On a cold spring afternoon, a painter helps a college man learn something about art, sex, and the limits of language.
OK, this is a long time ago. But some memories are like yesterday. Flash back to junior year in college. I'm way deep into junioritis, mostly hanging out with my buds, spending nights at the bars with a fake ID, no serious love life of course, skating by in classes, in tight with one or two younger professors, and mostly just doing well enough to keep from getting tossed out into the cold, cruel world.
I forget how I get to know this guy Ted. He's an art student, but several years older than the rest of us. VeteranArmy we thinknever says much about it. Maybe he just wants to feel young and still wet behind the ears, like the rest of us; maybe he's seen some kind of action he doesn't want to talk about. We let it pass, enjoying his company because he's been around some, we're a little in awe of him, and we're just dumb-ass kids anyway.
We joke about his being an "ah-tist," but not much. He's serious, and we know it. A thinker, book-reader. A mind that can go deep into things, and leave us way behind. Do any of us ever see his paintings? Not for a long time, because we're not, you know, interested. He's got the confidence to be around art, do art, and think art thoughts, and it doesn't affect his masculinity one bit. We, on the other hand, are not so sure of ourselves.
Like I say, he's been around, and he looks it. Nice grown man's build, dark hair and moustache; doesn't need to let his beard grow more than a day to have a dark, bristly shadow on his face. Dark chest hair curling over the top of his undershirt. Kind of rangy in his jeans. Never see him wearing anything but motorcycle boots. Picture him with a paint brush? We can't.
Older students usually have wives; some have kids. You don't see them hang out much at the bars. Ted is unattached. We kid him about his sex life. We have these ideas about the military; we figure he must have plenty of experience. He just grins and picks at the label on his beer bottle. We're not getting anything out of him.
I'm noticing when the bunch of us are together he mostly talks to me. When he grins and winks, he grins and winks at me. After a couple pitchers of beer, when he comes back from the can, I'm noticing that he squeezes in next to me at the table. I'm feeling his leg pushed up against mine, his boot shoved against my foot. Am I putting 2 and 2 together yet? Hardly. I figure he's just being friendly. And older guy that he is, I'm flattered that he likes me. After another pitcher, he can squeeze my knee under the table and I'm, well, just plain tickled.
This goes on until Ted gives me a call one day and says he's working on a project for an art show. Wants to know if he can "paint" me. Paint me? Yeah, like what you put in a frame and hang on the wall. Could I spare an afternoon?
I don't need more of an excuse to cut classes. I jump in my car and I'm heading over to his house. Not wondering, why me? Flattered again I am, I suppose, thinkingI don't know whatgood looking enough to hang on the wall, I guess.
When I get there, Ted is in the big room at the back of the house he rents. It's mostly empty but for a couch at one end, canvases stacked in one corner, and a table made of a hollow-core door. There are pages torn from magazines on the wall around it, books piled up everywhere, paint drips on the floor. He's listening to some jazz I don't know on a little black tape player. Outside the windows, there is bright light reflecting off the snow. I know about Jackson Pollock from a course I took once in American studies, and I'm thinking, here's a place he could have worked in.
There's a wood burning stove in one corner, and Ted is stoking up the fire. It's getting toasty warm, and I throw my down vest over a chair. I'm wearing a gray hooded sweatshirtI practically sleep in it; well, I do, sometimes in factand decide to keep it on.
He's wearing the usual red flannel shirt with sleeves rolled up, and his shirt tails partly hanging out. The front is half unbuttoned, and I can see more of his chest hair sprouting out around a tattered green undershirt. He's a hairy guy. Real lumber jack, I'm thinking. He's got a pot of coffee going and pours me a mug. His fingers touch mine as he puts it into my hand, giving me that big grin again.
"Now, here's the deal," he's saying to me. And he's unrolling a large sheet of heavy paper on the floor. "I'm going to cover the front of you with this." I see now he's got big jars full of blue paint. "Then I want you to lie face down on the paper, so we get an imprint of your whole body."
I'm looking down at the clothes I'm wearing, thinking, What did he say? Here I thought I was going to be sitting in a chair while he paints away like Rembrandt at an easel across the room.
