• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 02
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The Man Who Drew Nude Goddesses

They brought me ten-rupee posters of the greatest women on earth. Mona Lisa, Pietà, Shakuntala… I am an old man, I know things. I shook with laughter and winked at them. “So many clothes!”

They knew my name; they had seen me with the movie stars. They had signed the petition to banish me.

This room here is all right; red-red-red, so much Matisse. But it gets cold, really cold, especially the toilet bowl.

The chap who brings me lunch, he shapes his eyebrows. His face is so plain, I want to paint it.

I asked him yesterday, “Do you know who I am?”

He took my paints away.

Philistine. Wife-beater.

But I have my phone. I spend my evenings looking at it. Old places, old faces… Things I may never see again. Sometimes I look at them so long, they hang in front of my eyes like a Paul Klee mosaic.

My phone is also my alarm clock. It wakes me up and takes me to my village. I smell the soot in our tiny lamp shop, I pick the lint from Abbajan’s sleeve. I climb that tree inside the mosque and click Agfa pictures while he kneels. I crouch on the floor in the big madrassa and draw aliens in the dirt with a twig. I sell my books at the corner pawn shop and buy yellow paint to make it green.


The Man Who Drew Nude Goddesses

Now I have no paints, only memories.

I woke up today and the room smelled of nothing. No breakfast, only pills.

I poured them into a glass and licked the walls. Concrete, pigment, glue.

First, there was no line, then there were two. Crooked, furrowed, Chinese.

I mixed the dye and pulled another line. A curlicue.

I stepped back and wept. Beautiful.

Overlap, don't repeat! I could not breathe.

A bug? A god? A flowerpot?

No, a family of eyebrows, and a man. I gave him a dress, my blood was Matisse.

Click! I had a new mosaic chip.

A for Allah, B for Buddha, C for Christ. I waited for lunchtime.

The wife-beater first laughed, then threw my phone out the window.

The slap was sudden, my bladder was weak.

The room smells of penicillin.