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Bird’s Nest In Your Hair

Chapter Two

There were four women above, each in a different colored dress. The main conflict seemed to be between a woman in blue and a woman in red, who was assisted by a woman in purple and another in yellow. The woman in blue had her hands tied to two ropes that led upward in opposite directions, as if she were trying hard to ring two giant bells simultaneously. Her head was rolled back on her shoulders as if she had just taken an uppercut to the chin. She was obviously, maybe too obviously, in a lot of pain. The woman wearing the red dress, who had blue tattoos on her arm as well as a grim look on her face, was inflicting this pain and stood in the foreground holding a bat or perhaps a whip of some kind. The woman in purple was holding up the woman in blue for the next blow. The face of the fourth woman was just visible above the outstretched arms of the torturer in the foreground, her upward leer revealing that she was enjoying the torture every bit as much as the victim was suffering. Below the four women was a couple staring out at the viewer: a bare-chested hunk had just raised himself on one elbow, apparently appalled at some scene he must be watching, perhaps even the one above, while another woman lay back on the pillow behind him. Down the right hand side of the poster were printed giant kanji in red, certainly the title of this “erotic thriller” from the fifties or sixties, to judge from the style of the drawing. Who was this outraged man?

While holding up the center of the top with her left hand, she tried to get a corner taped down straight with her right. That way, the whole poster wouldn’t be crooked. She was about to ask for some help when she realized that with a less permanent fix on the first corner she could more easily adjust it with the second. Then Tom walked into the store.

Since their night spent together in the hotel room, Julie had noticed that Tom had pretty well dropped any pretense of coming by the store during her shifts. The courtship was over. In fact, she didn’t hear from him for days afterward, which bothered her a little. Maybe he wasn’t all that different than the kid with the van. He asked how she was doing and was polite as always, but didn’t at all refer to anything that hinted of their romp in the hotel room. Something that was there for her just didn’t seem to be there for him. She accepted his generic manner as coolly as he gave it, reasoning that part of the problem was that they were at work. This helped; it only occurred to her later that this could be considered as shrewd, as he seemed at first surprised and then pleased at the coolness with which she treated him, not knowing that she had only been copying his own carefully controlled manner.

When he later made a crack about Jane Hackman (“Hackwoman, I mean” – obviation as courtesy, since he wasn’t sure she’d get it), she was happy; she knew that the ice had been broken. When he asked her out for a drink after work her remaining insecurity melted away, but continued to play it cool. But how hot she felt. She said “maybe,” to his sly grin, then grinned herself and said “okay.”

She was pleasantly surprised when he made no pretense about leaving the store together. He grabbed a black bag out of the office and waited for her as she walked out the door ahead of him. None of her co-workers registered much of anything, although she accepted that they were almost certainly talking after they’d left.

He took her to a different place, driving past the center of town to a different hotel, down on the water. Obviously he’d developed a pattern, she thought, and given his age there were probably … how many women had he taken to this hotel? Was the desk clerk actually smiling at him? He decided they should stop off in the bar for a drink, although truth be told, she could have done without the pretense. Or perhaps it wasn’t a pretense to him, but a necessary ritual.

Since it was a Thursday night the bar wasn’t very crowded, and they sat down in a booth overlooking the water.

“You know, this is where Led Zeppelin stayed when they came to Seattle. About thirty years ago.”

“Jeez, I wasn’t even born then.” As soon as she said this she wished that she could take it back. Or was her youth something she wanted to emphasize around him? He laughed and she realized it didn’t matter.

“You know who they are, don’t you?”

“Stairway to Heaven, right?”

“Right”

He started to make a joke about a female version of the band – Roberta Plant, Jenny Page, but stopped himself short. She probably didn’t know the names of the band members, and the joke was getting stale anyway. He washed it down with the rest of his drink.

“What about taking a look at the room?”

