Would I?

I recently found a large painting in acrylic of a nude young woman reclining, succulent.   She is painted from feet to head, casting a dramatic shadow to her left.  The style is right on the border of realistic and cartoon and I was glad I’d found it.   I hung it on the wall in my cracked bedroom where I can glance at it from my pillow (which led me to notice and regret that the two nicely rendered feet are of glaringly different sizes).  It was done from a drawing I remember making of her, on a piece of brown corrugated paper highlighted with a white china marker and gouache, the drawing being much better than the painting.
The girl in the picture, rendered as three dimensionally as I was able, was twenty or so at the time. The painter was thirty.   The painter had been reassured by a mutual acquaintance, when hesitating momentarily to ask the girl out, that she was uncommonly mature and that he was uncommonly immature and so the age difference should not be that big a deal.
I did not regret anything about the affair, except that it ended somewhat badly a year later.  She went on to marry a guy, a young executive type, who sounded like a self-important dick, a hugely ambitious baby, a narcissistic mama’s boy.  They moved to a city one would never think of voluntarily moving to, the corporation had promoted him and assigned him there.  I did not hear from her for years after that, which came as no surprise.   In that city she gave birth to their daughter and, in fairly short order, he revealed himself, in a way that became increasingly impossible to endure, as an ever more self-important dick, a hugely ambitious baby, a narcissistic mama’s boy and, also, an impressively complete asshole.
During the painful divorce negotiations she called me regularly and I spoke to her calmly.   She greatly appreciated these conversations and I didn’t mind having them.  Truthfully, painful conversations are one of the few times you get the real person instead of the veneer.  I would rather speak with the real person than the veneer, so I’m not ruffled by the painful situation that brings the real person out.   That the pain is not directly my own is another plus and makes it easier for me to speak in a calming way.
One day she called during the day, usually she dialed me late at night, and came to her point rather directly “if I came to New York, would you fuck me?”   Even typing these words now, years later, makes my eyes open a little wider.  I stumbled for a few seconds looking for the right way to say there were few things I’d rather do but that I was in a monogamous relationship with a person I loved, that she was putting me in a tight spot with the question, that at any other time…. and as I spoke I jotted the question; “if I came to New York, would you fuck me?” on a post-it to consider at my leisure, perhaps to write about ten or fifteen years later.

And in the usual course of things, the post-it remained in my pants pocket where I’d put it until it somehow found its way into my beloved’s hand on laundry day.  She asked about it, naturally, with a certain irked urgency and I was once again thrust into that uneasy tap dance the original query had caused me to tap out.

After her divorce, when things settled down for her, I stopped hearing from the girl, now in her late forties.  She contacted me about a year ago to tell me how great my program is and that she would be supporting it with a cash donation, but to my knowledge no donation was ever made. That was the last peep I had from her.

I think there is probably no point to have that painting of her at twenty, presenting herself like a birthday cake, hanging on the wall next to my bed, even if there is little chance of my beloved ever seeing it as she can’t stand the decrepitude of this apartment of mine and avoids it like the proverbial plague.

Which is not an unreasonable position to take.


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