Wisped glances. Flitting darts of muted silver.

My back foot slants from right to left, my angled ankle grinds down my sole. I am channeling support, aiding waves of pain with cords of pressure. Sweat beads at my butt and draws its shining line down the crumbled structure to the tape marks.

This job is both transfiguration and waiting. I stare at the lights.

Fingers. Insectile construction. Swarmed pencil scratches and reproachful hums. Yesss that’s right, nono, bring this up higher. Fuck. A lot of masochism, but mostly comfort. It’s a misconstrued vocation. I am fine, my pencil’s my focus, my life.

Pencil scratches, more like pawing, precise claw marks on overpriced paper. The instructor is calm and pleased, the monitor keeping my pose is small, the music sails with minute pricks of percussion. Thirteen versions of me in gestation.

My own fingers are not tied precisely, not as they were during our first set of twenty, and the room’s right side will have to forgive that. I can’t always remember how my hands hold themselves, and I’m sure there’s more to be done with my flanks and ribs before we’re done. I sneak a spine itch with my finger’s ring.

A hailstorm of turning paper.

In the back, there’s a sniff and murmur.

I’m not allowed to move the stools, or switch the heater knobs, or fetch the props, or—as I’ve realized long ago—talk.

I just obey a timer and they obey their impulses. There’s a separation between their expectations of me and my curiosity for them. We’re in different worlds, like Saturn having lowered his solid line of ego between the platform I stand on and their swarm of dark busyness surrounding.

“You can see where the information begins to shift a little, there,” today’s instructor lulls to one of their white necks and its curls. Rising their hair to perfect erection.

I always get the feeling that I shouldn’t dawdle before we begin, like the poached curio yet to be unveiled. I should be elsewhere, behind the curtain preferably, not reading a book beside the stage to suggest it has a mind.

My thigh is rattling because I’m not a dancer, just a body, and they were fucking crazy to prop me like this for so long.

“Yeah I know, that tends to happen when the pose begins to settle—but in the model’s defense . . .”

Being on the wheel is different: the way a newborn might feel, passed and weighed for appraisal, every hold of time another shot for later development and further versioning.

Perhaps a breast perk would heal the spatial irritation. A rib stretch. I think of Cal, holding oranges, knowing their grocery codes like I know his inflections.

“Thing is, you have to think of the intimacy you share with your own body—translate that to the paper. Imagine the weight . . . the shoulders, waist, hips . . .” The silence tells me the teacher is really touching the student now, either them or their art. I’m sure they’re the same thing.

Cal touching fruits. Cal moving about his store, the Nordstrom of grocery stores, joking about price changes and tossing spoiled meat. I love him and I wonder if my bare breasts in a full room register when he’s checking out those fruits to a paying someone.

Streaming lines of sight over the room’s meat. Needle glints through and lost in the negative space. The classical notes playing over the loudspeaker, swaying me.

Do they feel anything? Is the atelier himself a prowling apex amid his itching students?

Do some of them love me? Are they harboring some Sundance Jack Dawson affectation?

”. . .and then you measure your relationships. All the information’s there. Draw your lines.”

Sometimes I measure mine. It takes me to the full twenty minutes. I start with the morning and work my way back.

Cal’s clean face, which he never washes. Smoothed from sleep, from the freshness of starting a day. Even if it disturbs his course, he’ll sink himself back down to me and our gross, dark sheets, to hold me, to say he doesn’t want to go, even if part of him definitely does. I open my breast to him and wonder, like an ember crackles, how. How I could hold his head and imagine the truth: that this same head was once the size of my fist, which now holds his tight face and his listless trust. That once he was loved by the worst monsters and now me, staying and sleeping and making domestic trash like maggots on the carpet.

He lays a hand over my breast and his cheek on my belly. As if he’s secretly always trying to hide and now he’s found a spot that works. I work my longer fingers beneath his hair tie, finding the node that desires my nails.

Like those creatures, I’d try to shape him, give him a form I can predict, but he’s delicate and colored with light by the front door’s lamp, nosing inward to breast feed. He’s how I know there’s no objective anyone, only versions, and my art of him is just mine.

One of the students chuckles in S’s, sometimes pfffts, and then sometimes, near the room’s back where shadows stand and blanket, there’s a clinking sound, like coins in a payphone slot. Something you’d imagine but never trace, it’s too unusual—even chilling. They exchange these and I don’t think they know I hear.

And I wonder why we’re trusted with innocence sometimes and it’s not a gift, per se, just another episode, a character progression, no deserving, only variety to fill the holes of our lives.

His mother will never forgive me, nor I her.

I move my ankle as if to part my thigh from the Venus mound. It brings out my gut. Stops the blood in the pressing foot, but, y’know. Waiting.

They say this building used to be a private school for girls, meant to primp and refine young minds for their move toward higher society.

When I was a girl, I was told to go to a boy’s house after school and stay there until one of the parents would pick me up.

And in the 30s, a church sidled up next to it.

Luring me upstairs took a lot once he found the nerve to demand privacy.

“And now Miss ____ will show us her pussy,” he would squeak, which was expected a little more than his chosen language. I wanted to play with the Barbies I’d brought, the plastic company I’d taken along to inspire a love knot. But he had turned it into a drawing class, the girl dolls discarded. To this day I wonder which film he was referring to.

The two buildings remained strangers. One became an art academy; the other, every day at three, stood white and pious purple, its stained-glass doors pouring out children.


Even when you don’t see any connective ones, they exist.

I didn’t do it, I was annoyed and hurt that he would prod so directly. What love could that boy’s mother have for him to be so feral? What version of him lives there?

There’s a megaphoned holler outside, three PM. The conjoined church and its children fleeing to their parents. The voice is calling names—none too kindly. Like a sheep farmer to the dogs.

And what version of love could he have had for her? What could he have had for me? There’s imagining in this room and every other, children at work or play or attention for their names.

This life is disassociation and living.

And the child cries raise up, as if to combat the megaphone’s order.

The lights above began to swell in my eyes and become heaven—the aria in its moment of climax. I didn’t want to go but I also didn’t want my eyes, or anything else really, to hurt much longer. Inside or out, the apparent blindness was some granted simplicity. An egg-colored sheet, like paper.

A sting shot through my left eye. I cursed and lowered it to rest. They’re only drawing the figure, anyway.

I saw a design on the floor. A web.

“Is . . . is that a pentagram?”

“What?” the monitor shot, stopping his pencil midair.

I almost didn’t repeat it but then I did.

“Oh yeah. Teenagers,” he chuckled clumsily, “tryin’ to freak people out. Y’know.”

I went with it but didn’t. The circle was too precise.

“Ah,” I shot knowingly, as if to say we’ve all been there but forgot.

My locked calf was now numb, and before I could return to everything, I knew I had to look again: there was a bright bead calling for attention at the rim of the symbol. A pink marble. Orange, red, white. Not a marble. I moved my head—fuck, they’re hating me. It’s a piece.

Why is the room so hot?

There goes my jaw, my collar, shoulders and waist. There goes my craning head, and all the information the artists need. I’m alive with curiosity and supported by their vexation.

I’m walking, and there’s the blood coming back to my foot. I’m dragging it as it’s waking up, and I’m thinking all too tritely of Proserpine’s rape as I step onto the cold floor. Now I know.

Tucked beneath the changing curtain—how could I’ve missed it?—was a soiled, white sock, topped with lace and too small for anyone here to wear.