By the time they got up to the room, the mood had lightened somewhat. In the comparative privacy of the hallways they poked and prodded each other as they walked along giggling, then stopped alongside the ice machine for an embrace and a kiss. Once inside the room he tossed his camera in a chair as she tossed herself on the bed, bouncing twice and then settling into her favorite reclining position. This time she was able to get her hand under her head on the first try, and he was sober enough to notice the seductive look she wore on her face.

“Well alright,” he said while laughing, and stretched himself out on the bed, parallel to her.

They started making out, which he did more out of a sense of duty, but obviously still enjoyed by her, so he played the game for her as well as he was able. A couple of shifts together, a night out for drinks, and the affair was already old hat to him. After about five minutes he had all her clothes off, while she had him down to his pants and shoes. He thought of Elizabeth, wondering in what ways Julie looked like her, and sat up to take off his socks after kicking away his boots. He turned around to see her posing again.

“You know you look great when you do that.”

“Thanks!”

“How would you feel about capturing that fine look on film?”

She furrowed her eyebrows, lifted the corner of her mouth, and ducked her head to one side.

“Huh?”

“A girl as good looking as you should be captured for all time, that’s all.”

“Well, help a girl work up to it at least,” she said, and held out her left hand towards him as an invitation.

“Oh we’ll have a work out all right,” he answered, somewhat disappointed but still holding out hope. He realized that he’d been a little sudden.

She realized that she was somewhat in control without thinking too much about it. This was the key, she realized: not to think too much about it. She thought about all the hours she’d spent with Dr. Cervantes and realized she’d gotten nowhere near to figuring this much out.

Half an hour later they were still lying in bed, he smoking the proprietorial, even propish cigarette, she shooing away the smoke with a somewhat exaggerated wave.

“Well, what about those pictures you promised me?”

It was his turn to be surprised, since he’d been wondering how to bring the subject up again.

“Can a guy smoke in peace?” he said, laughing. He was thinking of pictures as a natural extension of sex. As he lay there smoking, he imagined a documentary describing the history of photography in just these terms. It’s all been confirmed by the historical record, he thought. Consider those shadowy, lurching motion pictures from the late 19th century, with bodies so much like our own. As a technological development, the camera is simply a more mechanical means of capturing visual reality, and since part of that reality is the naked body, it followed naturally that human beings would begin filming the naked body, and eventually the naked body engaged in sex. It was just another step in the technological development of art after cave paintings, vase paintings, frescoes, and pornographic lithographs. All of which had featured nudes.

He stubbed out the cigarette in a convenient ashtray and then proceeding to roll out of bed and back into his pants. He grabbed the camera out of his bag and snapped the flash into place. “We should probably make the bed,” he added, at which Julie got out of bed, put on her underwear and a tee shirt, and began pulling up the covers. Tom started moving around the bed when Julie jumped on top of the covers and took off her shirt.

From whatever time it was that the first portrait of a person was drawn, with the development of representational technique the subject has had a greater hand in its creation. The person knowingly drawn or painted or photographed reacts to the artist, whether in weeks of sitting or in preparation for the instantaneous flash. A relationship is formed between the model and the artist, and somewhat more subtly, the model and the means of representation. Which is why Tom said to Julie what almost every photographer tells their models, certainly the naked ones: “Make love to the camera!”

Did she ever.

It probably had something to do with a full century of naked women on film, or it might have been the confidence she’d found in her newly discovered sexual satisfaction. It might also have been Julie realizing that Tom’s feelings for her were somewhat limited, and that she would have more fun by settling for all the paraphernalia and equipment.

She jumped right in, starting out on her knees, arms back, breasts out. Head up, head down. Standing, sitting, front back, center, first from below and then from above. Winking. Eyes open, eyes closed, even eyes crossed. Happy, sad, pouting, gloating, laughing, lewd (frequently), silly, suspicious, seductive, grim, prim, mournful, vain, haughty, naughty, tentative, contemplative, and in the end (arms outstretched in a giant V), victorious. She was a natural. She certainly had the figure for it, and in her very early twenties was limber enough to work herself into every shape and position Tom could have wanted. She’d began posing with a slight sense of bashfulnessl, but by the end she felt she was the one in complete control.