He must catch the expression on my face. "Oh," he says grinning. "You have to get naked first."
"You're kidding," I say, probably swallowing hard. Never imagined I'd be doing this in the buff.
"Not a bit. You having second thoughts?" He's looking at me, and I can't tell what he's thinking. I realize that I don't want to disappoint him. Don't want him to think I'm embarrassed. Or chicken. I want to be grown up and worldly as he is.
"Oh, no problem," I say. And I'm putting down the coffee mug and pulling my sweat shirt over my head. Meanwhile I'm thinking, Cripe, what if I get a hard-on?
Ted is handing me a terry cloth bathrobe and saying, "Put this on. Don't catch cold." And he's busy with the paint jars, lining them up on newspaper he's spread out on the floor. He's squatting down, unscrewing the lid of one, studying the color. And I realize I'm just staring at the rectangle of wallet in the back pocket of his jeans.
Eventually I get my tee-shirt off, and I'm fumbling with my belt. Suddenly I've forgotten how it unbuckles. I stop before I start looking really ridiculous and bend over to pull off my boots. My bare feet pop out, and the floor is cool under them as I walk over to the chair to finish undressing.
I turn my back to Ted and finally get my belt undone. I unbutton my jeans, not too fast, not too slow, and then step out of them, dropping them on the chair, my belt clinking. All of my underwear is in the dirty laundry at home; I have worn no jockeys, so there I stand bare-assed, thinking, What exactly am I doing? I check my dick; it's normal.
The robe is warm on my skin. Ted has been keeping it on a rack by the stove. I wrap the robe tight around me, pick up the hot coffee mug, and hang onto it for dear life. I'm aware of the air in the room, reaching up my bare legs to my balls, and under the robe I'm feeling a shiver coming on.
Ted takes his time. He cuts more sheets of paper from a big roll. I'm listening to the jazz and feeling like I'm in a whole new zone. This is me here naked in another guy's bathrobe (there's gum and a cigarette lighter in one pocket, and in the other there's something that feels like a condom rolled up in a little square packet). I'm in another guy's place, on a weekday afternoon, no beer, just coffee, no football on TV, alone. Any one or two of those things not too out of the ordinary. But all together, whoa. . .
"You OK?" Ted says, looking up.
"Couldn't be better," I say, still hanging onto the coffee mug.
"Just about ready for ya," he says, and I see that he's pouring out the paint into a roller pan. I start to walk around in little circles and then stop myself. I can feel my dick getting interested in the nap of the terry cloth it's rubbing against.
I am not ready for what happens next. Ted stands me on newspapers he's spread on the floor, then has me take off the robe and hand it to him. I'm not looking at him, but I feel his eyes taking me in from head to toe.
"You'll do just fine," he says, sounding satisfied.There's this funny pause, and I finally look at him. He's standing there with a paint roller in one hand, grinning back at me and winking. "Just fine." I look at him, like a complete idiot, and say the only thing I can think of. "I hear that all the time."
He laughs and dips the roller into the paint. "This may feel a little cool," he says and starts at my feet rolling upward. First each leg. I'm already anticipating the movement over my dick. And it's too late. The oozing, wet sensation is rolling up over my balls. I'm hoping against hope that the cooling effect keeps my dick from getting ideas.
Now Ted is rolling the paint over the rest of me, chest, arms, right up to my chin. I feel my nipples pop up like little soldiers. He takes off my glasses, and I squeeze my eyes shut, but he's saying, "Don't worry. I'm not doing your face."
He gives me a few more swipes with the roller, working the paint into my bush of pubic hair, and seeming to stroke my dick once or twice, or maybe three times beyond any need for it. I can feel the paint dripping from the end of my cock and gliding from my balls down my legs.
"OK, ready," he tells me, and I bend over the paper and slowly let myself drop down flat onto it. Squish. The paint is like a juicy, slithery, slobbery layer of slime under me.
