She didn’t realize today would be the most important day of her life.
The Waitress was waiting tables, depressed and annoyed at having been in the city for months and still not having made any friends or making any progress in her hoped for career as an actress. Her first table wasn’t making her feel any better. The man at the table had stopped her the moment she set down his coffee. He took hold of her hand and stared at it. He said, “You have a beautiful hand” then let go of it and thanked her for the coffee. She rolled her eyes as she walked away. “What a loser.” she mumbled.
For the rest of the breakfast he was deep in conversation with his breakfast companion, an elderly woman. The Waitress guessed she was at least 50 years older than he was. At first she thought it was probably his Grandmother, but as she heard snippets of the conversation she got the impression it was a business meeting. They talked a lot about costs, delivery dates and clients.
When she took the check from the artist at the end of the meal one of the dollar bills fell on the table. He picked it up and gave it to her. When she took it he said loudly, “WAIT!” Once again he took hold of her hand, this time with the dollar bill still in it. He looked up at her and said, “Would you consider modeling for me?”
She gave a deep sigh, rolled her eyes and looked at him with a smirk. “I am a legit artist, really!” he said with a laugh.
The elderly woman nodded her head and said, “He is right, you know. I am his art dealer, have been for 10 years. You can bring a friend or escort to his studio if that would make you comfortable. And don’t worry, he will pay you very well.”
The waitress looked at him and said. “Do I have to be naked?”
He laughed again. “No. Well, your hand does. I want to do a sculpture using your hand holding a dollar bill.”
She popped out her hip, put her hand on it and smirked again as she said, “My hand? Really? Not my surpassing feminine beauty? I am not sure what to think of that.”
Everyone laughed. He said, “Well, how about this. I will do a drawing of your surpassing beauty AND pay you if you will model your hand for me.”
She stared at him a moment then looked over at the elderly lady. The lady said, “You really should do it, you know. He’s a great guy and artist, plays good music in the studio and always has good coffee brewing.”
“OK. Done deal. I’ve always wanted to be a hand model!” Sara said.
The artist brought out an old-fashioned appointment book, flipped the pages and landed on a Saturday about 2 weeks away. He asked, pointing to the page, “Would this be ok? That Saturday, maybe at about 10 am?
She brought out her iPhone, checked the date and said, “Looks good to me. See you then.”
He got up to leave with his dining companion and the waitress said. “Do you want to know my name? And maybe we should exchange phone numbers? And I will need the address of your studio as well”
He looked at her with a silly grin and said. “Sorry, I always forget that part. Thanks for reminding me. My name is Art Mann and this is my dealer, Vivian DeWhite. What is yours?”
She raised one eyebrow. “Your name is Art Mann? Really? Come on.”
He looked at her, put up two fingers side by side and said, “Scouts honor. That’s my given name.”
She shook her head with a slight grin. “This is just too strange.” she said under her breath. “My name is Sara. Sara Montgomery. Nice to meet you Mr. Mann!”
She got his number and the address and said her goodbyes. As he went out the door he turned around and said with a laugh, “Be careful with that hand for the next two weeks. No ditch digging or other manual labor, ok?”
She gave him the thumbs up with her soon to be immortalized hand and went on to finish her shift, chuckling about the encounter for most of the rest of the day.
Sara spent the morning of her modeling debut trying to figure out what and how she should prepare. She hadn’t dug any ditches and she had moisturized each day. She did do her nails the night before. And since it was winter she did have warm gloves for the trip to the studio. Her hands were set.
He said he was going to draw her ‘surpassing beauty’ so she had also done her hair up nice, plucked her eyebrows and bought new mascara that didn’t clump. She wore a simple green leotard type top, not too much cleavage but enough to maybe impress just a little. She tried it with and without her bra and even though she thought of herself as still being pretty uplifting in that category, she was worried the studio might be cold and her perky girls would be way too obvious. She erred on the side of caution and wore a bra. She wore her go-to jeans and ankle high boots. He didn’t seem like a perfume type guy so she didn’t put any on.
