I can’t believe you went ahead and published that letter I sent you about finding my husband’s nudie pictures (and all the rest). Do you have no shame? Do I have no shame?
I can answer that second question: No, not really. And if you didn’t already realize this . . . Is it my not very secret goal to convince you?
You may recall that at some point I was trying to make drawings of the cheesy photos I had found in my late husband’s old basement desk. So next step, Sunday afternoons I started driving up to the big C city in order to “draw from the nude,” as the saying is.
There’s a radio show, “The Sunday Blues,” that I listen to going and coming. I’ve probably learned more about the blues than about drawing.
Now, the girl I’m lovin, She got the great, long, curly hair
Now, the girl I’m lovin, She’s got the great, long, curly hair
An her mama an her papa, They sho’ don’t ’llow me there.
In her curly hairs?
Now, what cha’ gon do, babe, Yo doughroller gone?
What you gon do, babe, Yo doughroller gone?
Go in yo kitchen, Lordy, Cook until she comes home.
I’ve added that last word, “home.” It seemed needed, if only for the rhythm, but maybe I’ve spoiled another one of the sexual allusions. In another verse the singer talks about needing his “ashes hauled.”
In any case, the model is always a fetching and petite young woman. The organizer says he’s afraid that a heavier model might break the table on which the models have to stand. One day I told him that I was starting to get penis envy, but I don’t think he got the joke. And meanwhile a penis—I mean a man, fully clothed, brown-sweatered and 58 (he proclaimed)—had begun sitting next to me, drawing next to me, telling me about his life and thoughts, inviting me out for a beer afterwards next to him, etc.
I know I’m skipping some steps, but you’ll fill them in fine on your own. It’s not long before it makes more sense—economically, let’s call it (he called it once)—to have the beer in his big, empty house (wife dead, kids long gone). And then, in the kitchen one afternoon, I get the whole penis.
You might call that the introduction. And perhaps I should add that this fellow, Jim, is, in fact, not disagreeable. Decent looking, fit with a belly, let’s say; carefully ironed jeans and tasseled brown loafers that go with the sweater. A dentist of all things, and with a dentist’s ability to fill up the emptiness with little plastic and glass stories—people he knows, things he’s on TV. Like toy trains going around a track, with the molded trees, the gate that goes up and down—that’s an image, a description of his storytelling, that once came to me in flagrante delicto. (For a 58-year-old, or, say, 62-year-old man, it doesn’t all happen right away—erection, insertion, ecstasy. The woman ends up with time on her hands. I’ve gone over shopping lists, lip-synched the blues, once drafted a whole letter to the editor about garbage pick-up in my neighborhood.)
What’s special about Jim, you might say—although I don’t really know, perhaps many men who draw from the nude are like this—after drawing a fetching, petite, naked young woman for two hours, he needs to ejaculate in a vagina. In mine, you might say, but he has been nice enough to tell me that I am not the first.
I feel like (once again) I’m being too negative. The fact is, I’m happy to have him ejaculating in my vagina, and be it in his kitchen or bent over the dining room table or on all fours in the hall. Jim is my first, in the sense that he’s the first man I’ve had sex with, or who’s had sex with me, since Jerry, my husband, died. I had been starting to think my vagina unnecessary. It’s a bit of a relief to discover that this is not the case.
And it’s a strange feeling, too, to move from situation A—the overheated little arts club studio in which we draw, a young woman repeatedly stepping out of her secondhand satin robe and allowing us to admire and attempt to duplicate on paper her nice curves and clefts—to situation B, the big, empty, gray house. (The only light he ever turns on is the porch light, afterward, so I won’t stumble on my way to my car.)
The first few times I was wondering if, for Jim, I was Jade or Jennifer or Tabatha (our models)—if in having sex with me he fantasized that he was having sex with one of them, whichever one we’d just been drawing. But now I’ve decided that I’m all women, or let me write that ALL WOMEN. Me, my cunt, my bony hips, my pendulous breasts penduling a little more with each passing year. What a job they have to do—standing in not only for the Jade with the dragon tattoo on her shoulder and the sliver ring just east of her clitoris, but also for Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, Sharon Stone, Michelle Obama, his sister or mother—God only knows all the fantasies Jim may be negotiating with each thrust and recoil.
How did T.S. Eliot put it? With shoddy equipment always deteriorating? (Did he mean mine or Jim’s?) No, I’ve Googled the poem: “East Coker.” Wikipedia says “the title refers to a small community that was directly connected to Eliot’s ancestry and was home to a church that was later to house Eliot’s ashes.” The poem turns out to be even more perfect than I was remembering.
a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost.
There it all is in a nutshell. My sweaty late Sunday afternoons in my dentist’s gray house reduced to words by an extraordinarily clairvoyant poet.
Once I asked Jim if he’d like me to pose naked for him. To be specific, my, post-coital, question was: “Have you ever thought of asking me to pose naked for you?”
I don’t think men are thought to be much interested in communication after they’ve had sex. Jim was more likely waiting for me to say my usual bit about how I should get home to my daughter, the things I needed to get done to prepare for the week ahead. Get out of his hair.
I was prone on the wood floor, pants and panties at my knees and bra cups out of whack, but otherwise ready to go. He seemed to be less conscious, but similarly dressed-undressed on top of me, his hips pressed into my buttocks, his head hanging down on one side. I assume his eyes were closed, so that, unlike me, he did not notice his old gray cat, standing about five feet away, giving the heap of our bodies a sort of archeological stare.
“No,” Jim said. He had never thought of asking me to pose naked for him.
“And would you ever be willing to pose naked for me?”
“Is that something you’d like me to do?” The distancing question. As if he were prepared to negotiate—his posing, my vagina. But in fact he was just stalling for time.
And I never brought the subject up again. I can’t imagine having to sit there, with him “manspreading” or whatever he’d be doing, and me with my head bent, trying to get the proportions right.
In sex education class (if I can remember that far back), I think they give you the impression that sex is something people do. And I can see that for Jim this is indeed the case. There’s even that expression: to do somebody. But while he’s doing me, I’m more or less on cruise control. I can remember this with Jerry, too. He had a thing about studying my private parts—as if, if he looked closely and carefully enough, he was going to discover something about ALL WOMEN that he’d never known before. For me, though, it was often down time. And not unwelcome.
With best wishes for the holidays,
All drawings © William Eaton (Montaigbakhtinian AT gmail DOT com)