"Don't move," Ted says. I hear his boots scrape on the floor, as he gets down on his knees, taking each of my arms to lay it out flat beside me and patting down my hands. His open shirt brushes against me, and I can smell the wood smoke in his clothes. And the mix of sweat and his Old Spice deodorant.
His hands are warm, and he's pushing down on my shoulders. Then they're moving down my back and onto my butt, pressing hard, then rocking me from side to side. And it's the motion that finally has the effect I've been dreading. My dick starts sliding around under my weight andI can feel itgradually mushrooming against the thicket of wet pubic hair and pushing upward.
"OK," Ted is saying. "Up now." And he starts to help me onto my feet. "Careful, don't touch the paint," he's telling me.
My dick is chunky and swinging free.
Ted doesn't seem to notice. He's looking down at the painting. "I like that," he says. And there is the whole shape of my body on the floor, from chin to toes, vivid blue, and looking larger than life. My chest and legs wider than I would have imagined, with what look like curly traces of my body hair, usually blond and invisible. And my button nipples, bless 'em.
"I like that," Ted says again, grinning. And now I see where he's looking. There in the paint, still wet, is this kind of twisted blur, the imprint of my cocklooking sizable, my balls big as plumsmorphing from what looks like a chipmunk into a Chaquita banana.
I am speechless. I know I'll cringe with embarrassment when I remember this later, but right now I'm suddenly struck with the beauty of my own body there on the floor. Like the guy in the old myth who sees his reflection in a pond.
So this is art, I'm thinking. And for now I'm going with it. Don't ask me to explain.
"Let's do another one," Ted says. He's all excited, pulling off his shirt. I can now see his muscular arms, a tattoo of an eagle on one shoulder, dark hair in his armpits. His chest big in the old undershirt.
He rolls more paint onto me, and I'm down again on another sheet of paper. Again his hands are working my back and my backside. This time I can feel his fingers slip into the crack of my ass. I know I'm probably not supposed to be enjoying this so much, but I can't get enough.
The jazz tape flips over and time starts to dissolve. An hour passes, two hours. I'm breathing heavy. My heart is pounding. My dick, lazy and warm, stays kind of half hard. The rocking each time nearly puts me to sleep.
Finally we're done. Run out of paint; run out of paper; run out of ideas. The creative surge has swept over us both. And now its over; the tide is now receding. We're crashing. Worn out and happy. Ted has pinned the ones that have dried to the wall, and there is a row of me in shades of blue, in various shifting contortions.
"Looks like you're dancing," Ted says. He keeps looking at them, grinning, loving them. His jeans and undershirt are now streaked with blue paint; there are flecks of paint in the hair on his arms.
I slip on the terry cloth robe again, letting it hang open, the front of me still totally covered in paint, now drying, cracking and flaking away. My pubic hair matted to my skin. My dick slapping agaist my thigh, tired and sagging heavy under its own weight. Drips of blue precum, I think, oozing down. My balls beginning to get crusty.
He pops open a couple beers, and hands me one. We are thirsty; I have never been so thirsty. I down mine like a man who's crawled on his belly all day in dust and desert sand.
Ted looks me up and down and says, "You need to hit the showers." And he shows me to a little bathroom with a shower stall in one corner. He turns on the water for me, shows me his soap on a rope and shampoo. "Another beer?" he asks, squeezing by me to get to the door. His butt, with the wallet in the pocket, brushes against my hip.
"You got it," he says.
He closes the door as he goes, and as soon as he's gone, I take a look at myself in the mirror over the sink. I look like nothing I've ever seen before; all I can do is laugh.
Off with the bathrobe. I pull at the plastic curtain and step into the shower. The water is hot and steamy. I stand with my head under the spray, letting the warm waves wash over me.
There's a sudden shock of cold against my arm. Ted is shoving a beer in to me. I hadn't heard him come back. I take another long drink and hold it out for him. After a few seconds, he takes it from my hand.
Then the curtain pulls aside, and he's pushing in behind me. "Bet you can use some help washing up," he says. Just the glimpse of him I get, and I know he has stripped naked. And if I'd seen nothing, I would know in a second anyway. He slips his arms around me and presses with what feels like all his might against my back, against my butt, against the backs of my legs.
