighs. For some reason, I am repulsed by it. It makes me feel unclothed, exposed. Objectified, commoditised.
This is an ugly painting. I say out aloud.
The woman’s body is the most longed-for but feared form of art. Says someone from behind me.
I take that you paint? I ask. He nods. Yes. I painted that.
The woman’s body is the only thing close to godliness. He explains. But we gawk at the sight of a naked woman, ashamed by it, as if it carries transgressions of the world. However, we smoulder with desire in our aloneness, burning in the mind, gasping at her naked soft skin.
Would you like to sit for me? I say no, with my lips closed. Cards are exchanged. I read his name from the card. He is Alfonse. Who paints and has Alfonse for a name?
We talk. He is a solitary soul, just like myself. He knows only talk about brushes, strokes of colour, crayons, fullness of paintings, and eroticism in renaissance art.
But when he talks, he gets lost in his conversation, and for most bits of it, I am just nodding, waiting for a waiter to walk in with a mishkaki.
So will you sit for me?
Saturday morning, I drive to his studio.
You can sit on my lap. He points at a chair in front of him. His tools are set. Brushes. Colours. Crayons. Ink
He stares at my flushing face. Then he compliments my earlobes. I find pleasure in painting the feminine, he says. I am wondering why I am there, sitting for a man whose name is Alfonse, a man whose forlorn verbosity and artistry scares me.
He sets a bare canvas in front of him. I am staring at the walls, carefully avoiding his glare. But I can feel the first touch of his crayon on canvas. It is like the first meeting of unfamiliar lips. He starts with my earlobes. I can feel him tracing the lines of my face.
You have a sad face. He murmurs. There has been many tears right here. His eyes are on my cheeks.
He outlines the edges of my shoulders, my mids, my thighs down to my feet.
Then he takes his paintbrushes and with mixed degrees of ink solution, he unfalteringly paddles across my body. He paints my heart white, plastering itches and aches that my previous heartbeats have caused me. On my shoulders, he smoothens the dark patches that my burdened bra has for years embedded on my shoulder.
His brush strands hit the domes of my breasts, colouring them a shade of bronze, with a touch of fire in it. He lingers a bit here, and I can feel a slack in his grasp, his brush sliding out of his arm in the glistening dew of his palms. He paints the buds erect.
On my nipples, the fossilised cracks from bites of angry lovers, he paints purple. He takes more time here, smoothening the cleavage, separating it well, putting each bud firm on its own. I can hear him breathe heavily, like a wheezing child. Words can’t explain the weak in my knees, even as I sit…the silent chatter in my teeth…and the desire that is drowning me
I wonder if he can hear me breathe like a car engine too. I feel him touch me with every quick stare. Like he can see through my clothes, like the painting under which we met, at the art gallery.
With each smooth stroke through my body on his canvas, I feel like our bloods are instantly mingled. His fluids on the brushes get excited, they splatter measurably, softening body parts, radiating me in colour.
He follows all the crisscrosses of my body hungrily on his paper, with a loose lip, and a drool at the edges of his lips. And as he breathes louder and louder, I can see his swollen ample paunch underneath his pants. And I am squirming around, unwilling to let him go, leaving any of my parts cold. I am tossing and turning on my chair. He asks me to sit still, speaking after long silent minutes.
I can feel myself taking shape. He destroys me and he makes me.
He doesn’t seem to make a mistake, or stop to gauge his work. He paints with a surge. He doesn’t stare at me a lot. It is as if he has known me for a while. Like he is drawing me from an image he has had somewhere for a while.
He shapes me into more than I was. Taking each individual part of me and organising it well. His detail is exotic and subtle, and as his brush strands brush close to my heart, all those stories in here, of life slaveries are erased, turning the dumpster of vileness into charm and warmth. Every drop of paint captures the effect of radiance of the sun, embedding it into my skin. I can feel the glow burning me.
There is an aura of nakedness. And I am finally feeling a difference between my nakedness and my reprehensible nudity. I don’t feel unclothed by his glares and his brushes, but I feel close to recognition, transformed into appreciating every summary of my body, its decorativeness and its flawy. Happily subdued.
Alfonse liberates my human form and my jailed soul.
You will forgive me if I am unable to control my ink when I am excited, he says.
I feel perfect. Balanced
Do you want to see now? He asks. Or will you wait for it to dry?
I am staring at her, a reflection of myself every time I step in front of the mirror, undressed, but with a bit of a glow.
You are a sleeping goddess, he says. I am tempted to ask how he saw through me. But under my flushing skin, I mutter something. The gods live in the strands of Alfonse’s paintbrush.