This is how I see them: He’s short and wiry of limb, and is wearing well-worn brown painter’s paints that are smudged with charcoal, ink, and thumbprint sized dollops of navy, cream, and scarlet vermillion paint. He just finished painting her lips, and was saving a bit of the vermillion in his tray for that. She’s nude, reclined his small and lumpy bed that’s covered with one of her mother’s better paisley scarves, the red and gold one. She nicked it from her mother’s bureau because Modi wanted something soft, clean, and rich against her bare skin when he painted her.

Jeanne’s once bony frame is softening, plumping out in the early expansion of her pregnancy. Her stomach swells, her hips are no longer angular, her breasts are full, round, and taut. She’s almost asleep as he’s finishes, and he finishes quickly: Modi completed paintings in afternoons, not days or weeks. His dark brow is furrowed, his skin is beady with sweat in the heat of the flat and the fever that’s eating him from the inside out.

He steps away from the canvas, appraising the golds and reds and shadows, drinks wine from a large, chipped teacup, nods, and starts to clean his brushes. The soft, purposeful noises rouse Jeanne from her almost-nap and she stretches her long arms over her head and stands. She’s glowing with sweat and dizzy with hormones and heat. Modi wipes his sooty, paint-flecked hands on a stained flour sack that’s draped over a cane chair next to his easel, and walks toward Jeanne. She stares at him, fixated by his movements, and when he reaches to where she stands, still nude, he grabs great heaps of her dark auburn hair. He twirls it round his fingers, and it tangles a little in his grasp. He then moves his hands down her neck, over her clavicle, and rests at her heavy breasts before placing one hand on each side of her ribcage.

He feels each rib expand and contract with her breath as her lungs fill with the dusty, hot air of their flat. He knows his own mind, body, and especially lungs are doomed by disease, opium, and drink. Stars will soon form behind his eyes; blood might soon trickle from his mouth and Jeanne will have to watch him die.

But here she is, just as she is, and she’s growing his son or daughter. She breathes the same air as he does and shares his lumpy bed.

(I’m not sure if Jeanne was the model for this particular nude, but for the sake of my narrative, I’m pretending she was…)


3 thoughts on “Them

"... all my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures."

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