Art

 

Sophia’s friend Danny wanted Sophia to model for him, for a photo, for an art show, as part of a series he wanted to do exploring something. She’d managed to work that much out, listening to him, but was having trouble understanding properly. They were at a bar, which might not be helping, and Danny was terribly self-consciously trying to explain. He was being vague, and talking too much, and was obviously nervous about asking her. He equally obviously needed to tell her something important about the kind of photo it was, and couldn’t quite bring himself to, so she assumed that meant it was naked.

She assumed naked, but then he actually told her. What he actually wanted to do was jerk off her face. On women’s faces, not just hers. Women he knew, who’d help him out, women like Sophia. And he wanted to take a photo of it while he did.

“Oh,” Sophia said. She’d been following his idea up until then, but the part about faces was just a little too startling to take in. “Um, what?”

Danny looked embarrassed and seemed to take that as an actual question. He started explaining everything again, from the very beginning. About intimacy and shock-value and pornography, and where they all intersected. About values and sexuality and how the things which society tries to hide in pornography are actually perfectly normal things which everyone does.

“Just the last bit,” Sophia said. “You want to wank on my face?”

“Yeah,” he said, and glanced around in case anyone had overheard. “And take a photo of it,” he added. Just in case she’d forgotten that part, she supposed.

“And other people are letting you do this to them?” she said.

“It’s art,” he said, like that explained everything. Then, because they were mates, he grinned and added, “Um, mostly.”

“I’ll think about it,” Sophia said, and he nodded and changed the subject. He changed the subject like he thought she meant no, which made Sophia feel a little smug when she phoned him a week later and said, “Okay, I’ll probably do it. Maybe.”

“Shit, really?”

“Yeah, probably. I’ll listen while you tell me more, at least.”

“That’s fantastic. Thank you.”

“I’ll listen,” she said. “That’s all.”

She was considering it because she didn’t have the kind of job or friends she could lose over something like this, and because she’d never been with a man in her life, and so had never touched or tasted semen, and was curious about it, just a little. Now that the opportunity was right there.

They met again. Another bar, another drink. Danny turned up holding a large plastic-covered folder and Sophia was a little curious as to what he had in there. He didn’t show her right away. He talked instead. He started from the beginning, again, talking about challenging people’s values and mixing the private and the public and all the other things he’d said the first time he told her, all over again. He said he appreciated her considering helping. He said it could be whatever Sophia wanted, sleazy or fun or sexy, whatever she liked, and also that her reaction to what she was doing was part of what he wanted the project to be. He said he’d go down on her first or afterwards, if that helped. If it relaxed her or made her feel less objectified or something. But if she didn’t want him to, that was fine too, and of course, objectifying her could be part of it, if she wanted it to be. It really could be whatever she liked.

“Are you wanting me to blow you or something?” Sophia said, because she couldn’t think of any nicer way to put it.

“Oh god no,” he said, “I’ll do everything myself. I just need you to…”

“Get come on?”

“Well, yeah. Um, be there, was what I was going to say.”

Sophia reached over, and took the folder. She was curious, and Danny obviously wasn’t in a hurry to show her. He held onto it for a second, and glanced around before he let go. She understood once she saw what was inside.

His work to date on the project.

A woman with semen on her tightly-closed lips and a startled expression on her face. Another, who seemed quite proud of herself, with her tongue out to catch it. A third, someone Sophia vaguely knew, Allie, she thought, who she seemed to remember meeting at a party. Allie had it on her chin and dripping. A fourth, a stranger again, looking all happy and dreamy-eyed. That was all, just the four. Sophia went back to the start and looked at each photo again.

“This is all you have?” she said. “Only four?”

“For now.”

“How many do you want before it’s finished?”

“A dozen, I suppose. Twenty if I can find enough people.”

“And you think you will?”

He shrugged, and grinned.

“Could you use prostitutes or something?” she said.

“That would be cheating. It’s supposed to be real people.”

Sophia nodded. “Or could you fake the spunk? Like, I don’t know, some kind of runny flour and water paste?”

“That’s still cheating. I’d rather it took years and I did it right.”

Sophia nodded, slowly, and decided she actually respected that. Out the corner of her eye she saw a waiter heading there way, and closed the folder quickly. “So can I ask something?” she said. “Um, why me?”

“You seem like you might say yes.”

“Oh,” Sophia said. “Because?”

“You’ve got a nude of yourself on your bedroom wall.”

