I didn’t know I would see through Akron’s painting. He said my eyes had luster. He said they were liquid. He took tubes of cerulean and cyan and azure and violet and British racing green and pressed their murky, shiny contents onto his palette where they lay shimmering in the light from his tall free-standing lamp.
“Alice,” he said. “Do try to keep your eyes open.”
I did, though the light blazed at me. When I did blink I saw afterimages on my retinas.
I sat naked. Self-conscious. I thought it was a life drawing he was doing. $8 an hour to sit for him.
“Your eyes,” he told me, “are like sapphires.”
I thought he wanted to take me to bed.
I saw the painting, after. Landscape orientation. The bridge of my nose between my two eyes, like a binary number. 010.
“I need more blue,” he told me.
“I could keep my clothes on,” I said.
Akron looked at me, his own brown eyes a little plaintive. “I understand. But it would lose so much.” His eyes traveled down and up. I was still naked.
He looked back into my eyes. “I should see you next week.”
“I’m keeping my clothes on,” I said. But I didn’t hurry to dress. Let him suffer through a final little fantasy.
When I woke, the next morning, I was in my apartment, looking at the ceiling. But overlaid on the ceiling I could see Akron’s studio. A fixed view, so that even if I turned my head, the view stayed with me, like dancing eye-motes, or those lamp-burned retina afterimages.
I saw Akron come in and sit, as if preparing to paint. He reached his hand up, fingers curled as if to fondle, and he held them right in front of me.
I closed my eyes, but I could still see him. Clearer, since there was no ceiling forming the backdrop.
His breathing changed.
Things moved. His studio lurched, rushing away from me, then stopped. As if he’d jammed me back up against a wall.
She stepped from behind the changing screen and walked across the studio floor. She was nude. Taller than me, smaller hips, thicker waist, trim high breasts. She looked athletic, not voluptuous, as a life model should be.
But of course he didn’t paint her scrawny little figure. He just painted her eyes.
I could see the canvas. It was clear. Then he applied aquamarine and celeste and aqua and periwinkle and iris. She had blue eyes too.
I watched. He stared at her, though I could only see his back. He ogled her as she reclined on his chaise longue, staring and thinking who knew what?
I tried to open my eyes, but they remained shut. I tried to sit, but could not move.
I could not feel my breathing, I could not feel my body, I could not feel the bed.
I could only see Akron and the skinny woman.
After a while she stood and walked by him. She didn’t stop and look at the painting. Instead she came and looked right at me, as if I was in the room with them.
And I remembered that on the wall there had been other paintings. I hadn’t paid any real attention to them. I was happy to get my $8 an hour. There had been many, many paintings. Perhaps two dozen. All of eyes.
I wanted to shout, to scream at her, but I had no mouth.
She bent lower and peered right at me. Don’t trust him, I yelled silently. I tried to open my eyes again.
She jerked back. She went to Akron. She took the painting from his easel and broke it across her knees.
He jumped up, yelling silently at her. Then she came and took me from the wall.
I was released across her knees.
I sat up in bed.
She was going to need some help with the rest of the paintings.