Just as she was about to ring the buzzer at the apartment building when she was startled by the door opening and a very good looking man burstimg out. He smiled at her as he bounded down the stoop and said in what sounded like a German accent, “You must be the hand model. You can go right up, he’s expecting you. It’s on the 3rd floor.” He was 10 steps down the street by the time she got out a “Thanks.” and turned back towards the door. She was pretty sure he hadn’t heard her.
She could have gone without the bra. He had a wood-fired stove in the middle and, in spite of the 2 story wall of windows on 2 sides bringing in incredible winter light, the place was toasty warm. She was very nervous coming in but he welcomed her in with a big smile and a quick hug and that put her at ease. He offered her coffee or tea and had orange scones on a red plate waiting for her. She chose the supposedly great coffee and took a scone.
They made small talk for a few minutes, mostly about the cold front that had just moved in and if there would be more snow. He then jumped up, took her hand and said, “Come on, let me show you my space!”
He had a large array of canvases leaning up against the walls to the left, facing away from her. She was dying to know what they were of but he didn’t offer to turn them around. There were some drawings tacked up on the partition on the right, between the studio and what she figured was the kitchen and living area; portraits, body parts and full nudes in what she thought was probably charcoal. Among the drawings was a drawing of an ear with a big gaudy earring hanging from it, a portrait of a woman with a patch over one eye and a fully body nude of a man who she thought looked like the guy she saw bound out of the building. The drawing was complete except for his genitals. There was just a blank space where they would have been.
There were also three stands with clay sculptures on them against the windows. There was a nose with a clothes pin holding the nostrils closed, a foot in a high heel standing on an unbroken light bulb and a set of very round butt cheeks with a smoking pipe sticking out of it. Each one was about 2 feet tall.
He said that each piece started the same way the one he was going to do of her started. He met them as strangers, liked something about them and asked if they would model for him. She couldn’t help but wonder about the circumstances behind them all, and finally had to say something when they got to the sculpture of the butt cheeks.
She could feel a flush coming to her cheeks as she asked, “So, how exactly did you approach this woman to ask her to model her butt for you?”
He laughed, “I was wondering if you were going to ask! So many people see these pieces and know that they are all of strangers and never ask. I would certainly ask if I heard that story!” He pointed to the butt cheeks and said, “This is actually one of the simplest of explanations. She works out at the gym I go to. She is pretty much a superstar there and loves being the center of attention. I did exactly what I did with you, minus the ‘touching the body part’ part of course. I just told her she had amazing glutes and asked if she would model them for me. She did look at me a bit funny but I explained myself and she agreed. That is all there is too it.”
“Did she know you were going to stick a pipe up her butt?” she asked with a smile on face.
He bowed his head a bit and responded, “uh…No, she didn’t know that. I didn’t even know that until I was pretty much done. But, she’s seen it since and thinks it ‘gnarly cool’ to quote her.”
She looked at him and said, “Now I am nervous! What are you going to do or add to my hand after you are done sculpting it? Should I be worried.”
He laughed, “No, I already know what is going in your hand. It’s going to be the one dollar bill you had in your hand at the restaurant when I asked you.”
“Really?” she asked. “Promise? You promise nothing perverse or x-rated will be in my hand? I don’t want to bring my mom and dad to some opening and find my hand has a dildo or something in it!”
“No, sorry.” he said. “Just a boring old dollar bill, I promise.”
The actual modeling session went by quickly and without much excitement. He posed her arm so her elbow was on a table and her hand was facing straight up. At first her hand was empty but with her fingers together as if she was holding a dollar bill in them. He took photos from every conceivable angle, with and without a flash. He had her hold a dollar bill and he did the same set of photos all over again. He then sat very close in front of her and drew her hand a number of times. He did quick 30 second drawings that looked like scribbles to her and then worked his way up to a drawing that took almost an hour. She got a break after the short drawings and that was a very good thing because the coffee (which was very good) had gone through her and she was about to pee in her pants if he hadn’t stopped drawing right then.