“Oh yeah.”

They looked at each other for a moment.

“So you’ll think about it?” Danny said.

“I am. I will.”

“Can I ask why?”

“Does it matter?”

“I’m just curious. About what motivates people.”

“Oh,” Sophia said, and thought. “Yeah, fair enough. What did the others say?”

“To help. To challenge herself. To piss off her boyfriend. One, the last photo, was someone I was sleeping with already. We took pictures of each other sometimes, and she said I could use that one.”

Sophia nodded.

“And you?” Danny said. “What about you? Why would you do this?”

“I haven’t said I will.”

“I know. I mean, why are you even considering it?”

Sophia thought about his tone, about the way he was asking that. It was an odd way to ask. “Why,” she said. “Because you wouldn’t ever yourself?”

“Honestly? I’m not sure. But I’d think very hard. A picture like that up on a wall forever, it’s something to consider…”

“Yeah,” Sophia said, grinning. “Although not to put me off or anything.”

Danny seemed almost offended. “I’d have pointed that out sometime before we did.”

“Thanks, I think,” Sophia said, thinking.

“So why for you?”

Sophia thought for a moment. “I suppose because the same kinds of reasons. It’s something new, and it’s helping you out, and hardly anyone will know it’s me anyway. And because you’re over-thinking your own importance. That isn’t going to be on a wall forever…”

“Ouch. Thanks.”

Sophia grinned. “It’s true. A couple of months in a shitty gallery. And no-one will really know, probably, so to help out a mate… I think that’s probably mostly why. And because I’ve never been near man-come before so I might as well try.”

Danny nodded, but seemed to be thinking. “What never?” he said, sounding surprised.

“Why’s that weird?”

“It isn’t, just…”

Sophia looked at him, confused. “Never tasted it, never felt it. So I suppose I may as well, once. That’s all.”

“There’s probably easier ways to try.”

“It’s only a tiny part of the reason.”

“You’re never tasted it?”

Sophia shook her head, puzzled. “Um, you know I’m into women, right?”

“Well,” he said, “Not for sure. You’ve never actually said, so I didn’t want to assume.”

Sophia was surprised. “How can you not be sure?”

“You never told me.”

“But everyone knows. I’ve brought girlfriends to your parties. I pick up girls when we’re out together…”

“Well, yeah. But that’s just what you’re doing right then. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything kind of absolute…”

“Oh,” Sophia said. “Yeah, okay. Well, I am.”

“And that’s good to know. Thank you for telling me.”

“Yeah, weirdo,” Sophia said. “Don’t make it a big thing.”

“Yeah,” Danny said, and had obviously started thinking.

“I said don’t make a big thing.”

“I know, I’m not. Not about that. About the photos, though… I mean, are you sure? Because, if you haven’t before, are you certain you want to…”

“You’re a friend. I’ll help you out.”

“So you’ll do it?”

“Probably I will. I’ll think about it and let you know.”

Danny nodded and seemed happy with that.

Sophia thought for another week then said yes. And then asked where, because she wanted to arrange it and get it done. Danny said there was a studio at the art school, or they could use one of their houses, whatever Sophia liked. The studio was safe, though, he added. They wouldn’t be interrupted, since people did nude work all the time and were careful walking in.

“Nude?” Sophia said sharply. “You didn’t say…”

“No, not for this,” he said quickly. “I just mean the doors lock and people know not to barge in.”

“Maybe your place,” Sophia said. “I have housemates.”

“That’s fine.”

“And I’m bringing something to drink, too,” she said.

She went around to his flat with a bottle of vodka. He looked at it and told her he could have taken care of that, since she was doing him a favour, and Sophia said he was a poor student so no worries, it was fine. She sat down, and started to drink.

He had a studio flat. A bedsit, basically. It was sunny inside, during the day. Sophia sat at his desk, and drank vodka, and he sat on the bed, and sipped slowly too. He said he didn’t want too much for obvious reasons, and Sophia looked at him, confused, and said what was obvious, so he started explaining about drinking and erectile dysfunction, until she said that yes, thanks, she did know that, she’d just forgotten right then, was all.

She drank until she was brave, then she said, “So. Shall we?”

“Whenever you’re ready.”

Sophia had another drink, then said, “Okay. What should I do?”

“Do you want to take anything off?”

Sophia hesitated. “Should I?”

“It might be tidier.”

She just looked at him for a moment, then said, “Or a better photo.”

“That too.”

