Tuesday, January 1, 2013

White light

Chill bumps rose through liquid latex.

The girl laughed nervously. Wind blew through a crack in the doorway. They had opened the door to let out the paint fumes.

She stood on a wooden platform. Sheets of tacked-up clear plastic fluttered against the farmhouse ceiling and walls.

Two guys painted her naked body. Two other guys and a girl took pictures. She had shaved everywhere but her head.

She looked away from her body.

***

The girl who was being painted caught the eye of the friend she had brought with her. The friend was helping the main artist paint her body. She looked into her friend's eyes that were golden-brown and familiar. She tried to send him a message in a code she was just now making up.

"In my trunk. There's some tea." She said tea but it was really sweet-tea-flavored vodka. She had bought a bottle at the ABC store. She always pre-gamed before social events but had walked in here stone-sober at two in the afternoon. "My keys. In my purse. In the basement." Staccato fragments were what came out.

She hoped he would telepathically know to not bring in the "discreet" ABC-store black bag with the two clanking bottles in there -- the vodka, and also some limoncello. She hoped he would somehow know to just pour the "tea" into a red plastic cup in the kitchen, one of the cups left over from the party last week, so they could all politely pretend to not know what she had inside it.

He brought in the black bag, but they all politely pretended anyway. They painted and snapped. It felt surreal but serene. At least for a while.

Until she thought ahead to how, when they had finished painting, she would be expected to perform. Her friend poured just a bit of "tea" into the cup. She asked for a lot more, and he gave it to her.

Then it was gone.

The bohemian farmhouse that their friend owned and let people use for parties and photo shoots, the people swirling slowly around her with their lenses, the little details -- chill bumps through paint, flutter of clear plastic. She remembered only flashes of what happened after that.

***

She saw the photos later in the photographers' "friends-only" online albums.

Later in the day, after it was all gone to her, they had taken some photos in the basement, where chains hung matter-of-factly from the ceiling.

In some of the pictures, there were big black leather cuffs on her wrists. She hadn't remembered that.

They had painted her in bright diagonal stripes that peeled off in random patches and patterns. In the photos, especially the later ones they took down in the basement, she looked like an animal coming unskinned. She glared and snarled and taunted. It gave the pictures a rawness, having her filters down like that.

In some of the photos she stood in a white-tiled shower with the water off. By then the paint was gone and she was naked again. The alcohol had shrunk her self-consciousness down to nothing like a pupil in bright light.

She had forgotten most of what had happened in the basement, so when she saw the photos later, just for a moment, she thought of seeing pictures of a loved one who'd been kidnapped. It was the chains and the exposed wooden basement beams that made her think that, that was all – the photographers had been respectful. They were all her friends. And besides, she had long ago vowed to never let herself think anyone else was to blame for anything that happened to her. When everything is your fault, it means you have power, because you could have done otherwise.

She had forgotten her drive home from the photo shoot, too. Thank god it was only a couple of miles. When she saw later that her car's side airbags had popped out and deflated, she didn't remember what had set them off. Maybe a pothole, maybe a curb.

*** 

She had been ugly in her teens, ugly in her 20s. Or so she'd thought. She didn't look much different now. The difference now was just that she refused to be ugly, would not allow it.

She had not had sex until she was nearly 28 years old. After that spike on the timeline of her life, she knew what she was capable of. It felt like being able to get on a new wavelength, to hear a frequency that many other people had been able to hear for years. Every male was ripe for seduction. It had nothing to do with how she looked.

Her biggest fear was fear. She didn't like what it did to her, how she cowered and deferred, the way it made her shrink and look inward. Alcohol made her less fearful. It was the magic cure.

One day she would realize that the answer to overcoming fear was to accept death. Once you realize you're going to die, everything else seems small.

***

In the soft white light upstairs where they'd painted her in the diffuse afternoon sun, before she was drunk, before they went down into the basement, she had thought about how she should feel versus how she actually felt. It occurred to her that maybe she should feel ashamed, or so her mom would say if she'd had any idea what her daughter got up to these days (she did not). It occurred to her that it might be the latest in a parade of signs that she was coming unravelled: earlier in the week, 4 a.m., pouring bottles of booze down the drain and crying, swearing never again (again); posting an S.O.S. to her Facebook friends about how she might need anti-depressants.

One of the photographers had said, "Don't look at me. Look anywhere but at me."

So she had looked off. You couldn't see out the windows; for insulation, the windows were covered with clear plastic that was clouded, like wax paper. She didn't feel ashamed, or crazy. She just felt that she was doing something interesting, that she was living an interesting life full of stories. She thought about how there was a kind of life that was new to her and unknown to many, or disregarded by many, one she was just learning.

Photo by Lenore Rossini; album: http://www.flickr.com/photos/60361158@N02/sets/72157626101695491/ 

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