‘There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.’
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I like that I can look at you this way, with distance and clarity, and that I can just look. Oh, I want to touch, to reach out and touch your face or stroke my hand across your skin, but I can’t and that’s strangely liberating. It means that I am just looking; I’m not feeling or acting. I am looking at you, and you are beautiful.
The art teacher has you sat in a pool of light. Your pose looks relaxed and easy, hands resting in your lap as you kneel before us, but I can see the tension starting to build in your muscles as you hold the pose. It makes you seem vulnerable despite your position of strength. You ooze confidence and security, but I can see through that like never before. The strain of your posture, the agony of immobility; it is hidden beneath the surface but not hidden from me.
But I love how the light has softened your skin. Harsh shadows contrast against the glaring brightness and it makes your skin glow. The hairs on your body are also caught in the light. The fine hairs on your arms seem to crackle like fire, and I cannot stop looking at the coarser ones on your chest. As you breathe, they move in and out of the light, creating delicate and intricate shadow patterns that play across your skin.
My God, just look at you. With each new pose I see something new that I didn’t know I loved. The exact curve of your calf, the line that runs from your outstretched arm to your torso, your fucking toes! I am even entranced by your toes; strong and dominant, stabilising your stance and rooting you in the ground. Each part of you that I have kissed and loved and dreamed about looks different under this new objectifying gaze. Details that get lost in my need to touch you, fine features that I never noticed in my hunger for you become magnified and I am overwhelmed in your beauty.
It means that my charcoal scratches almost impotently across the page; my new appreciation for your body cannot be translated to paper simply because I lack the skills to achieve it. I stare at you, holding onto the lines that your pose has created – long strokes from your abdomen down your thigh, muscular folds across your chest and into your arm – and I try to recreate them, but I know that my version does not do you justice and I soon give up. I’d prefer to just look at you instead.
Because no one else here can see you like I can. The room may be filled with people, all staring intently and focusing on the fine details of you, but they don’t know you like I do; I can see you like no other. I know the strength in your muscles and I can see it in their definition. I know the fluidity of your movements and even when I look at you holding yourself so perfectly still, I can see your potential and it fascinates me.
I find myself glancing over at the other artists’ work. How have they seen you, these people who don’t know you at all? Have they seen your power? Have they seen your beauty? Do they actually see you more clearly than I do because they aren’t blinded by lust and love and an all consuming need for you that builds within me the more I watch you? Or can their sketches capture you like I wish mine could? Can they see you like I can, joining us in this artificial intimacy, this immediate relationship?
Throughout it all, you don’t look at me; your eye line is not directed at me, which I’m certain is no accident. Can you feel me watching you? Do you mind? You don’t respond to my presence, you don’t give me away. Is it easy to block me out? Am I distracting you? Are you ignoring me, or have you just forgotten me in the focussed blur of the pose? Either way, I like it. I like that you may not know how I’m looking at you. I like that I can gaze at you with hunger and not be noticed. I like that I can learn each and every mark and curve of your body, and finally give them the attention that they deserve.
Damn, I love to look at you…