Posted by: sulya | 18 September 2009

500 Words of Fiction: Just Like She Said You Would


It smelled like paste and poster paint, like the shame and exhilaration of peeing in your pants. A room of a thousand colours and textures. A room with the raw creative energy of an “Evening at the Improv” contained in the silence of a library and dressed in the self-consciousness of a teenage girl in front of the boy she likes. She once said that infinity and failure live side by side in places like this.

Her voice always carried in spaces, and on subjects, like this.

One of them was using vermillion. Actual vermillion, it said so on the label of the oil pastel when I snuck a peak later. It was a small hand, a hand that maybe played piano when it wasn’t doing this; soft tapered fingers, a small ring with a compact, brightly shining diamond on the right ring finger. The rest of her was equally diminutive because all I could see was the hand, the hand holding vermillion.

Another hand in another part of the room held chunky black charcoal.

Her preference for charcoal would always be made very clear. The dust and mess of it, the malleable amorphousness of charcoal erasers. She once said, I would plant a tree and watch it grow and then cut branches from it and dry them and burn them to make my own charcoal if I had to. I would you know?

I know you would.

The only man in the room besides myself was using what looked like an architect’s pencil. Hard lead, because I could hear it scratching over the paper. The shapes were audible, the multiplicity of the lines, the literal sketchiness. I wondered if it were just a scrappy bout of testosterone, a protectiveness, a will to dominate, an aching vulnerability that I could not in any way hide – but I did not trust him or his slightly balding pate that winked at me occasionally.

I turned after a while and saw the other half of the room. The windows were on this side, the late summer sun quite strong, so the easels and their partners were nearly in silhouette. Everyone look beautiful in that kind of light so at least, I thought, one side of me will look beautiful.

I wondered what they would make of me. The aging athlete softness of me. The warm, stale air on chest hair and tired legs of me. The flaccid and hanging, the articulated still strong of me.

She drew me often enough that I felt like I knew what I looked like but this was different. These people felt no love for me. They were seeing me nude. She saw me naked.

Only the teacher noticed when I started to cry. People don’t pay a lot of attention to faces when they are sketching nudes. She pressed my hand later. Warm, knowing. We only knew each other because we’d both known her. She said, You did great. Just like she said you would.


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