by Amy Sailer
There are only ten seconds left until she has to undress. She knows that these are her only ten seconds—they are ticking by in her head, in her throbbing adrenal gland. She knows that once they’re gone she will reveal her everything to the twenty twenty-something’s circled around her. From her pedestal, she watches them, these student artists. Most are only half-awake, more absorbed in setting out their paints and drinking their lattes than in her.
But she is still intent on her modesty and folds her arms more tightly over the lapels of the robe the professor handed to her when she arrived half an hour ago. This robe is my castle, she thinks, my one true and constant friend. And meanwhile the adrenaline surges higher in her throat, threatening vomit, refusing to plummet anywhere below her belt line—
So she knows. This is not a Sex Thing. If any one thing, she would have to say this is about the ten minutes after sex, when she stands up to go to the bathroom and her husband picks up the remote to catch the last few minutes of Conan. God knows she’s undergone fifteen pounds and twelve years of the marital bed, but he’s her husband, dammit, and could withstand a few minutes more of afterglow.
In fact, she thinks, I signed up to pose, not for his half-wit appreciation, but for myself. For solidarity with the late great nudes of the past. With the Picassos, the Tintarettos, the Rubens so sensationally fat as to give rise to euphemism. Yes, for the fat, the thin, whether fauve or Romantic! For all those women descending their staircases or lounging among pillows and sheets, their eyelids heavily seductive in the opiate haze. She seeks them all. A seeker of beauty, of artistry, she stands here now, ready to join them in laying bare the ancient, canonical Truths. This may not be a sex thing, but she hopes it’s the teensiest bit erotic. Oh yes, yes, she thinks. I am epiphany in all its naked glory.
And now her time has come and the robe is slipping, slipping. It’s past her collar, and now her shoulders and now her hips. She is emerging from the terry cloth as some magnificent tree, some beautiful white birch growing, reaching up and out towards the sky in seconds. She wants to lift up her arms. She wants to sing.