© Clare London / 2010
He sat cross-legged on the floor, surrounded by scattered sketches. Stubbed colored pencils lay beside him, crumpled paper nestled against his bare toes. His sweats hung loosely around his hips, the skin of his belly creased where he hunched forward.
“Bad time?” I asked.
“Crap,” he said, sharply. “It’s all crap. Finger painting. Color by numbers.”
I crouched outside the defensive circle that he’d constructed, smoothing out a crushed paper ball. “No, it’s not.”
He grimaced. I knew his immediate reaction was to say ‘fuck you’ but he bit it back. We’d come a long way together since the early days, when he wouldn’t believe I could empathize, let alone understand. The fact was, now we were a definite ‘we’: a couple. No longer a scared, solitary artist and someone who loved him.
His foot nudged a loose pencil, rolling it back and forth. The artistic frustration was a constant struggle for him. No one drove him harder than he did himself. “The perspective’s all wrong. Too heavy handed on the facial expression. Poor movement in the lines of the body.”
I tilted my head to appraise the sketched lines on the discarded page. “This is beautiful,” I said. It was only the head – some swiftly brushed shading around the jaw, sweeping into strong neck muscles; a lick of chestnut hair across the forehead. The eyes were the only other thing colored – vibrant, purple-blue irises, reflecting memories of laughter and desire. “Beautiful,” I repeated.
He flushed and scowled. “I’ll never be good enough.”
I moved a couple of piles to the side. I was very careful at these times. I cleared a small but definite pathway into the centre of the circle, toward him. “You’re talented. You’re passionate about your art. No-one could ask more.”
He smiled then, ruefully. “Flatterer. You always say that.”
“I always mean it.”
He leant back on his hands and sighed. A bead of sweat glistened at his throat: he shifted his palms, creasing some sheets underneath. “Why do you bother with me?”
And so I smiled. “You know that already. You’re the one makes it bearable, being away. Because I know I come home to you.”
His head dropped, chin to his chest, surveying the mess around him. “The words… I can’t get them right like you do. To tell you…You know?”
“I know.” But he wasn’t really listening. He had things to say; was searching for the proper tools.
“I miss you more than anything. I just want to put it on paper. I want a memento to hold, a reminder for every moment we’re apart.”
I didn’t know what to say. I felt the same. I unrolled another sheet to find the sweeping lines of a slim, masculine body laid on a bed, barely covered. Naked, muscled flesh, yet the vision was erotic rather than obscene, the torso twisted away from the viewer, only the back in sight. The head was turned to gaze at something off the page – the same blue eyes as before, warmed by the same unconcealed desire. A jumble of pencils was scribbled at the paper’s edge as if abandoned, the artist scrambling to join the body.
And that was exactly what had happened.
My heart beat faster. “It’s so good,” I breathed. I knelt in front of him. “That was a fine day. A fine night. You captured it well. Perfectly.”
He looked up into my eyes that were purple-blue in reality, and the bare emotion was a tale in itself.
“You captured me,” I whispered. “I’ll say it every day until you believe it.”
His eyes widened. “But I do…”
I reached for his waist, drawing him to me. “You don’t need a picture. You have me here.” I embraced him, feeling the thick, muscular warmth of his body and the quickening of his heart. “Hold me.” His head sank to my shoulder; his arms came around me, holding me tight.
“And this,” he sighed, a thread of laughter in his voice, “is precisely what I try so hard to draw.”
When he turned his head back up to me, I captured the kiss in return. Everything was said, in just that.