She pretty much ran to the bathroom, barely getting her pants down before she let go. She hung her head down while she went, eyes closed in relief. It wasn’t until she looked up to find the toilet paper that she realized there was a huge drawing of a orangutan’s face staring right at her from the back of the bathroom door. She almost screamed when she saw it. She muttered to herself as she washed her hands, “At least it wasn’t butt cheeks”
The hour long pose was much harder than she imagined. Her fingers got tired and cramped and then seemed to fall asleep. She had to take a break and shake out her hand to get blood flowing back to it. But soon enough it was over. He exclaimed, “Finito! at least for now.” She got up, stretched a bit and asked if she could take a look at his drawing. He gestured to it sitting on his drawing bench and said, “Feel free. I will use it, along with the photos, as a basis for the sculpture. I expect it will take me a few months to finish it. I am going to have a show in the fall at Vivian’s Gallery and I am hopeful it will be in the show. I will let you know. “
After a break for more coffee and one last scone he said, “Ok, I promised you a drawing of your surpassing beauty so let’s get to it.” He brought her over to his drawing table and had her sit across from her. He told her to just look right over his head out the windows behind him. He said her eyes could go wherever she wanted as long as her head stayed in the same position. As he drew she scanned the apartment building across the street. There was one window with the curtains open where a woman was pacing back and forth talking on the phone. She imagined what that conversation was all about, creating a story in her head about the woman and her lover having an argument about how badly he behaved at her company Christmas party the night before. Before the drawing was over she had decided the woman really needed to break up with the guy and see a shrink.
Right as she came to that conclusion Art said, “Ok, all done.” He picked up the drawing and turned it around to show her. She had to admit, he had made her look beautiful. Probably the most beautiful she had ever seen herself. And it wasn’t that it was unrealistic, it actually did look just like her and it was beautiful. She really didn’t know what to say but she managed to eek out a “Wow, that is amazing, thank you!”
Art went over to a drawer, slipped the drawing in. Sara looked at him and said, “What, I don’t get the drawing?”
He said, “I said I would draw you, not that I would give you the drawing.”
She stared at him. “Sheesh, what a rip off. I was brought here under false pretenses!” She said with a laugh.
Art said, “I didn’t say I would NEVER give it to you, just not now.”
Sara harrumphed, “Alrighty then. I’ll expect it for Christmas or my birthday.”
And with that, it was time to go. She had about 2 hours to get home, maybe take a nap and get ready for her dinner shift at the restaurant. He led her to the door of his studio and handed her a check as he bid her farewell. It was for $250.00. Not a bad haul for a few hours of sitting around with her hand in the air, she thought.
Sara didn’t see Art again until the opening of his show 8 months later. However, In the intervening months Sara’s life changed dramatically. In spite of the hand cramp she loved doing the modeling. She found out from a friend that agencies around the city didn’t just look for face and body models but also for body part models, like hands and feet. She got up her nerve and contacted an agency after seeing photos of hands on their site. Sara had a photographer friend take some photos of her hands in Black and White and submitted them to the agency to be considered.
Within a week she got a call asking her to come in and within a week after that she had her first job hand modeling. It was for a brand of rubber gloves and she was photographed putting the gloves on and off. It wasn’t glamorous and it paid poorly but amazingly within 4 months she was getting enough work as a model to go down to about 3 dinner shifts a week waiting tables. After 3 months she had a premium shoot for jewelry that paid really good money. She got to wear bracelets and rings all day long as they photographed and videotaped her lounging around in a very ritzy apartment on the 76th floor of some building on the upper east side of Manhattan. They had put a very sexy party dress on her and even did her makeup and hair. It wasn’t scripted or rehearsed but at the last minute they asked her say something while looking directly into the camera while slipping a bracelet over her wrist. It was just one line, “It’s not jewelry, it’s art.” and she nailed it the first time around. They had her do it twice more just in case, once smiling as she said it and another time looking off camera.
She had to give the dress and jewelry back of course but her makeup and hair were still done. Even back in her day-to-day clothes she felt like a glamorous movie star. When she went back out onto 5th Avenue pretending to be a movie star. She put her sunglasses on with one deliberate arch of her arm and hand to her face. She pulled her gloves on with an elegant tug. She stopped to look in the windows of the boutiques, striking a deliberately casual pose each time. She went into one of the stores and bought a Burberry scarf. She threw it over her shoulder with a flourish as she left the store. When stopping for coffee she kept her sunglasses on inside the coffee shop. She said, “Thank you, dear” to the barista.
