Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Voyage XVIII – Life-drawing

I felt so good yesterday. Seems like a very long time ago.
I’ve done it again. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe how fucking stupid I am – every time. Unbelievable.
We’d been up on deck sitting in the sun, Lucy, Damian, Matt and I, and some of the others. I looked over the side and there was a branch floating by with green leaves on it still. I couldn’t believe it, after all this time, I don’t know how long – feels like months, there’s life out there. Huge black shapes, as long as the ship, rise and wallow a little way out. Fergus was with us. He told me they were not whales – they had the fins of fishes with rays and spines, and scales too. He said he’d never seen anything like them. The birds were not familiar to him either. Although they generally resembled the seabirds he’d known back in the world, they were wrong in detail. He couldn’t even work out what family they belonged to for sure. Matt and Damian were very interested in what he had to say. Damian couldn’t resist making comments about how you’d go about catching one and what they’d taste like. Lucy told him to stop being disgusting, but Fergus went on to tell us in great detail about some of the revolting things he’d been given to eat on his travels.
I was sitting directly opposite Lucy. She had her sunglasses on, so I couldn’t tell where she was looking. I tried not to look at her too much but I couldn’t help it. Once, when I realised I’d been staring at her legs for ages I looked up and she had this really knowing sort of smile on her lips - an ‘I know what you’re thinking’ expression. I know I went really red, but then she shifted a little and I could see almost all the way up her skirt. Those soft white thighs... I could have sworn she did it on purpose. Then she crossed her legs again. Everybody was laughing. I don’t know what at. I’m sure it wasn’t anything to do with me, but I hadn’t been paying attention. She looked over the top of her shades at me and asked me if I was alright, grinning dirtily at me all the while.

Later on it started to get chilly and we were going to go down to the bar. I wasn’t keen – not because I was scared of Harry and the others, but I just wanted to relax. Near the hatch, after the others had gone on ahead, Lucy turned to me and said ‘You could do some drawings of me now if you want to.’
I tried to act cool ‘Sure’ I said. ‘Why not?’
‘I’ll just get something to drink’ she said ‘and I’ll be with you. Ok?’
‘I’ll get set up in my cabin’ I said, my voice wobbling a little.
‘Ok. Can I get you anything?’
‘Some bubbly?’ I said. She looked a little surprised but I’d been drinking champagne a lot recently. And it seemed appropriate.

It seemed like ages before she arrived, and the champagne was a bit warm. I’d got a book out to try to look relaxed about it all but I was very tense. ‘You’ve made it nice in here’ she said as she came in the door, bottle in one hand, glasses in the other. I’d lit some candles and arranged cushions and covers on the bed.
‘How do you want me?’ she said smiling a little.
‘I don’t know’ I said. ‘I’ve not done this sort of thing much before. Errm... on the bed?’ and then I thought I should take charge more, so I showed her how I’d like her to pose.
‘Ok’ she said and began to take her boots off. I made vague noises – getting the easel adjusted, and arranging paper, glancing over – she was pulling her top over her head, smiling sideways at me, turning away from me, unclipping her bra – her breasts, I could see, falling free, moving the way only breasts can. She unzipped her skirt and stepped out of it and then slipped her red silky knickers down. Turning toward me, I tried not to stare at the mass of thick, almost glossy black curls between her legs. She slid onto my bed, leant on my pillows, and arranged herself the way I’d asked, waiting to see what I’d do next.
I’d seen naked women before of course – in magazines. I knew what to expect. But I’d never seen a real one, still less been in my room with one. Still, I tried to maintain a pretence of cool. I fiddled with the paper, took some deep breaths and looked, I hoped, appraisingly at her again. I could see everything. I looked at everything, closely. I looked, long and hard. I was vaguely aware of the wicked smile on her face but I couldn’t stop looking. I wanted to strip off and climb onto her and writhe about, and thrash and tear at her and swallow her, sink myself into her.
‘Everything alright?’ she said. ‘Would you like me to move at all?’
I looked at her again. Now I could almost feel a different part of my brain taking over, leaving the other part to have its way with her. Yes I did want her to move a little. It occurred to me that the shape would be better if her hand was close to her thigh rather than actually on it. I went over and picked it up (Oh my god, the skin under her wrist, so silky soft) and laid it on the bed beside her. (I could smell her now, a scent I’d never come across before, but which I knew was simply pure, unadulterated woman. I went to bed with that scent until we disembarked.) I stood back. I looked at her. I looked at the paper until I could see her there, and then took up my charcoals and chalks, and began the process of sculpting her out of the grey, two-dimensional surface.
A tutor once tried to tell me that real art has nothing to do with sex, that working from a nude is no different from drawing a bowl of fruit (although the still life we then attempted was a banana and two apples, so perhaps he wasn’t being completely straight with us). The truest art, we were told, was as disinterested as mathematics. It was simply a matter of exploring shapes and colours. Nudes were simply a different shape to apples, and, he pointed out, they had the advantage of being mostly just the one colour all over, allowing us to concentrate purely on form. Any erotic sentiments, he said, talking specifically to girls giggling at the back, could only compromise technique and lead to second rate work.
He was a pompous prat, and now I knew he was wrong too. I’d never drawn so well, nor so easily in my life. Her form grew out of the paper as I ran my eyes over her, feeling exactly the shape and texture of every part of her, and transferring it precisely. I managed five drawings in different poses before my artist brain finally gave out and the part of my brain that was poised to fall on her and dive in took over. I almost passed out.
I didn’t know what to do next. I said something about taking a rest and sat down beside her. She smiled a little uncomfortably and moved over to give me room. ‘How about a drink?’ I said and went to fill our glasses again. The champagne was very warm now, but still better than nothing. She asked if she could put her socks on because her feet were cold.
When she’d done that and we were sat down together again I told her I thought she was very beautiful, that she had beautiful skin, and I held her hand and caressed the skin under her wrist.
We were at an uncomfortable angle. She was slightly behind me as I sat half on the bed, so when I turned to kiss her it was awkward. I hadn’t done this kind of thing much before – just Naomi really, but she had always been fully clothed, so I wasn’t feeling very confident. Anyway, when I twisted around and moved toward her face with mine she stopped me, firmly with her hand flat on my chest. I opened my eyes.
‘What are you doing?’ she said, angry and apparently surprised. Her reaction simply made no sense so I pushed forward again. I suppose that part of my brain that was in control now had assumed that there must be some sort of hallucination going on and chose to ignore it, but she pushed again, slid out sideways and stood beside the bed.
‘What are you doing?’ she said again, this time with some derision in her voice. I looked at her again. She was still naked (apart from the socks), I could still smell her, I could still have touched her. I couldn’t think of anything whatsoever to do. I let her get dressed and go. She didn’t look at the pictures at all. I went up on deck. It was a nightmare.
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A life backwards

It's in the nature of blogs of course that you come across the latest postings first (or you find yourself in the middle.) Normally it doesn't matter but if you want to read my novel in order, the first installment is as you'd expect, the oldest posting.
Thanks for your patience.