I have lit the candles for the first time in a month. The eyes of the green man flicker as the clock vaults over the line of midnight. And I don’t feel like myself. Whatever that means. Today at the art gallery, a strange lurch of recognition as I stared at paintings hundreds of years old, depicting women whose bodies look almost exactly like mine.
There she is: Diana. Flushed with rage, her powerful thighs are tensed as Acteon stumbles onto the scene of the huntress and her nymphs, who are bathing to clean themselves of the blood from their recent kill. The nymphs themselves, all languid curves and tresses, surround the pool like it was a lover.
And here, ivory skin and billowing flesh. Flesh. Always bountiful, soft, rolling flesh. Powerful but supple limbs, breasts like pillows. The body as landscape.
Once, many years ago, I was a figure model for a community art group. I sat naked in front of 15 or so strangers and let them draw me. Before leaving the apartment for this appointment, my then lover and I had argued and he had told me I needed to lose weight. Since puberty I have always carried such a suggestion like a martyr, allowing it to slow me down, to block my path with signs that told me I was not worthy. Not worthy to succeed, not worthy to be loved.
I was numb when I walked into the room and dropped my robe before the crescent of easels, behind which the painters poked their heads out to study me before continuing with their lines. I imagined nothing. I felt my arms and legs fall asleep. I was a statue. I stared out, letting time flow past me.
During the break I was allowed to walk around and look at the pictures that had been drawn of me. It was like looking at someone else. Because this woman was so beautiful. She was from another age. Her contours, drawn with pencil or charcoal, became ancient. This body - my body - exuded all the wisdom I could not feel in my everyday existence. It was like finding grace in a borrowed form of stasis. I felt calm as I had not felt in so long.
My lover’s hand sweeps over me, light and cool, the way cotton sheets feel when they are brought to the bed straight from the clothesline. He stops at the padded ramp that descends from my hip to my waist, grabbing the flesh and holding it. “This part,” he says. “I love this.” Colour forms between the lines of that woman I saw all those years ago. It is like she is ascending from the clamshell, coy and utterly content.
The candles are going out. The green eyes are flickering wildly, a sign they will soon go dark. Time for bed, to lay myself down on my side so my hip can create the wild mount beneath the blanket.
Twilight Scrawls by Kirstin Maguire
3 hours ago