September 20th: I teach a boy that cheating is bad

Design by Miya Zhao

I’ve fallen out of love with Jenny Saville—thus ends our four year affair. She used to have me wrapped around her finger because, among too many artificially posed naked bodies, her paintings were self-consciously flesh-beholden and fulsome. None of that has changed; she is as much a genius as she ever was. But I can’t pin down why, when I look at her now, I feel a suspicious lack of fire, anywhere. Saville once said “When people look at the artists in history who represented nudes, Rubens is in the top five, but this piece by Lucas should be thought of as one of the greatest nudes of our time.” This was in reference to Sarah Lucas’s Two Fried Eggs and A Kebab. In LA, while Lucas was on show, they replaced the eggs* every day and the doner meats every two days. They say Picasso taught us how to look at Rubens. Thank you, Jenny, for teaching me how to look at Sarah. 

I am obviously not thinking about any of these things when I take off my clothes. I am thinking about how the boy said “it’s hot” and “I don’t want to get my clothes wet,” even though the sunset has done its whole schtick and the chill has begun to sweep in across the ocean and both of us are in our bathing suits. 

In the movies you fling your clothes off on the sand and do NOT look at his body and run towards the water kicking up sand. Whatever happens in the water does not fall on me but at least the journey over the sand is perfect pre-fall––the body is Saville-ian in all its glorious sexless, grotesque reality. No guilt, no evil, no freedom. Lots of wind in your hair. 

I run alongside him, my feet finally reaching the shallow waves. It suddenly dawns on us that the tide has gone out. The euphoria wears off and at some point we trudge back to the beach, still dry and shivering. It’s now too dark to find our clothes. The boy freaks out at the prospect of showing up to the police station naked. I’m not sure why the police would be involved but those red and blue lights seem to always fade in and out of his guilty imagination. With a hand on his arm, I guide him back half a mile out. We sit shivering, damp. I half joke that we can always wait out the sun. Our reality is not Saville-ian at all. The boy is self-consciously flexing his arm. I want to sit a little closer, exchange cold eggs and doner meats.  

Without the water to hide in, I think I might call upon some self-respect. People who accept the burden of freedom exhibit a certain toughness; a responsibility. My body and the little bit of Kant I remember taught the boy what it meant to make a free choice—he can kiss me or he can go home to his girlfriend an honest man. How sick, how tired, how trite. How sexily academic. As a proud teacher, I pat his arm and tell him repeatedly: I’m very proud of you. The boy drives me home, but not before the father taking his daughter for a late night walk sweeps his flashlight over us. All the better, he points out that our clothes weren’t that far away after all. 

Three days later the boy calls to tell me if he could do it again he would have been freer. Stupid stupid stupid. To think all of the sand I had to scrub out of my hair and he didn’t learn the definition of freedom? 

Tonight, I’m saying goodbye to the past. And with bated breath I pray that bastard Fitzgerald doesn’t pull another one over me. If anyone asks, I’m staying far away from the beach and those stupid ceaseless backwards pulling currents. 

* eggs from local free-range chickens raised on feed seasoned with paprika. The paprika is in fact not a homage to kofta seasoning in the kebab but to brighten the yolks.

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