Quiet Desperation: Martin (Thing-A-Week 1)

This is my first “Thing-A-Week” posting. As you may have read earlier, my present goal is to put out more finished stories; rather than typing up 8 part stories that I post over several weeks, I’m giving writing 1 complete piece per week a shot. As you note, I’m calling this “Thing-A-Week,” and that is an homage to Jonathan Coulton. Also, it is because each week will not necessarily be a story. Some weeks may have a photo, others will have poems, and yet others may have drawings.
So, let’s give this a shot. If y’all like the other way more, just tell me.
Oh yes: Every Saturday will find a new post here, so if you want something new, come hither sometime on Saturday and there will be something new.
———
 The studio was spacious, with the kind of natural light that an artist dreamed about. Martin, rather than exulting in his luck, was sulking moodily. The studio was not his; it was rented at a fee of two-hundred dollars for the late afternoon time slot. All ready, the sun was fading in golden hues outside. In the studio, shadows began to creep about the walls as Martin stared despondently at his cell phone. He had scheduled three models for the afternoon, planning to work with each for an hour or so.

“It was supposed to be a busy afternoon.” He grumbled to himself, having come to the realization that no one was going to show up. “Now, now I’m out a total of six hundred dollars. I can’t believe that this is the third fucking time!” He glowered at the equipment he had spent an hour setting up. Soon, Frank would be pounding on the door, telling him that his time was up and that he had to move on. For the third time in three months, Martin would pack up his gear and pay his fees.

He had considered calling Rita; she was a good friend and always willing to help out. However, he felt uncomfortable asking her to pose nude for his latest project. She was a friend, and he didn’t want to hurt their friendship, or turn it into something awkward. He convinced himself that he couldn’t ask her, nor could he ask Tina, Renee, or Karen. He didn’t want to come off as a pervert, nor did he want to vaguely suggest that he wanted to see any of them in an erotic light.

His intention was to study the interplay of bone, muscle, and fat, hoping to show the inherent beauty of a voluptuous woman, versus the peculiar beauty of a thin woman. The appeal of touch against the appeal of sight was his project’s title, and he dreamed that it would revolutionize the way everyone looked at women. However, his task was an impossible one. Without a model, he would have no photographs, and without photographs, there would be no revolution.

“Time’s up, pal.” announced Frank, rapping loudly on the door. He was a contrast to Martin; he was round and burly, with a mop of unkempt black curls that would be a sparrow’s dream home.

“No one showed again.” announced Martin, with all the zeal of a dish rag. Despondently, he opened the door. “No calls, no text messages, and not a single frame shot. I think I’m done.” Frank frowned deeply, hanging his head and increasing his number of chins exponentially.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day.” responded Frank, speaking the adage as though he had invented it. Martin grimaced. Scraping at the stubble on his many chins, Frank chose his words carefully. “You are an artist, and you have a vision. You owe it to the world, and to yourself, to show that vision.” A glimmer of greed flashed in Frank’s eyes; Martin was a frequent customer, and Frank didn’t want to see him go.

“But what should I do? I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here. I’ve tried ads online and in the paper, and none of then have yielded results.” Shoving a bundle of fabric into a tote bag, Martin struggled to pick up his packed equipment. Frank rushed to help, loading Martin as though he were a pack mule.

“You should do like the great artists did. Find a muse.” Frank suggested. Martin glared at Frank with derision.

“You think?” responded Martin sharply.

“Well, maybe hire one. Manet, Picasso, that Austrian that was friends with Hitler… You know. The one who painted the under-aged girls.”

“First, Schiele was not friends with Hitler. Second, there’s a lot of debate about whether those girls really were prostitutes or not, and third: I’m not going to hire a prostitute as a model.” fumed Martin. He pushed his way past Frank and strode swiftly ahead of the studio manager’s waddling form.

“Why not? Just explain everything up front and it should be fine. She doesn’t have to suck you off, and she still gets paid. You get to have a model, maybe even a muse. The situation is win-win.” Frank’s smile revolted Martin even further. Martin felt insulted, tired, and angry. He slapped his studio rental fee into Frank’s hand and turned his back on him, stomping into the cold autumn evening.