As for the one holding the camera, he’d fantasized about her as soon as he’d met her, and about her mother for years before that, masturbating to her memory with his morning erection while sitting on top of a chilly toilet in the privacy of an unlit bathroom. Now he would have actual pictures to supplement his increasingly deficient memory. He’d begun taking shots even while acknowledging her hesitation, but any need for this had evaporated fairly soon. The twenty minutes of posing and clicking had been twenty minutes of great fun for both of them. More fun than the actual sex, really – the photographs might have a future.

“Hey, that’s great, just great. What about some room service?”

After setting the lights a little lower in the bathroom, they decided to take a shower. He took a few more pictures before stepping into the stream. A little while later, after the shower, he grabbed the sandwiches outside the door while she continued toweling off. He noticed that the on and off routine with his trousers was getting a little tiresome, and so sat down on the edge of the bed, flicking through the channels while she sat on the bed, going through a brochure detailing various options for local entertainment.

“You just love the visual stimulation, do you?”

Tom murmured in reply, wondering how he should say that it had more to do with work than anything else. “Research,” he said, wondering how much she knew already.

The steel plate lid rang out gently as she lifted it off the china. She tore into a roast beef sandwich with the same zeal she’d shown for the camera and the shower.

“So give me the scoop, Tom. These are the sort of documentaries you were talking about, right?” Nodding towards the television.

“Mm huh.”

“Hey, if you think I’m gonna make a movie, forget it.”

“Well… you’ve got talent.” He said, beginning slowly and tapering off towards the end. “They’re always looking for talent.”

“Is there money in this?” she asked as a way of ignoring him.

He nodded yes, still transfixed by the screen.

“So why do you keep the store?”

“It’s mine.” He thought she was going to start naming a price. What did she care about his business?

“But it’s not like you need the money, is it?”

He was once again surprised at how freely she spoke.

“Nah, I have plenty of money. Wife does, anyway,” he said, going all in.

“What’s with that anyway?”

“You mean my wife?”

“Yeah. I mean, does she know? Does she care?”

“We have a kind of understanding.” He turned away from the TV, finally, feeling that he need to make something clear. “Actually, we are committed. I hope that you -”

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine with me, I was just wondering. Trying to get the full picture and all.”

“Well, don’t worry about that.”

“Not worrying. I just wondered what’s in it for her.”

He didn’t have an answer. “What was in it for her?” he wondered, and then pushed the thought out of his mind. It felt strange to be talking about Helen with a 20 year old, especially since he tended to confuse her with Elizabeth, and even more especially because this confusion was actually intended, or at least accepted.

“Don’t be offended.”

“Not offended, either. Just wondering.”

Tom realized that Julie was sharper than he’d first realized. She was quiet at first, just as he’d remembered Elizabeth. Some of the time she seemed to be barely treading water, but there were times in conversation, even out of it, when she seemed to turn on something extra. In the same way that she had gone through all those different poses. But why had she posed for the pictures?.

As if she’d been reading his mind, she spoke up about the session. “Hey, I’m not so sure I like having those pictures out there. Now that I think about it.” She made a grab for the camera, but he pulled it out of the way just in time and held it at arm’s length.

“Whoa, girl. Easy there, this is expensive equipment.”

“C’mon Tom, I mean it. Hand it over.” She was definitely feeling out of control again.

“We’re wasting an entire roll, baby,” said Tom, trying to sound like Austin Powers.

Julie gave him a death stare until he acquiesced. “Alright, alright already,” he said, putting down his cigarette and opening up the back of the camera.

“What was I thinking?” she thought. She stuffed the negatives into her purse, just to be safe.

“No need to worry now, reassured Tom. They’re ruined, baby.”

“Better them than me,” said Julie, and did her best to make up by taking a drag on his cigarette.

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