On the evening of Art’s opening Sara was ecstatic. She had the date circled on her calendar for over a month. She had even rejected a modeling gig that afternoon because she knew the photographer was notoriously flaky and would take about 3 hours longer than he said he would to get the project done. He also had tried to hit on her last time they worked together and she wasn’t the least bit interested. She had her hair and makeup done in that same glamorous style she had at her first big jewelry shoot. She bought a low cut green dress that she felt showed off her new, thinner figure, to best advantage. This time she wore perfume.
She went to the opening alone. She knew her mother would freak out if there were any ‘naked’ pieces so she thought it would be better to bring her to the gallery when it was empty instead of on opening night. She could have brought her younger brother but once again he would have giggled and made fun of anything remotely skin oriented. She had one friend, a model she had met recently, who was going to go with her but she had come down with Bronchitis and was coughing incessantly. It was better to just enjoy a solo night out and see who she might meet at the show than force some friend who wasn’t going to be into it to go with her.
When she arrived the gallery was filled with people who she did not know. She immediately started to think it might have been a bad idea to come alone when Vivian DeWight approached her with arms outstretched and a big smile. She greeted Sara and gave her a double kiss, not air kisses but actual kisses, on both cheeks. Sara liked that, her lips were warm and she could smell a great perfume on her.
Vivian quickly turned away and pulled a young man over. “Sara, this is Hans. He’s from Germany, just moved to New York about a year ago. He is also one of Art’s models. As a matter of fact, he is in a painting very close to the sculpture of your hand!”
Hans shook her hand politely. She could tell he didn’t recognize her. But she recognized him as the guy leaving Art’s studio as she was arriving that day. She remembered his height and his very cool floppy knit cap. He gave her a bit of a thrill as he pulled his hand away from her, dragging his fingers ever so slightly across her palm as he did so. She was a terrible guesser of height and age but she thought he was at least 6 feet tall and maybe 30 years old. She really had no idea but she guessed in her head all the same.
Sara said, “He doesn’t remember, but we met that day at the studio. Well, almost met. He came out in a rush as I went in. He let me in and yelled, “Third floor!” as he ran down the steps.”
Hans looked at her intently and said, “You know, now that I look at you, I do remember. You had on green that day as well, right?”
Sara was impressed. To remember what color she was wearing 8 months later? That showed some serious attention to detail she thought. She said, “Yes, I was. Some sort of brownie points are due for remembering that!”
“I have a thing about color, I pay way too much attention to it!” he said with a smile.
Sara responded, “Well, it worked on your behalf tonight, that is for sure.”
Vivian said, “Well, you two seem to be getting along famously. I am going to go check if the wine has run out yet. You two enjoy!” and off she went.
There was a bit of an awkward silence after Vivian left. Then Hans leaned forward and said, “By the way, your hand looks and feels more beautiful than the sculpture of it.”
Sara felt her neck warm up, a sign she was about to blush. “Thank you. Wait, how do you know my hand feels better than the sculpture?” she said with a laugh.
“Well, don’t tell anyone but I always find a way to touch sculptures, even if there is a sign saying ‘Don’t Touch’.”
Sara raised an eyebrow and said in mock indignation, “So you went and fondled my hand before you even knew me? Aren’t you the rude sort!”
Hans laughed, “Yes, I am afraid I am a bit of a rule breaker that way. So sorry, but I couldn’t resist. It really is a beautiful sculpture of a beautiful hand!”
Sara responded, “Well, I just arrived and haven’t even seen my allegedly beautiful immortalized hand yet. Are you going to show me where it is or do I have to search it out myself?”
Hans grabbed her hand and said, “Let’s go, it’s in the back gallery. It’s where all the best pieces are!”
Twice, as they moved through the crowd, they were stopped by people greeting Hans and telling him they loved the painting he was in. One slightly tipsy woman in a blue beret said, “That painting has me wanting to see more!” Sara was puzzled, and after they moved away from the woman, said to Hans, “She wants to see more? There’s like 25 more paintings within 100 feet of her, what is she talking about?”
