• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 03
Image by

Blue Smoke

Those four nights I sat for Stacey, she wouldn’t even let me glimpse the canvas. Stacey was nervous about what people thought of her art. And I was kind enough not to exacerbate that. I sat four long evenings, naked and not moving, on her instruction, only to find at the great unveiling, that I’d been contorted into a large blue puff of smoke with a tiny grey stone at the centre. It didn’t even look like an organism, unless this was supposed to be my spirit or personality or something.
‘You never said you did abstracts. I could have loaned you a photograph.’
‘No, you needed to be present at the painting. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have come out like you.’
‘Looks fuck all like me,’ I said. ‘It couldn’t look less like me, if you kicked a hole in it and set it on fire.’
‘No, it’s definitely you,’ she insisted. ‘I could only paint you like that.’
‘Then it’s not me,’ I said. ‘It’s me and you, or at least me through you.’
Stacey smiled, perhaps because what I’d said sounded vaguely deep, and deep was a rarity for me.
‘And you’re a very unflattering lens,’ I said, trying to wilt her smile. Instead she ran her hand through my hair.
Perhaps I should have used red, or purple. You could be purple smoke.’
I couldn’t tell if she was taking the piss or being serious.

A week later, her studio burnt down. I didn’t do it, and was glad my remark hadn’t made me a suspect. Stacey did suggest, though, that I had the gift of prophecy, but since I’d seen her painting, no opinion of hers could flatter. They were pointless and, however impressive, would disappear leaving no trace, like a cloud of blue smoke.
Embarrassment struck before I had that thought completed.