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Authors: Amanda Filipacchi

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BOOK: Nude Men
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“I’m a painter.”

“Ah! How nice. Is your work exhibited anywhere right now?”

“Yes.” She pauses. “I work at home.”

“That must be the best place for a painter to work,” I say, feeling a little confused by her sudden switch of subject. “What type of painting do you do?”

“People. I paint people.”

“I love people. I mean, paintings of people. Are they abstract?”

“No. Well, everything is abstract in a way, isn’t it? But no, my people are not strictly abstract.”

“So, you paint people. That’s why you said you study people’s features. It’s because you paint them.”

“Yes, that’s why,” she says.

“What types of people do you paint?”

“I don’t really paint ‘types,’ unless you call men a type. I paint men.”

“What types of men?”

“I don’t really paint ‘types’ of men, unless being naked is a type. Is a naked man a type of man? Some types of men are almost never naked. Then there are the others, who are also a type, the type who are
almost never naked. Which type are you?”

I stare at the transparent greenness swaying almost imperceptibly between us. I wonder if there’s an erotic insinuation in her question.

“Such a thing is hard to know,” I answer. “I never figured it out myself. Is your work exhibited anywhere, or did I ask you that already?”

“My work is exhibited in
magazine. Toward the back of the magazine. I get two pieces shown. Sometimes only one, spread over two pages. My work has been appearing for six years.”

I plunge my spoon into a cubical section of my green gelatin dessert and lift it to my mouth. “So, you paint nude men,” I say, squishing the sweet greenness between my tongue and palate.

“Yes. And I like your mouth, so I was wondering if... you’d like to pose for me.”

I grin at her, hoping there’s no gelatin stuck between my teeth. “I’m flattered, but one’s mouth is not a very good representation of one’s naked body.”

“A mouth is a very good representation. There are clues and signs in a mouth. Will you do it?”

She gives me that pouting, capricious look, making her upper lip flare out more than ever. Her resemblance to Isabelle Adjani in
The Story of Adele H.
is striking. I melt. There is nothing I would not do for the owner of that upper lip at this point. I’m usually very shy, but this woman seems like such a good catch for me, and I’m so attracted to her, that I think I will agree to pose for her. At least I can get into her apartment, and then, at the last minute, if I become chicken, I can always change my mind about posing.

“You want me to pose nude for you?” I ask.

“Yes I do. I spotted you from all the way over there, remember?” She points to the counter. “I’ll pay you thirty dollars an hour, if it’s okay with you. That’s the standard price. But if you want more, we can discuss it.”

I cringe at her words. I don’t want to have a professional relationship with her, just a romantic one. I should have accepted right away, before she brought up money.

“I would love to pose for you,” I say.

“I know. I’m glad,” she answers. Her voice is soft, and her face delicate and serene. Her hands reach inside her bag. “When are you available?” she asks, handing me her card. “Anytime. When are you?”

“How about Saturday at six p.m.?”

“Perfect,” I say, delighted at the late hour she chose.

“Could I have your card?”

I jump up in my seat, tap my pockets, and say, “I don’t have one with me right now, but here, this’ll do just as well, if you don’t mind.” I write my name, address, and phone number on the paper napkin under my Jell-O dish. I hand her the napkin, which she takes between her thumb and forefinger, pinkie lifted. I think I detect slight snobbery, but I’m not sure.

She reads it aloud: “Mister Jeremy Acidophilus.” She added the “mister.” She keeps staring at my name on the napkin, looking puzzled, and I know what’s coming next. She says, “Acidophilus, as in the yogurt culture?”

Here we go. One of the big dramas of my life. “Yes, the yogurt culture,” I reply.

“Is there a story behind that?”

