A few things I forgot about posing for a lifedrawing class.....

... you need to do the paperwork first (W4 and a model release form).

... you stand in the dressing room adjacent to the studio classroom and shut the door and remove your clothing, then put on your bathrobe like you're going to go take a dip in the hot tub, and when you open the door, walk out into the studio, like it or not, ready or not, all eyes meet and follow you, step by step by step, across the floor to the sheet-draped pedestal.

... you are COLD, no matter how hot it is outside or how high the thermostat is set, or how many heat lamps shine down from the ceiling... somehow those studios are always drafty, chilly.

... you feel EYES locked on parts of you you're used to hiding, all of them looking for detail, for the hidden key to their masterpieces. In YOU. (In ME?!)

... you hear silent sounds amplified by the speaker of creative focus, breathing and sighing and shifting in seats, and mainly the sound of scratching scraping and rubbing pens, pencils, charcoals, erasers, brushes, nibs, smudges.

... your eyes shut, your face expressionless... you master the Mona Lisa smile.

So the instructor-- tall, lean, shock of salt and pepper hair over his forehead, thin lips, blue jeans, white cotton dress shirt with cuffs rolled to the elbows, black vest-- announces me:

"Our model this morning is Maura."

... pause...

"She's expecting."

That's right, folks: a basketball is NOT going to drop to the floor from my waist when I open my robe...

...which I do... not slowly, not fast... deliberate, a disrobing that just means business... my breath catches and my pulse races a little as my bare skin, bare belly, bare breasts meet the air of the room and the gazes of the students... and I think of a review I read of a play once, a one-woman show where the actress stripped onstage...

"Whenever someone takes their clothes off onstage, it more or less trumps anything else that might happen in the performance."

Performance... pulse races, my breath catches... their pulses race and their breaths catch, as if suddenly there isn't enough air in the room for all of us...

...step up onto the pedestal and the sheet slips a little underneath me as I kneel into my first pose, legs folded, feet beneath my butt... eyes closed, lips slightly parted, and already I hear the scratching and rubbing of the pens and pencils on paper as they start to explore me.

...cold... for a second a song by Yoko Ono goes through my head, and I make up new words to her melody: "the room is cold, the light is cold, your pen is cold, my tits are cold... gimme something that isn't...COLD! COME ON! COME ON!"

...left leg falling asleep and I wiggle my toes (did anyone catch that?)...

...nipples hardening in the chill, and I think of a facebook friend who told me she would love nothing better than to take them (me) into her mouth and suck them (me) down her throat...

...Mona Lisa smile.

Ten minutes and time for the next pose. I take my robe and hold it in front of me, drapelike, close my eyes, stand still... ten minutes...

(...down her throat. Thanks, Janey!)

...rub rub scratch scratch whisper and... laugh?

What's so funny? Me?

Hard to not feel self-conscious given my thoughts and my nakedness and I wonder if one of the students is going to show me a sketch of my pregnant belly with a smiley face on it.

...ten minutes again... drop the robe... pull on a black tank top for the next pose as two students move to sketch me from behind... shut my eyes...

...from behind...

"How's that sweet ass of yours, baby, huh?"

A bad line from a bad night encroaching on this moment, but when you shut your eyes and empty your mind, you never know what might come in...

Open my eyes and fix gaze on the opposite wall, on a papyrus ink etching, Japanese letters in calligraphy and a mountain and banzai trees and I am back in the moment... scratch scratch...

...ten minutes... stand tall in the middle of the pedestal and remove my tanktop, left hand across my boobs, right hand under my belly, and I feel the baby inside me shift and wiggle as I shut my eyes...

..."can they see you, sweetie? are they drawing you too?"

...ten minutes... into short poses now, two minutes each: arms across chest, draping sheet again, leaning back, hands in my hair...

A girl looks at the drawing of the girl next to her and whispers "It's a heart, right where her baby is!"

...legs crossed, hands on knees... legs opened, head back...

...and we're done.

Eyes opened.

"Thank you, Maura."

I reach for my robe, hoping to get some snapshots of what these artists have done with me -- to me -- through me- but my phone is back in the back with my clothes, and by the time I retrieve it all, three of the students have already stuffed their pencils and pastels into their packs and padded out of the room, off to whereever.

Four students left... one doesn't want to show me his work (or rather, "You don't want to see this") but the other three let me take snaps of their sketches, most of them in lines so light my camera barely picks them out.

"It's a heart, right where the baby is."

And it is... there it is, on paper in my hand... she's drawn my navel in the shape of a heart. "It just came out that way," she says as I snap a snapshot, but as I hit the button on my phone, I feel a stirring, a kick in my belly, and it makes me laugh, and the picture comes out a blur. I'm about to ask if I can try again, but the student looks like she's in a hurry. "Good luck with your baby, Maura," she says, smiling.

Looking at the sketches I go through phases of recognition...

"That's not me.

Do I look like this?

I look like this.

I feel like this.

They saw SOMETHING that I was..."

I pull on my top as a girl shows me her sketchbook --"Sorry about the face"-- and I'm about to reply but the instructor is yammering about my model release and what I need to do with my W4 and how it goes to the business office or I can mail it with a copy of my driver's license, and the girl is asking me do I mind if she takes a picture of me? "I want to try something on my phone." So I start to pose and she says what I would say:

"No, don't pose. I like... I like you natural."

And no sooner do I say "How? Like this?" then she is holding her iphone in front of her face and I hear the shutter sound effect as she snaps... pause... she examines the tiny screen. "O.K.... thanks!" and her fingers start to twiddle the keypad as I pull on my jeans... and before I can even snap the clasp she holds the phone out to me --"OK... here..."-- and there I am, in a handtinted pastel photo that looks like something I would have worked four hours in the darkroom to finish, and she knocked it off in two minutes. "Just wanted to try this new app," and I ask her what it is, and she tells me, and thanks to the baby it goes in one ear and out the other...

"Can you email that to me?" I ask, and she says yeah, and I give her my email, and she punches it into her phone, and says "Thanks and good luck with the baby" and sashays from the room, and I just figure she'll forget about it the way that I have been forgetting about everything lately, but ten minutes later as I stoop over a water fountain down the hall, I feel the phone buzzing in my pocket, and when I unlock the screen there I am, in pastels, her picture, those sketches, me... that me? Do I look like that? Are the mistakes, the flaws, the imperfections just the way they draw, or is it what they see, or is it who I am?

KICK! I feel behind my navel.

The native American people say that a photograph captures a person's soul. As I look at the fuzzy snapshot of the heartshaped navel drawing, I'm disappointed that the details didn't come out, but maybe something else was captured in that blurry photo.


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