Stazh Zamkinos
The Virgin Who Wanted to Be an Artist

    His hand trembles, fingertips buzzing, as he reaches for a pencil. She is still freshly pressed into his mind and he must write her.

   

    "Make me into art," she had said, stripping and then lying stretched long and naked on his bed. The blue light from the security pole outside shining through the dorm window made her breasts glow sky.

    He sputtered and coughed up his tongue, which he had swallowed when she had dropped her shirt on top of her discarded jacket, hat, and shoes. First her bra, then her belt, jeans and panties, then her sock, and then her other sock had each dropped, fabric thud after fabric thud, to the carpet. He was still fully clothed. His eyelashes quaked as his eyes tried to settle comfortably. He tried to find a way to swallow this almost-stranger whole and ensure that he could remember this the next day in more than just fragmented pieces because this was the First Naked Woman He Had Ever Seen. This was important: he had to name the shade of dirty milky brown she wore slicked over her muscles, against which the blue light deepened haunting shadows and grooves. Deep camel? Strong olive? Light, slippery cacao? No, not details. Details were negligible-- he could fill them in later. Feelings. He needed to remember feelings, capture feelings. This was something he could write poems about; his scenes could possess a greater depth of emotion when he tapped this experience; he could spout songs about this, his First Time. God, he wished he could just take a picture of this pierced-tongued and dreaded figure! If only he could capture the image, preserve it forever, pin it down on his cork board.

    She breathed out thickly, "Paint me. Draw me. Sculpt me. Play me like a saxophone, hum against my neck bone, build up a buzz or a brightening." As she said this she posed, slightly bending her right knee, and slowly traced her bone white-painted fingernails up and down her left arm, making the little hairs on her forearm dance.

    "What do you mean?"

    She sat up, breaking the delicate grace of light harmoniously casting shadow on flesh, folded her legs, and draped her hands over her stacked shins. He kept his eyes as best he could on her eyes, her nose, her ears, her anythingbuttheres. She looked at the various photos, playbills, and news clippings pinned onto his cork board in a bizarre collage of his outer inner life, searching for a clue as to how she might inspire him into creation. He had spoken of little else when they had met that night.

    There was a picture of his high school graduation and another with his first car. Another showed him on his first day of school. There were printed images of famous authors. Joyce. Chaucer. There was a picture of Jack Kerouac, cigarette dangling as he had dangled so many cigarettes from the corner of his mouth. She cocked her head in such a way that she knew her dread locks would drip artfully down her back and scratch the tops of her dimples. Her fingers ran across a crinkled paper print-out of a clip art image of classically shaded dramatic masks. Her tooth-like white nails traced the curves of the theatre masks' frown and smile.

    She cast her voice over her shoulder, eyes still fixed on the cork board. "You know those lists that people make of things they want to do before they die?" Nod. "Well, I'm in the market to inspire somebody. And in the cafe you talked about how you wanted to be an artist. So it's perfect."

    "But I don't really draw or anything." She threw the glow of her pale green eyes back toward him; his breath bent under the pressure of her look. Our actor shook his head. "I'm not a very visual person."

    She suddenly leaned to him and grasped his hands and said, "You mentioned that you were an English major in college. Know what you could do?"

    "What?" His nervous hands pressed back, thumbs bumping across and re-across the ridges of her knuckles. He wanted to be good at this; he wanted to keep her hands right where they were.

    She grinned and her bright white teeth glistened slick in the blue glow. The bright silver barbell in her tongue jumped excitedly when she said, "Write me. No, just speak me. Speak me a poem. Make it up as you go, just anything."

    He opened his mouth and waited for a word to fly from the tip of his tongue and catch her hungry, waiting ear like a fish hook. He was a writer; he'd analyzed Marquez, Maupassant, Milton, Murakami. He was an actor in the community theatre; his delivery was reputable among his fellow playwrights. His tongue was the organ that was most himself; a word would come that sang and rippled and held her tight and pulled her in, but he had to cast it right.

    "Really, just anything," she urged, leaning toward him.

    He blushed; he was taking too long! And he was supposed to be an Artist! He tried details, images. Her eyes, no, he couldn't even really see them in this lighting; they were glinting in shadow. Wrists? It had been done before. How did authors do it? Real authors, or at least not fumbling beginners writing comfortably in dorms. How did all those real authors, the tight collared garden strolling poets and the stream-of-consciousness novelists that tripped through Mexico on nothing but herbs and pheromones, take minute details and turn them into snapshots that translated into intoxicating literary multitudes? He cast wildly: perhaps he could speak of the light that played across her curves, so deftly sculpted by shadow in the blue light. He yearned for such effortless grace but all he could think of under this pressure were unsatisfactory clichés. Think man, think! Improvise, for god's sake! She fidgeted impatiently and pulled her tongue barbell back and forth with her teeth.