Although the truthful answer would be “None that I know of,” I decide instead, perhaps because I’m slightly masochistic, to say: “When my father was a young man, he saw the word on a yogurt container and thought it sounded very intelligent and interesting. He made it his name.” This is a lie I made up a few years ago but never had the guts to use on anyone. The most daring thing I ever do, sometimes, when people ask me my name, is to adopt a James Bond tone and reply “Acidophilus. Jeremy Acidophilus.” The truth about my name is that there is no anecdote about it, not even a rumor. Some people are named Bazooka, others are named Fender; why should some not be named Acidophilus?

She folds the napkin in four, looking at me with a tiny smile. Mocking? Perhaps. Playful? More likely. She slips the napkin in her purse and gets up, hitting the edge of the table with her stomach again, a little harder this time. The two and a half cubes of gelatin dessert dance in unison.

“Well, Mister Active Yogurt Culture, Mister Friendly Bacteria, it’s been a pleasure meeting you,” she says, shaking my hand with small, hard fingers that are nevertheless not rough.

She walks toward the door. I don’t turn around to watch her go out. I’m not the type to stare at a woman’s backside; not that I don’t want to, but I’m afraid someone might see me do it. At the last minute, however, I do look back and I see it, just before it disappears behind the door. It’s nice, small but not too, with a clearly defined pit, or slit, or whatever you call it, that I can see through the fabric of her skirt. I heard recently that some women undergo cosmetic surgery to have the cheeks of their backside spread farther apart. Supposedly it makes a nicer outline, nicer definition. I can imagine how that might be, though it seems a little too finicky. Anyway, I’m glad to report that my new woman will never need that surgery.

I stare at my two and a half cubes of green with satisfaction. I do not eat them.

That was a very pleasant encounter indeed. I look around the room very bluntly. No meek sweeps of the head, no furtiveness. Large, broad sweeps of the head. Where is my rejected woman? I feel eternally grateful to her. If it hadn’t been for her, I would never have felt the need, nor had the courage, to return my new woman’s smile. I would have accused my eyesight of fooling me. I would have buried my nose in my book, even held up my book as a shield against the charm of the plump upper lip.

I pay my bill, get up, and look at all the faces as I walk toward the door. I would like to find her, smile and nod my head as I pass her. She is not there. I leave Grandma Julie’s. I think I will walk the extra distance in the future. Who knows, I might even share my table with a stranger.


chapter two



go back to the office, holding my briefcase in one hand and my Jell-O spoon in the other. I would have taken a cube of Jell-O as a souvenir if it had been practical, but it obviously was not, so I decided to steal the spoon. Walking down the street holding that stainless-steel spoon firmly in my hand makes me feel like Dumbo the elephant, clutching his feather and flying.

My magic Jell-O feather carries me straight to a newsstand. I spot
magazine, whip it open to the second-to-last page, and find myself confronted with a pretty painting of a pretty naked man, the type of man I imagine could make me gay if I could be made gay. It is signed by Lady Henrietta. At least she told me the truth about painting nude men. As for what she truly wants to do with me, that is a separate question entirely. It seems that one way or the other, I can only be flattered. If she wants to paint me, I am flattered that she finds me attractive enough. If she just wants to sleep with me, I am even more flattered. I buy the magazine.

As I walk back to the office;, I am conscious of my naked body under my clothes. I feel the fabric rubbing against my skin, everywhere. I am aware of general nakedness in the world, of people’s bodies rubbing against their clothes. I feel sexy. But then I get frightened by a memory: the memory of what my body looked like, just this morning, in the mirror. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. Perhaps the mirror fooled me with an unflattering optical illusion. I want to rip off my clothes, stand in front of a shop window, and examine my reflection to see if I made a mistake by agreeing to pose for the painter of nude men. I do not rip off my clothes. All I do, as I walk, is peek out of the corner of my eye to catch my image in a window. All I catch, reflected in a shoe store, is the shine of my spoon traveling stiffly by my side.

But seriously now, why the hell did this woman come and talk to me? Maybe she’s eccentric, a little extravagant. Maybe she picks up strangers off the streets all the time to do God knows what. A madwoman. Maybe she’s just bold and unashamed to walk up to prospective models and frankly state her interest. No matter what, the fact is that I am now obsessed with my body, its adequacy or lack of it.

