In Which Adam Sleeps With A Girl And Unwittingly Becomes Her Art Class’s Nude Model
by Brenna Ehrlich
All the papers on the wall flutter like pinned birds and Adam’s eyelids flutter, too. Let the light in, too bright bright, bright, then the swirling red dark. Breeze from somewhere. Fabric gusting over his cheek as somewhere in the unfamiliar landscape the curtains breathe. Grit, dust, grit from some nowhere beach crunching under his legs, hanging out and tangled in sheets. Breeze again and all the paper birds rustle and coo and try, try, try to break away and breathe with the curtains, but they are too choked by tape and tacks.
Last night, last night, there are so many songs that begin with last night, but last night was not a song – oh no. Last night was slumped on bar, looking up through lids at other lashes and watching them blink and dip and saying slurring something.
And the lined lids dipping and the lips below sighing and saying, saying, saying something about why her fingers were ringed with black instead of baubles. And him nodding, nodding on twitched-up puppet strings as the ceiling held him upright.
The same ceiling strings help twitch up eyelids now and all the bird papers on the wall suck right against plaster as the breath of window exits the room. And all around there’s winking and black from all the papers. Charcoaled lines lazily outlining male shapes. Reclining, lining, sighing as the papers flip up. He can see them almost undulating as his eyes unfocus, like looking at a painting of a sailing ship when you’re young and thinking you’re seeing it rolling on the waves – instead of paint-made and unwavering.
All the faces out of squinted eyes are muttering, all the mouths saying, saying, laughing, laughing, laughing. “Remember, remember?” But his mind is all forgot.
He eyeshuts out shapes – all akin in that they are only wearing skin, he notices – he listens. Concentrated on listening to upstairs creaks like pencil scratches. She said. She said something. Something more than nothing. She said, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basketcase” and something else.
When he opens eyes all the men –l naked men – sketched and sailing on the papers on the walls, murmur and urge “remember!” One with dark-ringed eyes and hard tousled hair seems to wave a sleepy arm and say, “Around, around, spin around.” Or “Around, around look around.” Adam strains to comply by feels paralysis parasite-like in his neck bones. Connected to the hipbones. That ain’t right.
She said she said she said, “I make a real good first impression, the rest is up to you.” So many one-line wonders. So many napkin scrawls for later remembering. But there was something else. “Remember.”
The walled men/birds are still fluttering and sighing, and all around the upstairs walking like pencil scrawling is louder, louder still. One of the charcoal men coughs and Adam’s mind says, “That’s not right. Charcoal men don’t have throats, they have coal chutes.”
He needs to sit up from the lie down. He needs to light off from the paper nest. He needs to remember.
Stumbling home to home not home, she grabbed his hand and left dark marks. She grabbed his hand like she need needed him. She whispered close to his ear and full of breathing. She said, said, said…
Another charcoal man coughs and Adam’s brain protests. What did she say…
Another cough and a jingle and cry of glass and so much pencil scratching. Adam’s neck strains to turn. His muscles bunch up and cry to sober up and shake off sleep.
The charcoal men wheedle and twist in the breeze.
She said something about missing. She said something about leaving. She said something about filling a void. His jeans got tight and the night got bright, bright, bright. And now his jeans are on the floor. Covered in charcoal dust.
Lever up now, watch the charcoal men canter sideways with the ceiling. Watch the ceiling fan spreading dust and dark dust whispering in spirals towards the ceiling. Plant hands and grasp head and feel the curtain breathe onto his bare shoulder like ghosts.
There’s a rustling behind him. A chorus of disappointment and not-so charcoal sighs. Not-so dust mite sighs. He freezes and fears to turn, but staring at the wall is blank and sad and all the men are mocking him in repose. Slowly he twists.
She said… She said she drew. She said… She said she taught. She said something about shape and form and fragility. She said she needed him.
So many eyes looking. Not charcoal eyes, real eyes. Eyes frozen, with pencils and papers on easels fluttering. Fluttering like birds about to take flight. Covered, half-covered, with sprawling charcoal men winking at him with his eyes.
Brenna Ehrlich is the co-author of the book Stuff Hipsters Hate: A Field Guide to the Passionate Opinions of the Indifferent, published in 2010 by Ulysses Press, as well a blog by the same name. She’s the Senior Writer and Editor of MTV’s O Music Awards and a reporter for MTV News. In the past, she had a weekly Netiquette column on CNN, and served as Associate Editor at Mashable.com, as well as Associate Editor at Heeb magazine. She has a Master’s in Journalism from Medill University and enjoys trying not to die in moshpits.