Donna arrived early at the Doctor’s office with Betty, her friend, nervous about whether she would find the building, having never been in that part of town before. It made her nervous to go there because the area had the reputation of being a hot bed of gang activity. Every time she watched the news there was a report of a shooting or a drug bust or something like that in among the apartments. liquor stores and convenience stores that dotted the area.
She almost backed out of going to the appointment but her friend really needed a ride and she had already backed out of helping her out earlier in the month. She didn’t really like Betty very much because she was so needy. It was always about her and her needs, never about anyone else. It irked her because she herself was needy and wouldn’t have minded a little attention being paid to her once in a while. Her husband gave her no attention unless it was as a prelude to sex. Even that attention dissolved as soon as her husband ejaculated, which usually took about 30 seconds (yes, she counted). Her kids gave her no attention, but that didn’t really bother her. She understood they were just being self-consumed teenagers. Her boss gave her no attention, which she liked for the most part. He left her alone to do her job and she did it well. She did wish for some recognition every now and then but she could live without it.
She was waiting for Betty to be done when she noticed a man sitting across the aisle from her. He was older, maybe just a tad overweight, with a nice hat. He had a small book he was writing in. She wondered what he was writing about. She was reading an essay on immigration from The Atlantic Monthly on her phone and didn’t pay much attention to him. After she finished she looked up and saw him looking at her. He wasn’t looking directly at her, but at her shoes. She looked away but looked back quickly to see him looking down at his journal. He looked back up at her again, but once again, he wasn’t looking at her face, but lower. This time he seemed to be looking at her legs. She then realized he was not writing in a journal, he was drawing in a sketchbook. And he was drawing her.
This made her self-conscious. She started wondering how she looked. Was her hair in place? Was she color coordinated? Then she realized her shirt was open, showing her tank top underneath. She hoped it wasn’t too low. She was always trying to find that proper line between showing off her girls just a bit (since she did like how they looked and was proud that while her friends had to have help from their favorite plastic surgeon to get theirs to look that good, hers were God given) and not wanting to look like a hootchie mama letting them all hang out.
As she looked down to check herself out she realized crumbs from the granola bar she was snacking on at landed on her chest. Should she wipe them off? They would go down into her bra if she did that, but at least she could do it quickly and quietly. Or should she pick them off like she usually would do if she were alone, not being watched? They wouldn’t get stuck in her bra that way, but she would be doing something much more conspicuous. She chose to quickly wipe them down into her bra. The man was looking down when she did it so she didn’t think he noticed.
Knowing someone was drawing her also made her happy. She liked the attention, liked being looked at. It reminded her of the early days of her marriage when she would catch her husband looking at her when they went out somewhere. He always liked her face and figure, complimenting both frequently, and expressing physically that it was sometimes more than just admiration of her beauty. He had been quite the driven lover back in the early days. Those days weren’t nearly as frequent anymore, and she had accepted that as part of being in a longer marriage and in getting older.
But that didn’t mean she liked it. She felt a little thrill whenever she realized someone was admiring her, even if it wasn’t that frequent. There was a rush she felt when it happened and she was feeling that now. She wondered if her neck and chest were turning red, which it did when she felt that way. She hoped not, but then again she sort of liked that she had a signal from her body about what was happening inside show on the outside.
Having this feeling happen so randomly brought up all sort of emotions about her marriage, about her self-worth, about her compromises with family and friends (Betty being a perfect example). A switch flipped in her head and she decided she had had enough. It was a most unexpected epiphany out of the blue.
She was looking down at her phone when a pair of running shoes appeared on the floor in front of her. She looked up to see the man smiling at her, about to speak. He said, “Hi, sorry to interrupt you. My wife just buzzed me to come into the Doctor’s office so I have to go but I wanted to show you the drawing I have been doing of you before I did.”
Donna looked at the drawing. It was of her with her head down looking at her phone. Her legs were crossed and sure enough, her shirt was open and a bit of cleavage was showing. She was glad it didn’t look too low. She looked up, smiled and said, “I was wondering what you were doing. At first I thought you were writing in a journal then I saw you looking at me and figured out that you were drawing. You caught me pretty good I think, thank you.”
He said, “No, thank you. I loved how still you sat, made it easy to draw you. You didn’t even uncross and recross your legs the other way, which is often what happens. Anyway, I have to go but here is my card. If you want me to send you a photo of the drawing now and when it is finished, just email me so I have your address and I will do it, ok?”
She took the card and said, “Yes, I will be sure to do that. Thank you.”
After she got home she went to her office and wrote out a plan. A year later she was divorced. She moved to the city she had always wanted to live in, San Francisco. She even moved to a somewhat scary part of town so she could get a good deal on a fixer-upper. She was renovating it herself. She went back to school, this time not to be an assistant to someone but to be an actual scientist, which had been her dream. She heard from Betty once in a while but no longer felt responsible for trying to solve her problems.
Four years later she emailed the man who had drawn her, asking if she could see the drawing. He sent her the finished version. She asked if he would accept a commission to do a large painted version of the drawing. He agreed and 6 months later she had it over her mantle in her remodeled home. She also bought the drawing and had it in her bedroom.
When friends came to visit they often remarked about the simple ‘slice of life, small moment in time’ feel the painting had. They liked that about it. She would smile and agree, all the while knowing not all moments in time are equal.
Drawing and story © 2015 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com