By Jessica Gregg
He sent me a picture of his knee. His knee of all things. Wide and freckled. The blond hairs a near-neon white because he was so tan. But really a knee of no great variety.
ha ha i knee-d to know y u sent that, I wrote him.
i knee-d to know if u like it, he wrote back.
A knuckle with its uneven wrinkles. It looked like a ball of yarn. A flattened face of all lines. A knuckle on a straightened finger, all the air let out and no fight to it at all.
A flesh colored, flattened balloon.
Next was the inside of his wrist, the y fork of his blue veins showing in the strip of skin usually covered by a watch. His right arm.
Then toes. Long and silly looking. The big toe was boxy, the others flat tops as though they were always pressing against a shoe.
Picture Boy chronically wore shoes that were too small.
Art class. Picasso’s Nude in Black Armchair.
Mrs. Fontaine projected the image on the classroom wall for all of us to see. Picasso’s mistress.
Head back. Heart-shaped hips.
One melon breast above a bare pubic bone.
The parts of her are all rearranged.
This was the beauty of his work, of course. Parts of a whole were rearranged to represent something greater than what could be shown in a mere photograph. Or some other facsimile of real life.
It made complete sense to me. Sometimes the smallest bit of us meant something more than it seems. The two moles on my collarbone.
OK, maybe not the two moles on my collarbone.
But what about the uneven bridge of my nose that made my glasses sit crooked. Did that mean my word view was always tilted? Perhaps Picasso would paint my nose as a meandering path from head to heart to show how easily a crooked step – a tilted look – can ever so easily change a person’s outlook.
“Has anybody ever texted you a picture of his earlobe, Libby?” I asked her.
“Earlobe? I don’t think so.” Libby looked up from her notebook. “No. I would remember that.”
who r u? I texted him.
Matisse’s Blue Nudes – those paper cutouts, thick-thighed, long-armed cutouts. They were so unrealistic, those crazy paper dolls.
All those long limbs folded up on each other like some sort of weird torso origami – a mumble jumble of legs and joints and blue papered breasts and toes.
But I loved them.
If all those long limbs were stretched out, the nude would be more like Giraffe Woman. But that was the point, wasn’t it. Nobody’s body really looked like that. If I were a blue silhouette, my legs would need to be squished in from the top of the page to the bottom.
My hair would be all over, spilling everywhere.
My hands and elbows ginormous.
Why was everything that Mrs. Fontaine showed us that semester a nude? Was I the only one who noticed that?
There were other things I began to notice. The shapes of people’s thumbs. The curve or plump of their calves.
Hair. Where it was and where it wasn’t.
Mrs. Fontaine, for example, was petite and slim. Her small breasts hung low. She was wide hipped and because of that, she had a wide gait. She might have been an athlete when she was our age.
Mr. Zapata was slim in the shoulders and long legged. He often didn’t know what to do with his arms and he had no butt.
My friend Nola, who spent so much time planning and plotting what to put on actually had a good body beneath those clothes. But she was still reluctant to try a bikini.
Libby was pear shaped. A muse for Matisse.
The guy who worked at the Westside Sip & Bite had hairy knuckles and a huge Adam’s apple. What would Picasso do with him? He was like a year older than me, tops. But he also looked like one of those guys who would look good when he was in college.
You know, he wasn’t quite cool now.
But it was coming.
My own was not the perfect form. My waist was too high. My hips not very womanly. The aforementioned crooked nose.
I was navel gazing. Literally and figuratively.
When he sent me a picture of himself – all of himself – I didn’t blink. I didn’t really stare either. I just put my phone away so I could think about this and what it might possibly mean.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Libby told me.
“No. It’s a picture. And he wanted you to have it.”
It meant nothing.
If it meant nothing, then why did he do it? If it meant nothing, then why didn’t he send it to everybody? Why didn’t we all send pictures of ourselves to everybody? It meant something.
OK, maybe now I was just …stargazing … hopefully hoping for something of meaning. But it meant something. Yeah, it did.
I knew what I would do.
Of course I did this.
My body was transmitted from my own bedroom Wednesday at 10:57 PM Eastern Standard Time.
640 by 640 pixels.
This was immortality.
This was the fame that Picasso’s mistress got.
Did the wires crackle with my breath and charge with my pulse?
I was Matisse’s nude.
I sang the body electric.
But oh, god. I wanted it back.
Jessica Gregg is a teacher and writer who lives in Baltimore. Her short story, “O, Tiepolo,” won first prize for young adult writing last year in the Writer’s Digest popular fiction contest, and she regularly blogs at http://www.charmcitywriter.wordpress.com/. You can follow her on Twitter @JessicaJGregg.