The Sense of Being Stared At
But by the time I flew out to Scottsdale and drove to Arcosanti, my elation had turned to fear. As I was ushered in to meet the great artist, I was almost shaking. Paolo Soleri introduced himself and led me into his sun-filled loft, a combination studio and living quarters. He was short with a smooth pink face, aquiline nose, and thin lips. Though bald on top, white hair covered his temples like Picasso, only Soleri was thinner with a smaller face and less intense eyes.
A light breeze blew through enormous round windows, which looked out onto the Arizona desert. His desk was cluttered with piles of papers. Nearby was a mattress on the floor covered with a flowered sheet. Mozart played low in the background. "So, shall we start?" he said. This was a man who wasted no time. "You can change here or in the bathroom," he pointed to a door.
Should I pull off my clothes in front of him or change in private? Change into what? My birthday suit? I felt ridiculous. What was I doing? I looked around the room. If I could at least cover myself with a few fig leaves, it might be doable. I shifted from foot to foot, thinking about leaving right now and going back to the airport. But there was no turning back. I'd dared myself to do this and I was going to go through with it, no matter what.
I went into the bathroom, slipped out of my clothes, and tried to walk casually toward the bed. I sat down on the mattress, squeezing my legs together tightly, and folding my arms over my chest. Could he tell how nervous I was? Soleri pulled up a chair just a few feet away, balanced a sketch pad on his legs, picked up a charcoal stick, and studied me before asking, "How do you want to be?"
Clothed, I wanted to say. I answered. "How should I be?"
"However you want."
I lay down and nestled into a position in which my arms shielded my breasts. He looked at me—not lasciviously, just thoughtfully. I was praying he wouldn't ask me to move my arms. He said, "Why don't you turn over?"
"You mean, turn away from you?"
What? Was I so hideous that he couldn't bear to sketch me from the front? I turned and faced the wall feeling my face burning, glad he couldn't see it.
His charcoal scratched at the paper. What part of me was he doing now? I was too nervous to remain silent, so I asked, "How often do you sketch models?"
"About twice a month."
"And how come you only like your models 21?"
"I really can't hear," he said.
"Selective hearing," I thought. I reminded myself what a girlfriend had said to me: A perfect body doesn't necessarily make for an interesting drawing. I was about to tell him that when I suddenly remembered that stuck to my left buttock was a thumbnail-size estrogen patch. I'd forgotten to remove it. Would he know what it was? Would he think it was a birth control patch?
I tried not to think about it. The sun was warm on my body and I lay staring at the wall, thinking of making love with my boyfriend, Michael. About 20 minutes went by.
"Okay," Paolo said, "finished."
I turned. He was holding the sketch. "Do you like it?" he asked.
Thank God there was no estrogen patch in the drawing. My butt looked on the soft side, but I guess I've never seen my naked body lying down. "It's nice," I said. What was I supposed to say? Make my butt tighter?
"Now, we will do another one," he said. "Face me." I lay back down on the bed and crossed my arms over my breasts protectively. "Can you put one arm behind your head?" he asked.
I did, unhappily. One breast was now exposed.
"And put one arm behind your back?"