“I can if you want me to,” she said. “I don’t mind. You’ve seen the photo in my room, so I don’t care. But it might be weird. Doing this. Like that. Because it’s you.”

“I thought so too.”

“So clothes on, then?”

“Maybe in your bra?”

She looked at him, surprised. “Um, I’m not wearing one…” Because she’d done this before, for the picture on her wall, and had been told then about strap marks and how long they take to fade. She supposed it was good he wasn’t looking at her so carefully he already knew. “Sorry,” she said. “I just assumed…”

“How you are is fine,” he said.

She nodded, and went into his bathroom, and checked that her lip gloss and eyes still looked okay, then came back out and said, “Where do you want me?”

“Anywhere’s fine.”

“What’s easiest for you?” she said.

“I’ll work around you. Wherever you like.”

She shrugged. “The bed?”

She sat on it, and then lay down. He had all his camera gear out. The camera, and a tripod, and lights on stands as well. Like a wedding photographer, she thought. He fiddled with the lights for a moment, firing them and looking at the screen on the back of his camera, then said, “Okay, I’m ready.”

“Me too.”

“You can still back out if you want to,” he said.

Sophia shook her head.

They both stood there. Nothing happened for a moment.

“So,” Sophia said. “Are you just going to go at it, or what?”

“Yeah,” he said, “Pretty much,” and went into the bathroom.

“What are you doing?” Sophia shouted after a minute.

He stuck his head back out, “Getting ready, what do you think.”

“Aren’t you…”

“For the picture,” he added.

Sophia was still confused. “Um…”

He leaned out again. “I didn’t think you needed to see me wanking, that’s all.”

“Oh right,” Sophia said, “Fair enough.”

She lay there and waited. She could hear a rubbing kind of sound from the bathroom.

After a minute or two, quite quickly she thought with no real idea, he called out, “Are you ready?” His voice sounded slightly hoarse, and almost grunty.

“Yep, I’m fine,” Sophia shouted.

“I will now, if that’s okay?” he said.

“Come on,” Sophia said, then realized and wanted to laugh. “I mean, go ahead.”

He dashed out the bathroom, with a shirt on but no jeans. He grabbed the camera from the table, as he went past, and came towards her, himself in one hand and the camera in the other, and pointed them both at her face.

“I’m about to,” he said.

“Yep,” Sophia said, and lay there.

He did. There was more than she’d expected, but maybe that was the point. It went on her cheek and chin and nose, and a little on her mouth, which she ended up tasting. It was salty, like everyone said.

He photographed the big moment, then kept taking pictures one-handed, groping sideways to get tissues with the other, and holding them against himself as he took photos.

“Just stay there a second,” he said, his voice shaky. “I won’t be long.”

“Yep,” Sophia said again, and he took several more photos.

The flashes hurt her eyes a little, and the semen was runnier than she’d expected. It dripped. It ran down her chin, and along her jaw and was about to go in her ear.

“Um…” she said.

“Okay, I’m done.”

He handed her tissues, then turned around and wiped himself, as Sophia dabbed at her face. She sat up, and said, “Did I get it all?”

He helped her, and wiped it all up. He smeared her shadow too, but she didn’t care. She thought for a moment, then asked if she could have a shower. She was slightly paranoid about getting it all off herself, and not getting pregnant. Some had got on her shirt, so she borrowed one from Danny. He gave him hers, because he said he’d wash it for her, that it was the least he could do.

She showered, and changed, and then sat at his desk, and he showed her photos on his laptop. There was still a bit of a sex smell in the air, she noticed, but decided not to say anything. It was slightly odd sitting there all calmly after what they’d just done, but being all professional seemed to work for them both. They looked at the photos together, and Danny seemed happy with them. Sophia thought she looked odd, but she usually thought that about photos of herself, and not so odd she cared.

Danny gave Sophia a flash drive to take them all home, and said thank you several times.

“I mean it,” he said at the door, as she was leaving. “I can’t tell you how much this helps.”

“No worries,” Sophia said. “It was interesting to try.”

“Really never before?” he asked.

“Nope.”

He hesitated, then said, “Um, what did you think?”

Sophia shrugged. “It’s kind of weird stuff, isn’t it? I mean, I know you’re used to it and everything, but it’s kind of weird.”

He grinned. “I suppose.”

“And it was interesting to try,” she said. “But I don’t think I’d bother again, really.”

He looked a bit surprised. Sophia grinned, and left.