A Dalliance with Zephyr
I should have never gotten to know the person I am sleeping with because now the sex is thrown off, but I think it’s only me. I was seeing this guy—or am seeing this guy—that lives above Sunset just a bit towards Silverlake and I know he’s a painter but like a “painter.” You know, the kind that waits tables and the apartment he lives in is actually his aunt’s but for some reason she doesn’t use it, so he lives there rent-free?
I got to know him because my friend, who is also sleeping with him, told me he’s pretty interesting. She said that he was an alright painter and that he was working on a portrait of her, but she hasn’t seen his progress because it’s a surprise, and I mainly assume she thinks he’s interesting because she likes being the subject of a painting.
Well, I’m looking at the portrait right now, standing in my underwear in his studio, and I can’t help but laugh. It’s all blacks and grays and comedic swirls, and he’s talking about how Rembrandt inspired him but I’m not sure he’s ever seen a Rembrandt. He keeps name-dropping all these artists and styles and technical themes—talking about Dutch lighting and French impressionism and John Singleton Copley for some reason—definitely trying to sound smart and professional in the hopes that I don’t know what he means. And it’s all very condescending because I’m sure he has no idea that I read art history and take those classes since it’s my minor even though I’m an economics major, and that’s how I know all the stuff he’s saying is utter bullshit. But I just cross my arms trying to look engaged, mumbling, “Sure, sure,” whenever he stops his monologue to take a breath.
The painting is of a woman’s figure and she’s either lounging or floating: I can’t tell just yet since it must only be half-finished. It looks like a sketch got blown up to the canvas because it’s streaky and the only colors are black, gray, and maybe a little blue too, but that might just be the lighting. There’s not a lot of detail; there’s absolutely no background—kiss dimension goodbye—and it doesn’t look like my friend at all. Actually, it doesn’t look like anyone. I can only tell it’s a woman and that she’s either surprised or orgasming.
“So what’s the plan for the rest of it?” I ask.
“Well it’s basically done,” he says and that makes me want to jump out the window. “I’ll just add some eyebrows, maybe a smatter to the background, and a bit of detail to the dress.”
This is the first time I realize the woman is wearing a dress.
“And you used Miranda as the subject, right?” I say, slightly picking a fight.
“Yeah, but more of her energy, you know? I tried to mimic it onto the canvas,” he says.
“Oh that’s good because this looks nothing like her,” I sigh since it seems we’re finally on the same page.
“Really?” he says cocking his head at the figure. “I think it looks a lot like her. Maybe it’s because you haven’t seen her naked.”
I have, in fact, seen Miranda naked, but I say, “Yeah, maybe.” I’m already imagining the conversation I’m going to have with her, and just to stir the pot I ask, “What are you going to call it?”
He smirks and says, “I’m thinking A Dalliance with Zephyr.”
And if I haven’t already flat-lined, I sure do now. I’m internally screaming because that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard this boy say, and that includes all the wild stuff we’ve said in the bedroom. I’m picturing him searching through an online thesaurus for this title, and I feel like he’s some B-rated YA author that thinks he’s good and really deep because he referenced Greek mythology, and I’m so overcome with my own reaction that I almost don’t hear him say, “What do you think?”
“Well, it’s original,” I respond, which is also probably a lie. “Are you gonna be in that art show on Vermont? Or near Vermont or something. I was talking to David about it.” We have both slept with David.
“No,” he shrugs. “I don’t like to put my stuff in art shows.”
Which means he’s never been invited to one.
“How do you sell your pieces then?”
“I don’t like to sell my pieces,” he says.
Which means he’s never sold one. Which means he’s never been commissioned, either.
“Okay,” I say, long and drawn-out, because I’m not sure how else to respond.
He’s walking to the kitchen and pulls his Brita from the fridge for some water. “I’m not about selling my artwork and making it a business,” he says. “It’s more than that—but you’re an economics guy so I don’t expect you to understand.”
At this point I’m sincerely waiting for a TV crew to burst in to tell me I’ve been pranked or punked because this is ridiculous. But no one shows so I say, “But don’t you want to be a painter?”
He comes back to the studio and says, “I’m already a painter,” gesturing to the “portrait” of Miranda, and I’m about to call 911 because he’s killing me.
And listen, I’m not super pretentious—or maybe I am and I’m lying to myself—but you have to understand this guy looks like an Instagram influencer that pays for things using the money he gets from sponsored content. He’s got a swimmer’s body and a tattoo on his ankle and ribs that I’ve seen on two different celebrities, and I know he lives and dies by Rainbow-brand flip-flops. And don’t get me wrong, he is incredibly hot, but I just wish I kept up a distanced illusion of him because every time he talks about how Van Gogh was so misunderstood and “ate yellow paint to put happy sunshine in him,” I want to blow my fucking brains out.
You see, the first time I met him, we were doing cocaine at a friend-of-a-friend’s party somewhere on the West side, and the group was talking about mojitos, all sniffing and ecstatic and idiotic. And we spent maybe ten minutes looking for mint until this guy insists that basil leaves are just as good; well, the drinks were absolutely rancid but we were all too drunk to care, and that night I ended up hooking up with him in the bathroom for a quick second. At the party everyone drank too much and did too many drugs; we all acted dumb, so I chalked our behavior up to inebriation. I hadn’t really had a conversation with him outside of a party or club or during sex, so now I realize maybe it wasn’t the liquor that made him ridiculous but that he’s really just like that.
“Regardless,” I say, “you should come to the show on Saturday. It should be fun.”
“I think I will,” he nods. “You guys doing anything after?”
“Maybe an afterparty at David’s,” I say. “Can usually count on that.”
“Is he seeing anyone?” he asks about David.
“Not that I recall.”
“Huh,” he says and looks at the painting.
“Think you’ll have the painting done by then?” I ask.
“Yeah, maybe. But art takes time, ya know?” he laughs. Before I can decide to light myself on fire, he says, “Want to shower? I’m a little cold,” since we’re both still half-naked.
I say sure and we shower. It only takes me about three minutes into the shower to decide that, yeah, I’ll have sex with him again. And we do—which confirms that I’m the only one who thinks the sex is thrown off, but I know I’ll keep sleeping with him because he’s still pretty good.
Afterwards, he’s refilling his Brita, talking about Saturday, talking about the painting. But I’m no longer listening. I’m still thinking about the sex. I’m thinking about how Van Gogh never ate yellow paint. I’m thinking about why I keep doing this and why I refuse to stop.