Foreword: This piece of flash fiction was inspired by personal experiences with life drawing. I would like to reinforce the point that life drawing is primarily an artistic activity and is not inherently sexual in nature, but in this case I wanted to explore what happens if it slips into that realm.
I’ve become a regular at this life drawing class. When I moved to the area a couple of years back, I was looking for a new hobby, both as a way to interact with new people and as an excuse to flex my creative muscles. Now, I find myself turning up each week like clockwork—Wednesdays at six on the dot. I set up an easel, flip the previous sketches over to reveal the first blank sheet of the evening. One thing I’ve always noticed is the characteristics of the life drawing models we tend to have as guests. They’re always so well-toned, with limbs that just seem to fit together. In other words, proportionally speaking, they aren’t difficult to replicate on the page.
Maybe I say this because I consider myself to be pretty competent at getting the scale accurate. It took some time to reach this stage, but each week I gained that little bit of extra confidence. The models swap on a three-week rotation, with one of the others filling in for them if there’s an absence due to unforeseen circumstances. After a while, it’s easy to get used to the way these bodies look. Even with noticeable weight loss or gain, the overall shape remains the same. There are two women and one man.
Now, I know we’re talking about drawing naked people, and for anyone who isn’t initiated in the ways of life drawing—it’s not supposed to be sexual in any way, shape or form. But I happen to know for a fact that a couple of the students slept with one of the previous models who was especially open about that sort of thing. For me, as a gay man, drawing the female form doesn’t do an awful lot for me, except provide inspiration for some nice lines on some nice paper.
Drawing women really is only about observation for me, without so much as a single dirty thought being able to enter my mind. In some ways, I actually prefer to draw women for this very reason. There are also more curves to work with—that fascinates me. The male model is in his late seventies, fit as a fiddle with admirable muscle strength for his age, but straight as a lace. I’m not so desperate for a fuck that I’d target a geriatric life drawing model and lure him into my bed anytime soon.
This week I showed up to the class, not expecting any kind of deviation from the norm. But as I entered the room and slipped off my satchel, I noticed a man in a pure white dressing gown. I’d never seen him before. I guessed he would be the model for the evening. He looked relaxed as he stood there, casually nursing a cup of tea and chatting away with Rachael and Gemma, two of the more chatty members of the group.
Rachael indicated that she’d spotted me and beckoned me over. “Oh, Bradley. I’m so glad you’re here tonight!” Her voice was full of excitement.
I walked over to the group, a little reluctant to engage. “I’m here every week, but…nice to see you too. How are you?”
“We’re great,” said Gemma. She put an arm around me affectionately as she so often does. I can’t say I particularly enjoy it. “More importantly,” she continued “this is James, our model for this week.”
I felt the blood rush to my face. “S-so what?” I blurted out. Then, realising how rude I must have sounded, I changed course. “Sorry…it’s nice to meet you James. I’m Bradley.”
Rachael leaned in closer towards James. “Bradley is gay too.”
Ah…so that’s what this little introduction is all about…
I chuckled to myself. “Listen, I appreciate that you’re worried about my relationship status since I broke up with Joe, but I’m not looking for anything right now.”
Gemma made an expression that stated her confusion.”But you’re…both gay.”
I raised my eyebrows. “And?”
“You have something in common with James.”
“So, what?” I was insulted by her insinuation. “Just because we’re both gay, it doesn’t mean we’ll automatically become best mates.”
Rachael chimed in. “T-that’s not what she’s saying, Bradley.”
“No?” I sighed. “I don’t want to be defined by my sexuality. Why not bring up the fact that I like going to live music events or that I like baking? Those are the hobbies that I share with people. I’m gay, so naturally, I sleep with and date men. But please, don’t assume I’m going to get on with every single gay guy you come across.”
“Look…” James set his cup of tea down on the side and took a step forward. He put a hand onto my chest. It seemed to be a reassuring touch. “I really don’t think they meant anything by it. We both happen to be gay. There’s a lot more to any human connection than simply sharing a sexual orientation. But I’m new here, I moved from Manchester last week and I’m still finding my feet, meeting new people—you know?”
“Yeah.” I nodded slowly. “I-I’m sorry. I had a painful breakup recently and I suppose I’ve been rather cynical about everything. I didn’t mean to take it out on you.” I let go of all the pent-up frustration inside me for a moment and allowed my lips to curl into a warm smile. “I can give you some pointers if you like.”
“Thanks,” said James. “I’d appreciate it.”
And so the session began.
James slipped out of his dressing gown and draped it over the chaise lounge. I stood by the easel I would be working on and assumed my usual drawing stance, keeping the shoulders relaxed and tilting my entire body at such an angle that I could see the whole area James was standing in. The instructor told us we would begin with a ten-minute sketch, a fairly rough drawing that would capture the main shapes making up the structure of the body.
James assumed his first pose, sitting on the chaise lounge. He cowered there with his arms crossed over his knees, as though he were about to burst into tears. I put the tip of my pencil to the paper, applied a small amount of pressure and….froze. I was unable to make even a single mark. It was like artist’s block, but the subject was right there in front of me. I scanned the room. The others were busy raising their heads to observe James and then going back to scrawl their masterpieces.
But me? I was stuck.
At that moment, I felt a strange pulsing rise up inside of me. In my stupor, I slowly realised that I had been staring directly at James’ curled-up figure for a good long time, but not actually transferring what I saw onto paper. I began to notice the small marks that littered his skin. There were a few moles scattered around, on his arms, thighs and shins. I traced the contours of his back with my eyes. The shape of his spine jutted out just enough to demonstrate one facet of how crooked he was. His calloused fingers showed signs of wear, so I guessed his main job was manual work of some description. Even one of his feet was slightly larger than the other, by a noticeable degree. There was also a small burn branded into his shoulder, measuring around a couple of centimetres in width—perhaps that was related to an accident when he was younger?
I took in each part of his body in succession, and as I did I started to understand that he was entirely asymmetrical. Sure, everybody has something that might seem warped to another person, but James’ body was wonky in the most appealing way. It was like there was a new story waiting to be recited from every angle.
Believe me, I really was trying my hardest to remain objective, as I usually manage to do. But that was easier said than done. Everything of James’ that I saw before me was already melting my mind down into a pool of useless mush. I was dumbfounded in the presence of this supposedly broken human, constantly distracted trying to read the stories that lay beneath that mottled surface.
And while I was caught up in all this daydreaming, something began to stir in my trousers, getting tighter and tighter by the second.
Shit! Not now…
I asked myself how this could possibly be happening. I hadn’t got turned on from simply observing a naked man…ever. It just didn’t happen. It’s not like I’d really had a chance to see his cock either. Maybe it was because I’d been lonely recently, since Joe had revealed all his shameful secrets to me. But I’d still masturbated and used sex toys, so it wasn’t like I was especially backed up. I’d come a lot while alone, watching some of those squeaky-clean guys strutting their stuff on YouPorn.
Still, the middle of a life drawing class wasn’t the ideal place to get an erection. I felt ashamed of my vulnerability. Was it because I knew about James’ sexuality beforehand? Did that somehow change my perspective on everything? No, surely not. I knew could be equally attracted to him if he were straight.
Do I have some kind of fetish for bodily marks and asymmetry?
Has this woken something up inside me?
Am I dreaming?
Because this erection isn’t going to disappear by itself.