    "Honestly, I... It's hard to write on command like this." She shifted her weight, drawing her legs back together. "When I write I usually draft and plan and rewrite... and..."

    Oh!

    "Oh. Well, that's alright." She leaned back, pushed her hair roughly back behind her ears, and crossed her arms over her stomach, hands resting slack by her sides.

    Silence.

    "So I found out that I'll be directing some Shakespeare next season." He cast out a line trying to recover comfortable conversation that had sparked between them at the café that night when they had met, but he missed. Her drifting gaze passed his mouth, which had so failed him, passed the worn knees of his corduroys, passed the fragility of his ankles, and settled instead on fixedly looking at the dainty blue light beyond the window. Her pupils reflected doubled burning blue pinpoints. "It's a pretty extraordinary opportunity," he continued. "I'm thinking of aiming for the moon and taking on one of the tragedies. I'm so looking forward to it. He's just brilliant, particularly with the way he plays with words and puns."

    Beat.

    Blue.

    Idea! "You know, when I saw you I thought you'd make a great Cleopatra."

    There! She blushed. It was almost indetectible, but he could swear that he saw it: a very faint rose creeping into her cheeks, a blooded, humanly red tinge shining under the blue light, and she was letting her dreads drape over her face like a heavy theatre curtain as she smiled, blushing!, and her eyes sparked at him.

    "Really. I mean, you're tanned and tall, you're gorgeous and commanding."

    She looked straight at him. "So direct me," she urged. She pulled the heavy burgundy complete works of Shakespeare off of his bookshelf and hefted it onto her outstretched legs, crossed at the ankle, letting the binding rest over her justthere. The crackly pages snapped at her as she flipped them and he pointed with a shaking hand to the monologue he had in mind.

    "You've been shaking a lot." She smiled, wanted to soothe him so that he might...

    He clenched his hand and pulled it back to rest on the bed covers. "Oh, it's, it's nothing. I always shake."

    Then he gulped and he directed her.

    She was alright. Not what she might have been, but not awful. It wasn't that she didn't listen, but he hadn't been able to really convey what he was envisioning. Our actor couldn't find the right way to layer his old concept of Cleopatra over this woman before him. At first she'd tried to meet him on his theatrical level, but she started to seem uninterested because his vision wasn't something she innately fit into and it wasn't something he could explain. When his direction had failed to shape her performance into what he envisioned for the last three reads of the monologue she began instead to look at his mouth and at his shaking hand's gesticulations, watching the slender points of his thin artistic fingers. She was trying to think of something that would better engage him and better flatter herself. She wanted creation. She could give him a first line? An image? She shifted so that the light would play more attractively upon her. This was absurd, she thought. Here she was, here she was, naked on the bed of this man who claimed he wanted to be an artist, and nothing was being made. Nothing. She shifted so that the light would fall more inspirationally across her body. How did he see her? Why didn't he take her, shape her, want her? He noticed her eyes drifting away and around the room and he panicked; he was losing her!

    But then. Her hand. Onhisthigh! And then it was movinguptoward: There. He closed his eyes and tried to still the tremors that raked through him.

    Her icy eyes lit up and she moved over him, shutting the Shakespeare with her thighs and letting it fall to the bed then nudging it with her knee off onto ground. He thought fleetingly of the damage to the book, but what did it matter when here was this Woman, this Character, this Fleshy Light with Ideas that Listened and thought that he could make her into Art and she was Touching Him There! She glided over him like a new moon eclipsing a white hot sun.

    Though the moon passed over the sun again and again, butting against him and moaning harder each time, pulling and tugging, beckoning, his tongue still failed him. His tongue faltered and he slung out sighs and gasps to punctuate moments that begged for intoxicant, climactic words that somehow seemed that night so starkly unreachable. The more tightly he held her, the further she felt.

    She pushed her white tipped fingernails through his thin hair and pressed her fingertips hard against his skull, trying to pull something out of him.

    They spent well over two hours fumbling with each other, throwing aside pillows and sheets and unsettling the mattress, upturning the bed in a desperate effort to find his expression, but it didn't come. Though she twisted around him, slipping over him and bumping against him, and groaned loud enough for the neighbors in the next dorm to hear and arched hard like the proudest Egyptian cat and thrust back up and lavished the light with rich caramel exclamations, it didn't come.

   

    He shakes his head and refocuses on the paper in front of him.

    He must find a way to write this, to make art. He has to find a way to elicit a return but he is fishing in the dark.

    He begins, "My tongue, the organ which is most myself, was at a loss." He admonishes this phrase but sighs that it will have to do and fumbles on, pleading for his pen to form some kind of climactic effect from the jumble of blue breasts, white-nailed fingers pushing against the curve of his pale thigh, her hand grasping at his hands which shook too hard, and the sight of Shakespeare crumpled on the ground.