An art student, in need of a live model for sketching, seeks the assistance of an aging "working girl" to pose in action. What ensues is a study of humanity and sexuality, captured in charcoal but not contained.
She went in a few times, and I just stood there spying, smoking a cigarette and trying to work up the nerve. New York was blustery--April, and still choked by winter. I'd been there a week by now, gawking and rubbing my shoulders against the cold. She came again and I didn't think, stubbed my cigarette and followed her. She let me in, but only because I told her I had money. Said she didn't do walk-ins, called me an asshole.
"Hurry up," she said. "I have a client in an hour. Did Rita send you?"
I told her I didn't know any Rita. Her apartment was spare and cold. The floor groaned the way she paced on it. She didn't stop moving once while I stood there. I was nervous. She could tell. She seemed to respond by being nervous herself. She told me to wash my hands.
"They're the dirtiest place on the body," she said.
"I don't want to have sex with you," I said.
She lit a cigarette. "Fine. Blow, hand job, touching?"
"Nothing like that," I answered.
She picked something from her mouth, a piece of tobacco. Took another drag and looked at me through the bottom of her eyes while she blew smoke. "Look," she said. "I don't have time for games and bullshit. I don't do kink."
"Sorry," I said. It was a bad idea. I turned to go.
She looked after me. I was opening the door when she expelled an annoyed sigh, like a radiator on pressure release. "The fuck do you want!" Her voice was raw, frayed.
I froze. "I'm a student."
She took another drag and blew gray air. "Yeah, so?"
I stared at the floor. "I'm a drawing and sculpture major at Embry Rice. I was wondering--"
"Aren't you artist types supposed to be poor?"
"I can pay," I said.
She went to the kitchen and ashed in a tray on the counter, then leaned against the stove. She was chewing her lips. They were red and chapped. "You really a student?"
"Yes," I said and dug into my pocket for the slip of paper. "This is my phone number and student number." I held it out. She looked away so I placed the scrap on a table covered in burnt down candles and bobby pins.
She stared at me a while. "Fine," she said. "I'll charge it like a blow job. One-fifty." She crossed through the kitchen, stubbed her cigarette, and entered the living room. She took off her coat and started to unbutton her pants. "You want some kind of pose?" she said.
"Uh," I stuttered. "I was hoping to draw you with a man."
Her pants were over her hips. She stopped there and looked at me. "What? Like watch me fuck?"
She immediately grabbed her belt loops and pulled her pants up. "I don't need this shit," she said. "Get the fuck out of here."
She stomped toward me, her voice pitched. "Fuck you. I said, get out!"
I turned quickly, jerked the door open, and got out.