Hans laughed and said, “Oh, yea that. I’ve already gotten a comment like that 3 times tonight. You’ll see what she is talking about when you see the painting. But just remember, the artist is a master of hyperbole and symbolism, not realism.” She had no clue what he meant by that.
They both collected a champagne flute and plate of hors d’oeuvres by the time they got to the back gallery. Sara was putting a brownie shaped like a starfish in her mouth when she finally saw her piece. It was what she expected and then again it was nothing like she expected. It did look like her hand, the shape of the fingers, the size of the fingernails, even the longer than usual life line on her palm, were all exact. Her hand also had a dollar bill in it, just like Art said it would have. But she didn’t expect her hand to be green nor the dollar bill to be purple. But not expecting that didn’t mean she didn’t like it. She thought it was very cool. She liked the colors being different. It made the piece familiar and new at the same time. She put down her plate and glass and brought out the price list they had at the gallery door. There was a photo of her piece on the front and a list of all the pieces in the show inside. She looked up her piece and the brownie almost fell out of her mouth. It was listed for $25,000.00!
She leaned over to Hans and whispered, “If I knew the piece would be that expensive I would have asked for more money to model!”
Hans responded, “Tell me about it! The painting I am in is priced at $60,000.00!”
She looked at him with her mouth open. “Really? Wow, I want to see it, where is it?”
He chuckled, “You are standing right in front of it. It’s right behind your piece, over there, on the left.”
She looked up and saw a painting at least 8 feet tall. It was of a sparse landscape with a nude man standing in the middle of it. There was a road leading from the man’s feet back to a volcano in the distance. He was looking down with sloped shoulders. He had on his cool knitted hat. His eyes were sad and he looked depressed. He also had a very large penis hanging straight down.
Sara pointed to the penis and laughed, “Don’t tell me that is what Art saw on you that he wanted to paint!”
Hans responded dead pan with a straight face, “Yep.”
Sara stiffened and stopped breathing. Nobody has a penis that big she thought. She was trying to figure out what to do next when Hans slapped her on the back.
“JUST JOKING! He actually liked my cap and that is what got his attention. He asked to paint me when we met at a coffee shop one morning.” Hans said through his laughter.
Sara breathed again and laughed as well. “Ah, so that’s not realistic?”
Hans said, “Well I didn’t say that.”
Sara was trying to figure out how to change the topic when Hans said, “But sorry to disappoint, it’s not. I didn’t even pose nude for him. I had on underwear on. He told me the painting would eventually be a nude and I told him I was cool with it but he said I didn’t need to pose nude, which was a relief. I am a bit too modest for that. Ironically, now everyone thinks I did pose nude and that I have this gigantic appendage. It’s really pretty funny to me.”
Sara laughed and said, “This has got to be the strangest conversation and evening I have had in a long, long time!”
Hans laughed as well as he responded, “You and me both.”
After that funny episode Hans and Sara walked around the gallery together. They had a hilarious time talking about the art, wondering if they would ever buy any of the pieces if they had the money. They decided they would. Hans said he would buy her hand sculpture and put it on his dresser to hold his watch. After explaining her mother would disown her if she had a big painting of a naked guy in her apartment, Sara said she the most she could get away with would be to buy the sculpture of the big butt with the pipe coming out of it so she would have something to hang her scarves on. Her mom would likely have a heart attack when she saw it, she said. They decided Art would never let them buy the pieces if they knew what they would be used for. They also came to the conclusion that they should form an artist’s model union and demand more money.
After about an hour of walking around the show Hans asked Sara if she would like to go get a bite to eat. They said their goodbyes to Art and Vivian, thanking them for including them in the show. It was a warm evening and they walked across town a few blocks to the West Village where Hans said he knew of a great place that served killer Pho noodles. Sara had never had Pho noodles but was game for it.
Sara and Hans dated for 2 years before Hans asked her to marry him. They were married in Vivian’s gallery and Art was in attendance. His wedding gift was two drawings, the portrait of Sara he had done and the drawing of Hans that had been on his studio wall when Sara modeled. Art had never finished the drawing, the genitals were still missing. Hans and Sara had both pieces up in their living room and loved to tell the story of how they met when people would ask about the drawings.