The hair on his chest is rough against my skin, the muscles of his chest pressing solid into me as he moves to tighten his hold, one hand flat on my stomach, the other fingering for one of my nipples.
"Just big enough for two in here," he laughs. "Pass me the soap."
Once again, I'm speechless. The beer is already giving me a buzz, and my mind is pretty much a blank. This is not art, I'm thinking. I'm searching my memory bank for some reason why I should object to all this, and my body is just saying, Hmmmmmm, I kinda like this. And then my brain kicks in: Yeah, this must be some new kind of male bonding.
And in the meantime, Ted's hands are soaping up the front of me, scrubbing my chest, my stomach, and, yes, my dick, my balls. He squats behind me to wash my legs, and I can feel the top of his head against my backside.
I have not said a word. You'll notice as I tell this that he does all the talking.
"I really like your legs," he's saying. "They're strong. Great muscles." Now he's massaging them, running his fingers up and down the inside of my thighs. I'm ready to jump straight out of my skin.
Then he's washing my butt. "You got finger prints back here," he laughs. And I feel his soapy fingers gliding into my crack for several swipes, finally reaching between my legs to hold my balls. In all my born days, not a single time has anyone stroked between my legs so generously and held my balls so lovingly. No one besides me, anyway. Then his other hand snakes around to hold my dick. Big surprise; it's hard as rock.
"You must have been first in line when they were handing these out," he laughs. The sensation of his fingers working my dick after an afternoon of sporting a half-woody is beyond the power of words to describe. And I'm trying.
I don't know what he's doing. I could look down, but I'm, let's face it, paralyzed. Turned to stone, more like. He could be pulling, pushing, tugging, twirling, twisting, none of the above, all of the above. The whole universe seems suspended fromis revolving aroundsome part of me that could be my dick, but I can't say for sure anymore. See what I mean? Words just make it sound silly.
After a minute or an hour of thiswho can say?he puts his hands on my hips and turns me to face him. My dick swings around and slaps him in the nose. I'm fully aware of this part. I not only feel it; I'm looking at the amazing length of it resting against his cheek. He looks up at me through the steam and then plants his warm mouth around the end of my dick.
Shooting the shit with my buds, I have used the word "blow job" with every possible permutation of meaning. I have used the word with familiarity, like I would use the word "handshake" or "toothbrush." I have after all imagined the sensation of a blow job, often while jerking off. (There I've said it.) And I have a rich and wild imagination.
But nothing in my richest and wildest imaginings has come within a country milea light yearof what has suddenly commenced between my legs. I am nearly delirious; I am beyond delirious; I am weak-kneed with wave upon warm wave so intense I could be groaning out loud, and probably am.
I last about ten seconds. I am suddenly a firsthand authority on premature ejaculation. My hands are off somewhere (have I put them on top of his head, my fingers gliding into his hair? pulling on his ears? are they braced against the wall of the shower?), so I'm not feeling the contractions of my dick with my fingers, or my cum shooting out into my palm. I'm coming, but it's happening somewhere elsea cosmic event, a super nova out there in space, beyond anyone's reach. Not this mere mortal's anyway.
If this sounds silly, don't blame me. Blame the words.
I discover that I'm now sitting on the floor, my legs tangled up around Ted's. He looks at me with that grin again. "I still owe you one," he says. "That one doesn't count." And he leans forward and kisses me. I'm slack jawed, and his tongue slips right into my mouth. With the taste ofwhat is that?cum.
Oh, it's dawning on me, that would be my cum.
His moustache and bristly chin are pressed against my face. With a surge of strength from somewhere, I push back against his tongue with mine. And hold it, like I was pressing myself down on a sheet of paper to make one last blue imprint.
He hugs me and holds me under the hot spray of water until the water heater tank runs empty and the shower turns lukewarm and finally cold. Chilled, we crawl out and towel down, not saying another word. It's dark by the time I'm heading home.
So that was the day I learned something about art, human relations, my body, and the limits of the English language. And I don't know which it was, the blow job or the kiss, but I was walking on clouds for days.
I mean, for days.