Jeanette and Lewis
Jeanette felt a burning sensation course through her that was only partly because of the swig of vodka she knocked back straight from the bottle and the other part because of Lewis’s tongue sliding from her knee up her inner thigh. She felt his saliva drip down her skin, hot and wet, and she shuddered.
Here, she handed him the vodka and he momentarily took his lips off her body and pressed them to the bottle instead. She sometimes wondered if he needed to be drunk to fuck her. Not that they didn’t have sex sober. But when they were drunk they were, of course, less inhibited. No – it was more than that. They were wild, ferocious, raw. She dug her nails into the back of his head. Lewis handed the bottle back up to her and kissed her right between her legs and smiled as he heard her release a gentle moan. She rubbed her fingers through his hair and the other hand pressed into the soft, red sheets. When she finished he crawled back up beside her and rested his head on her lap.
How was it? He asked.
Tell me if there’s something you want me to do next time.
Okay. There’s not, though.
He kissed her collar bone, neck, and then hovered just above her lips. How much left in the bottle?
Jeanette raised the vodka up and swirled it around a little.
Goddamn, you are sexy.
He traced his tongue along her open mouth and he took the bottle with his other hand. Their breaths were infused with vodka but neither could taste it as they licked each other’s tongues, bit each other’s lips, pecked, pressed, lingered.
She sometimes wondered if she could love him. She sometimes thought it was his art that she loved. It was hanging there, on the cracking white plastered walls. They were photo-realist art, the kind of paintings that were supposed to represent an image of an image of life. Jeanette felt like a photo-realist painting. All of Lewis’s works were of people at night clubs. He said it revealed how we’re still all primitive in nature.
Her favourite one was of a teenage boy and girl with piercings and choppy haircuts making out against a wall. They were both sweaty and had their hands all over each other. You could tell there was too much tongue involved in the kiss, there was an eagerness to it, a novelty that wears off before you’ve even noticed it doesn’t feel new anymore. Jeanette liked the painting because it reminded her of herself twenty years ago. It was the way Lewis made her feel now - young, impulsive, like it was all happening for the first time.
He’d wanted to draw her once, but she wouldn’t let him. Lewis wasn’t the first artist Jeanette had been with. In fact, after the last one she swore off dating artists altogether — musicians, writers, poets, painters — they were too contemplative, and if they weren’t it was because they had numbed themselves with whatever drug was popular that month. When she was younger, she dreamed of being someone’s muse. And after the first, second, third time it happened there was nothing she wanted less. It wasn’t flattering to be the perfect lips in the song, the brunette in the painting, the breasts in those two lines of verse. It wasn’t flattering because they were rarely ever real portrayals of her. They were hollow sketches shaded in by too-big egos. And if it wasn’t her it would have been some other woman, lying with them in bed, doing the stroking.
Lewis seemed different. But they all had at one point or another.
He lit a cigarette and leaned back against the headboard. She watched as he inhaled and his eyes shut momentarily. He must have felt her looking at him because he opened them suddenly, and pulled her into his chest with his free hand. She thought of that word again: primitive. Lewis, outside of his art, was the opposite of primitive. He was a composed scholar, a tenured Middle English professor at the University of Toronto. He spent his days in his office studying Chaucer and Langland, trying to convince undergraduates the value of his field. She wondered if his students ever thought of him in the way he was then, drunk, tongue between a woman’s legs, looking at his own paintings on cracking white plastered walls.
She had met him at a dinner party through a mutual friend who also worked at the university. There had been no mention of photo-realist art at that party, no mention of fucking. He spoke intelligently and yet held himself awkwardly as they stood in a group of four by the bookshelf in the living room. He didn’t quite know where to put his hands or who to make eye contact with. There was a slight stutter in his speech, a nervousness, or was it just his way of speaking? There was no stutter when he was there in bed with her, his tongue and hands knew exactly where to go.
Lewis took the vodka back again, one last swig. Jeanette grabbed the bottle back, took her own last swig and let it fall to the floor as Lewis's mouth found hers once again. She imagined someone snapping a photo of them then, in that moment, and later re-creating it with pencils and paintbrushes. She imagined herself and Lewis hanging in an art gallery. They look so free, people would say as they walked past. But what they didn't know was that their freedom remained in the confines of the bed frame and was only permitted by the very same bottle she'd let spill onto the floor just moments before.