***

Martin struggled with the burden that he called his portable studio. Cheap lights, a tripod, and some fabric backdrops were crammed into the duffel bag that he pushed through the crowd with. The throngs of subway wayfarers jostled each other, jockeying for position in a slow race to the platform. Martin wasn’t in a hurry; it was still early in the night, and he was just on his way home. He didn’t see much need to rush home to a bowl of Top Ramen.

Arriving on the platform, he watched as a train filled to capacity rolled up. Rather than fight for a seat on the train, he sought a bench on the platform where he could sit down. He smiled to himself as business men crushed themselves into the all ready packed train. Hurrying back from a job they hate so that they can spend time with a family that they don’t even know. Martin glared at the train as it rolled away, cursing it as a haven for Capitalists with the wrong priorities. Satisfied with himself, he enjoyed the airy silence of the warm platform. He was happy that it was too early for the homeless to come crawling out of their holes.

He found himself considering Frank’s suggestion. What harm would there be in hiring a prostitute to pose? I’m not asking her for sex, so it isn’t illegal. It’s just like hiring a model, but there’s probably more of a sense of duty. They’re professionals; they must have to keep some kind of reputation. What I need is one of the classy prostitutes; a call girl. Maybe she’d charge less because I don’t want to have sex with her? Martin was shocked at himself; he had rejected the idea, but now it was becoming more reasonable to him.

But what about the moral implications? I’d be supporting someone’s choice to sell their self for a living. Modeling is kind of like that, but it isn’t as wrong. It doesn’t lead to the dark avenues that prostitution can. Yet, can’t modeling lead to prostitution? How many stories are there about the model that decides to make a little more by talking her artist into extras? There have to be some.Nah, that’s more of a male fantasy. That would never happen. Well, maybe only rarely. I can’t see how this would be essentially wrong; if I have to pay a model to be able to express my ideas, then is it really that far away from hiring a prostitute to do the same thing? For all I know, the models I’ve hired are prostitutes on the side, or maybe even worse. Martin’s face was crumpled with contemplation. He fought with himself, lost in his own inner monologue. Captivated as he was, a small part of his mind still hovered in the real world, reminding his body that his hands should be gripping all his bags as tightly as possible.

Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a woman that sat next to him. Instinctively, his muscles tensed as his hands gripped his duffle bag and pulled it closer to him. He smiled at her, feigning that he was moving the duffle in order to make room for her. Her eyes caught him off guard; they were a glossy grey, sparkling with life and as deep as space. Her hair flowed in loose red rings, complementing her porcelain white skin. She smirked at him, her confidence tangibly radiating from her.

“Hi.” Martin said timidly. He was awed by her beauty; he hadn’t felt this way about a stranger in a long time. She nodded her head, acknowledging his greeting.

“So, what’s in the bag? A body? It’d have to be small, like a child, or maybe some one chopped up.” she laughed sweetly, and Martin’s nerves were frayed.

“No!” exclaimed Martin, insulted.

She assured him that it was only a joke.

“Sometimes, you get used to expecting the worst out of people,” she explained, “and sometimes you just have to let it out. I saw that you were clinging to them dearly, and that’s the first thing that came to mind. ’I bet he’s hiding a body or something,’ I thought to myself. I didn’t want to say anything, but at the same time, I wanted to find out if I was actually right. So, what‘s in the bag?”

Martin saw this as his chance; she’d be perfect as a model.

“Well, I’m a photographer. At least I’m trying to be. This is my gear.” He tapped the duffle bag and it issued a plastic sound in response.

“So, why are you trying, and not actually a photographer?” she asked.

“Well, I have a hard time with getting models to show up. I’ve tried a lot of approaches, and a lot of them didn’t work. I tried joining groups on-line; the first difficulty was that there were far too many photographers and far too few models, and many of the models weren’t from around here. When, finally, a local model showed interest in being part of a project, it would become a game of e-mail and phone tag. When a date and time was set, there would always be something that came up. And forbid you complain about it to the rest of the community, because the photographer is always the bad guy.”

“Sounds like a bad break for you.” she responded. “Well, someday, right?”

“Yeah…” responded Martin, ready to ask if she would be willing to pose for him. However, the next train arrived and the woman noticed that she was on the wrong platform.

“Crap!” she exclaimed, “I need to go!” she stood and was off like a shot, running with long strides to the stairs. Martin wanted to pursue her, but felt that he’d come off as a stalker. He dismissed the encounter, piling into the train and leaving the platform behind.

