Directed to the couch I swaddle myself in velvet and recline awkwardly.
I can hear my heart in my chest. Thud-thud thud-thud, it tells me. Thud-thud thud-thud.
A spotlight shines from behind her. It illuminates her shadow on the canvas and forms a wall between us through which I can see faint outlines of paint and oil pastel. Thick phthalo blues and glowing desert oranges seep, faded, through the dusty cream of raw canvas. I want to stretch out on the couch. She scolds me if I move. I lie still. Still as the dead. The velvet smells like the elderly, and yet I lie still.
I think about her voice and how I haven’t heard it for an eternity now. The scolding would be worth it. I think instead about what I could say, what could prompt her from her reverie. Silhouettes of her arms move in a jagged dance across nowhere space. The canvas wobbles in an uneven bass beat and enhances my trance-like state. It’s nice, but not perfect.
If I spoke, the situation could change. It could go like this:
Me: You look like you’re dancing.
Her: It feels like dancing.
(That accent, the gentle vowels and clipped consonants of the northern countries, distracts me more than her movements. In my thoughts she speaks slower than usual, drunkenly, purposefully. Her eyes are heavy-lidded.)
Me: Is it nice?
Her: It is frustrating.
But I don’t speak. I don’t dare.
I lie still, and I lend her my silence.
Something has changed. The scratching of the brush has ceased for a moment as she peers from behind the easel, kicking out her hip, a scowl of irritation lending her an almost Pre-Raphaelite appearance. Her hair has come undone and harsh halogen light dribbles over her shoulders in knotted, greasy curls. For a moment she looks like Circe, cruel and beautiful. The witch of Aeaea. I am helplessly enchanted and dozing on the couch, beneath her glare, I wait for her to speak.