By now you are probably dying to know what I look like. And the moment you find out, you’ll start comparing your physical appearance to mine, to judge if you, also, have a chance of one day being accosted by a creature equal in loveliness to the one who approached me at lunch.

Let me spare you the trouble, for now, of having to make these degrading comparisons, and simply tell you that yes, you do have a chance, and no, I am not willing to describe my beauty or lack of it right now, other than to tell you that I’m not fat.

Arriving at my office, I sit at my desk in semidarkness, staring blankly at the fat, round doorknob, and slowly I start puffing out my cheeks, digging my chin into my neck, creating a tiny, puny, double chin, spreading my ten fingers apart, lifting my arms away from my body, opening my thighs, and filling my stomach with air. Oh, and I also lower my eyelids, because the fat around my eyes would prevent me from opening them completely. Now there is good reason for me to be nervous about posing nude.

I debloat: I suck in my cheeks, stretch out my neck, empty my stomach, lower my arms, open my eyes, and close my thighs and fingers. Now there is not good reason for me to be nervous about posing nude.

I bloat up again. Now there is.

I debloat. Now there’s not.


Now there is. Now there’s not.

I am bold this afternoon. I do things I would not normally dare do, like spin my chair around to my computer and type: “I am
fat. If I were fat, there would be a reason for me to be nervous about posing nude. I am
fat. I am nottttttttttt.”

I stare at my words on the screen without blinking. The lines become blurry. I am in a trance, wallowing in thoughts about Lady Henrietta and about the wonderful fact that I’m not fat. You may be starting to suspect that perhaps I used to be fat. No. The reason I’m so happy I’m not fat is that I’ve got to try to be happy about
and I don’t have many things to be happy about. I could just as easily be getting excited about the wonderful fact that I am not bald, or that I have two arms.

I am awakened from my daydream by Annie, the twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant, who’s married. She says to me, “Charlotte’s on the phone.”

My girlfriend, Charlotte, calls me every day at work. I told her not to call me. Not every day. Not even every week. It’s embarrassing. She does it anyway. Now Annie, and everyone else, knows I have a girlfriend named Charlotte who calls me every day at work.

I pick up the phone and hear her granular, cottage cheese voice. “I was wondering what you’d like for dinner tonight, darling.”

“Cottage cheese,” I mumble absentmindedly.


“Oh! What would I like for dinner? I’ll have to work late this evening. And then there’s some work I have to do at home. I’m simply exhausted. I don’t think I’ll be able to see you tonight. You understand, don’t you?”

“That’s too bad. I was thinking we could have an especially nice evening.”

Cottage cheese, cottage cheese.

She’s talking about sex. She uses it as a bribe, always, when I’m not enthusiastic about seeing her.

“Oh, now I feel especially sorry that I can’t see you,” I say. “But we’ll do it another night.”

“You mean tomorrow night, right?”

“Of course that’s what I mean.”

“Okay. Goodbye, wooshy mushy.”

“Goodbye, twinkle face,” I whisper, not wanting Annie to hear me.

“Have good dreams, I’ll talk to you later, I love you.” She makes a big noisy kiss.

“Me too, me too too.”

I hang up the phone and go to my boss, the head researcher, hoping he has some fact checking for me to do.

“No, I don’t have anything right now,” he says. “But maybe Annie has some filing for you.”

Of course, as usual, maybe Annie has some filing for me. I am twenty-nine years old, I am a fact checker, and maybe Annie has some filing for me. A fact checker is what I am. I’m not a filer, I’m not an editorial assistant. I’m a little better than that, which is normal because I paid my dues for many years, I worked my way up. I’m a fact checker, hoping to be a writer. I would like to be a journalist, a writer of magazine articles, an interviewer. The glamorous people I would write articles about would then know me, be my friends, and perhaps even marry me.

BOOK: Nude Men
10.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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