***

Martin squeezed his duffle bag through the narrow door of his one bedroom apartment. The dim yellowy light lent a somber feeling to the cramped, dirty place. He hadn’t earnestly cleaned in about a month; content with washing just the dishes he needed and letting the mail pile high. Hurtling his duffle bag onto the orange couch, he sat at his computer. The start-up was signaled with its calming, tinkling tone. He checked his e-mail, finding that Dinah Blackthorn, a model that specialized in a Gothic look, had contacted him.

“Sorry. I could not get a ride today, but I hope that we’ll be able to work together soon. I really am still interested. Maybe you can meet me at the Red Moon Festival next weekend; it will be fun…” read Martin to himself with a sarcastic tone. As if I’m going to pay to go to the Gothic equivalent of a Ren-Faire so that I can, maybe, take a few outdoor shots of you. Yeah. You’re look is out of date and not worth my time, he thought to himself. He wrote, “I understand. I’ll see if I can reschedule for next month. “Instead of the vitriol he thought.

Feeling disgruntled, he opened the media player on his computer and turned up the volume. He started cooking his Top Ramen when a song caught his attention: it was by System of a Down and it was called Vicinity of Obscenity, and while he was uncertain what the song was about, yelling along with Serj Tankian made him feel better. And then, he said the word whore.

It instantly brought him back to Frank’s idea. Returning to the computer with his steaming bowl of Top Ramen, he typed in the address of Craigslist and started to search. He had posted ads for models before, and seldom did they garner a response. He took a cursory glance at the artists section and then found his cursor floating down towards the services category and warily clicked erotic.

He read the warning and disclaimer, as well as a highlighted section of text:

Human trafficking and exploitation of minors are not tolerated – any suspected activity will be reported to law enforcement.”

Human trafficking? What the hell is going on here? He wondered as he contemplated the back button. I came this far. I might as well see what is here. He ventured onwards, glancing about his apartment; he didn’t share it with anyone, but he just wanted to be certain that no one was watching him. He was greeted with a page of blue hyperlinks peddling all sorts of services, and each promising to be either 100% Real or The Best. He quickly got a grasp of the lingo as he looked through the ads, discovering he would be looking for an “Outcall.” He found it absurd that the women that posted the ads referred to their payments as donations or in the currency of roses. He found himself wondering if a call girl ever arrived at her job and found that her contractor thought he really was paying in roses.

Then, he discovered that some women posted pictures of themselves with their ads. Looking at the nude pictures of women selling themselves, Martin began to doubt his course of action. On one hand, it was like being able to choose the exact body that he wanted to shoot, yet on the other, it all seemed so wrong. Could I really contribute to this? He wondered. He started thinking about his art, and then a peculiar idea struck him: Was his art what he actually thought it was?

What makes a nude, a nude? What stops it from being pornographic? In the exploration of the female form, am I actually exploiting women? When intending to show women that being voluptuous is beautiful, am I actually just pointing at a woman and saying that she is sexy? Martin opened some of the images he had on his computer of Egon Schiele’s work. Schiele’s portrayal of the human form, particularly the female form, always moved Martin; he found it both strange and beautiful. However, he found himself wondering what the work would have been like if Schiele was a photographer rather than a painter. Would it be less profound? Would it move me less? Most importantly, would most of it just be delicately articulated porn? Martin let the images of call girls stand beside those crafted by his artistic idol and he tried to work out his conundrum…

—————————————————- 
Is that too much of a non-ending? It was my hope to leave the reader thinking, and I felt that this was a good way. I feel that I did a fair job of developing Martin as a character. The way he interacts with the Subway Woman sort of details his way of thinking of women; actually, the whole subway section is the definition of Martin’s way of seeing the world and his place in it. However, if it came to editing, it is the part that would be removed. It is not completely necessary, but it helps flesh things out.

This is semi-auto-biographical; when I was actively persuing photography, I’d have such a hard time with getting a hold of models. Also, Martin’s love of Egon Schiele’s work is a love I share with him. Also, the concept of a painting being art, while a photograph of the same subject could be “not art” is one that I’ve struggled with quite a lot.

Anyways, before I start babbling, I should stop.

~H

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About harrylthompsonjr

I'm a writer, a photographer, and a lover of role playing games. I've moved my blog to wordpress in hopes of actually getting some feedback. We'll see :)
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