The Nude Model
The night Manny met the nude model he was hung-over. When he woke up that morning, he valued his hangover a victory- the price one pays for conversation so good it leaves bruises and stiff joints. Forty, he thought, fifty? What different does it make. Manny knew he was off the reservation long before his fortieth birthday. The time had passed to do things the easy way. Manny considered himself a swim upstream kind of guy.
Under these conditions of mild pain and melancholy which Manny enjoyed, like a plug of burning tobacco, he sat on the patio of a south side lounge sipping a sour-tasting beer from France. The Nude Model worked for Manny’s friend Carlos, who taught college students how to draw. Carlos was known for his paintings of blobby unicorns jumping over white picket fences. Manny once heard it described as: a commentary on the fantasy of the American Dream and the suffering of a people too long-detached from the satisfactions of the simple. Manny did not know anything about art, but he believed this to be bullshit. He pictured Carlos at home with his canvas and paint watching blobby unicorns appear by the legion without a thought in his head but the pleasure of watching colors and shapes appear and jump fences.
Manny could not say if the Nude Model was a drunk, or just drunk.
The Nude Model was of a body type Manny thought of as Siobhanese based on the body-type of an ex-girlfriend. The Siobhanese were characterized by their exo-skeletons and slinky ways of moving.
She stood directly over Manny’s shiny head brandishing her pint of beer as she educated the table about Nude Modeling. Manny nervously contemplated his reaction should she spill something on him.
Nude Modeling was hard. Nude Models should never be made to wear hats. Nude Models were not to be seen undressing. Nude Models could wear jewelry in their aureoles and ears. Nude Models needed frequent breaks. Nude Models were not required to have dimples of Venus, but it was considered a plus. Nude Models were not to be spoken to while nude if ever, but certainly not while nude. The Nude Model thought Manny was ugly. Manny felt the same about the Nude Model.
Manny’s friend Cleo was trying to tell him something. Cleo was saying something about tubes and pyramids? Something about a friend who abstracted? He strained to listen, but Nude Models was now joined at the table, fully turned to Carlos expanding the Nude Model manifesto.
Manny leaned in and turned his ear to Cleo,
MY FRIEND IS ON A FEEDING TUBE. SHE KEEPS ASPIRATING HER FOOD. I USED TO VISIT AT LUNCH AND FEED HER. I’M GOING TO SEE HER TOMORROW AND I DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT I WILL DO WITH HER NOW?
Now Manny understood. Pyramid was the place Cleo volunteered, making art with the Developmental Disability crowd. In his mind Manny could never completely evade the word “retarded” but he know better than to use it. It was just stuck there, like The Nude Model at the table, hard to overcome.
Manny could see the edge of tears in Cleo’s eyes when he was distracted by The Nude Model explaining that his bald head was a birth defect.
Manny pictured the Nude Model retarded with a feeding tube, and nobody to come and make art with her.