To say Darren was driven by appearances would have been an understatement. Nothing short of visual perfection would satisfy him. It was his birthright. He had nothing but contempt for folks who used cosmetic surgery. He jeered at people who worked out at gyms. His face, his body, his hair–everything about Darren was beyond improvement. He looked the complete embodiment of every heterosexual woman’s dreams. And all entirely natural.
Men liked him too. Everybody always warmed instantly to him. He was intelligent, charming and witty; successful in everything he did. Which made him wealthy. So, naturally, he’d married a woman whose beauty could make men’s hearts and respiration stop at fifty paces. If they chose to have kids, Darren was sure they wouldn’t fail to be perfect too.
When the portrait sculptor sent him the invitation, Darren was unsurprised. Photographers always wanted him in their portfolios, so why not artists? Darren was sure the guy would make his name if he could capture Darren’s likeness in bronze. Galleries worldwide would want casts.
And of course, he’d known the sculptor would want him to pose naked. Men envied–and women desired–every millimeter of him.
What did surprise him: the sculptor didn’t ask him to adopt a pose and remain still, but measured him with knotted rope, and was happy for Darren to wander round the studio, talking and asking about the life and work of a sculptor.
By the end of that first weekend, seeing sketches and maquettes, Darren began to doubt the hideous, swarthy little man was capable of making anything beautiful.
He was like a fat little ape: undoubtedly strong, with copious body hair and a repulsive odor, both suggestive of poor hygiene, and entirely expected of his breath, on account of his yellowish, uneven teeth, between which pieces of food remained perpetually wedged, because he seemed never to stop eating. He ate like some kind of savage animal, grunting and smacking his lips, brandishing a stick of salami as big as a cudgel, and swilling his mouth with slugs of dark red wine from a bottle smeared with the same clay which contaminated his salami.
Needless to say, Darren didn’t accept the offer to share this inexhaustible supply of meat and wine the sculptor guzzled, slurping and smacking his lips, chewing with a mouth as open as a cement mixer. He was relieved when the little homunculus, rubbing clay into his hairy little thighs when they were about to part, didn’t attempt to shake hands, but said he’d call Darren over to see the final, life-size work before it was taken to the foundry.
When the call came, Darren was about to fly to JFK to speak at a marketing launch, and ordered his driver to stop by the studio on the way to the airport. Being in a hurry, but impressed by the flawless perfection of the little man’s work, he readily acquiesced to the sculptor’s request for a lock of his hair and a trimming from the pinky fingernail of his left hand, before promising to come back and see the finished work which would be ready from the foundry when he returned from NYC.
Darren was tired when he got home in the cab from the airport. He pushed his key in the lock. When it wouldn’t turn, he pulled it out again and checked. He was sure it was the right one. Surely she hadn’t deadlocked it? Tired or not, after his trips they usually celebrated his return in their huge bedroom surrounded by mirrors, admiring the reflection of their coupling.
He heard the sound of her voice. That sound she only made when they were together. From the open bedroom window by the balcony over the portico.
In seconds he climbed and saw. Watched her give herself to something with his face and body.
In the mirror, at the window, Darren saw his own reflection. The ugly face, the hairy little ape-like body. Portrayed and betrayed.