Vol. 2, Issue #2 Feb. 16th - March 1st, 2007

I, Object (part 2 of 3)
By: Gregory Stapp
Illustrated By: K. C. Green

I arrived at O’Hare. Twiggy herself was there to pick me up. A small group of reporters was following her so she ran up to me and embraced me and gave me a long, passionate, mock-kiss. I mean, she wasn’t doing it because she liked me or anything. “We’ve been together for some time now,” she said to the reporters. I took the hint and held her hand all the way to the limo as we both made up answers to the questions they followed us around with.

When we finally sat back on opposite sides of the limo, she thanked me for playing along. “Since I announced the new project, they haven’t left me alone.”

“The pleasure was mine,” I said, taking a drink from the mini-bar. “What did you tell them?”

“Nothing specific. Just some of the same lines about the art of the moment and all that.”

“Yep. That’s more than I know about it.”

“Isn’t that interesting?” she asked, moving over to sit beside me. “That the media knows more about the art than the medium does?”

“Well, I guess you’re right. It’s as it should be then.” I finished my drink.

Taking my hand without another word, she pointed out some of the sights of Chicago as we drove to her studio. We rode the rest of the way in silence, and she never let go of my hand.

We arrived at a warehouse that she said was her studio. Looking at it from inside the limo it looked so plain and ordinary compared to what I imagined an artist might live in, that I had to say something about it to her. “I like what you’ve done with the place. It looks so artsy now.”

“Oh, the outside, like you and me, is just a mask for the inside. The inside’s all that counts.” She led me out of the limo and into the warehouse in a rush to make sure no one saw us. The inside of the warehouse was her personal studio, and it was hung from one end to the other with some very odd and demented sculptures. I stopped near the front door, my eyes almost hurting from how weird everything I was looking at was. Right in front of me was this sculpture of this corpse hanging around the neck from the rafters. Its tongue lolled out of its mouth and its eyes were bulging. It wore a dark brown suit that was very clean, and its right hand was locked in a death grip around its limp penis.

“Are you going to kill me?”

She laughed, and I gave a nervous chuckle. A whole lot of other sculptures and paintings were set up around the main floor of the warehouse, and I could see some rooms lit near the back wall.

“Is there a Mapplethorpe influence here or am I missing the point?”

Looking back at me over her shoulder, she stopped in the middle of the vast warehouse floor. “What do you know about Mapplethorpe?”

“I only know what I’ve seen in the papers and magazines.” Stuffing my hands in my pockets, I shrugged.

“I’m surprised you’ve heard of him.” Turning away again, she led me to the opposite side of the warehouse.

“Yeah. I’m just a dumb old redneck. What the hell do we know about art?” I said, following her.
She unlocked one of the many doors at that end of the warehouse and handed me the key. “This is where you’ll be staying. I’m sorry I can’t do better. Just let me know if I can do anything to make you more comfortable.”

In brushing past her, there was something about the way she smelled that got my attention immediately. I hadn’t noticed it at the airport or in the limo, but I was overwhelmed and left short-breathed by it. She smelled almost like warm bread just out of the oven and you just want to stand over that bread and breathe as deep as you can. Distracted, I glanced around the room and told her it would be fine.

“I’ll leave you to it then. You can use that phone to call me, or you can come by and see me upstairs if you need anything. Feel free to look around the gallery more if you like.” She looked at me, her face all business. “What is it? You’re blushing.”

Saying this only made me blush more, of course. “It’s nothing,” I said, feeling the heat throbbing in my ears. “You know, you were beginning to sound like a stewardess or something just then.”

She threw up her arms and started walking out of the room. “He thinks I’m somehow Mapplethorpe and a stewardess!”

Looking around again, I wondered what I would be doing with my off time. The room was empty except for the few odds and ends I had shipped ahead of time. My clothes had been shipped ahead of time, so there was nothing to unpack. There was no TV, no radio, nothing to read. I was entirely bored in the first minutes of being there. It was like a small hotel room, with the bed right there in the middle of the room, and only a bathroom off to the side for a separate room. A kitchenette was on the south wall, and a little dining table had been set up between it and the bed, both as a place to sit and write, and a place to eat your meals. I thought about writing a note home, but I couldn’t find any pen or paper. I lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling until I fell asleep.

The next day, Twiggy caught up to me as I took my time strolling through her gallery. I was standing before a piece called, “Subjugated Man”, a clay sculpture of a superhero whose bulging muscles and sinister good looks put most men to shame. A miniature fan at his base, made his cape flutter gently.

“I wondered what you’d think of that one.”

I didn’t turn to look at her. “I’m not sure I get it. What’s subjugated about him?”

“Hmmm. Let me see. What is subjugated about him?”

We both stared into the face of the seven foot statue. He was cut to perfection, or at least the modern standard of it. “Hell, I don’t know,” I said shrugging.

“You’ll have to think on that one for a while.” She grabbed my hand then and smiled at me as I looked at her. I could smell the faint residuals of whatever scent she’d been wearing the day before, and it overwhelmed me again, even in its faintness. “Why are you blushing?”

Looking away I said, “I’m afraid I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into.”

Giving me a second to recover, she thought for a moment. “It’s all right. Look, we’re having that meeting at twelve thirty to start going over all of the finer details of the project. I won’t leave you in the dark much longer.” She pulled me away from her sculpture and led me toward my apartment. “Good-bye Subjugated Man,” I said, waving to the statue.

“Why don’t you just lay back and relax in your apartment until the meeting, okay?”

So, I lay bored and staring at the ceiling and thinking about the Subjugated Man until she called me up to our meeting. Her agent, her publicist, Twiggy and I all sat around Twiggy’s dining room table to hash out the final details of the project. Of course, I had been kept totally in the dark about what the project was about up to this point, and was finally about to fully understand exactly what I had gotten myself into. And I have to say that I was pretty fuckin’ pissed when I found out.

The meeting went on for several hours and ended when Twiggy insisted that we all drink a toast before the meeting was officially done. “Here’s to my new project and everyone involved,” she said, raising her glass. We all raised our glasses and she said, “I object!” to finish it, and we all said “I object!” in return and touched glasses.

Hurrying back to my apartment, I privately freaked out about the situation. I really didn’t think I would be able to go through with it, contract or no contract. I mean, I know a thing or two about art, and I was certain that this project didn’t constitute it.

With a new contract in hand, Twiggy came to my room a few hours later. I was lying on my bed staring at the ceiling. When I saw the contract in her hand, I said, “I’m not signing that. There’s no amount of money that could get me to sign that.”

“Don’t you want to be rich? To never have to work anymore?”

“I like working. It keeps me young.” Looking over at her, I could see that she was taking this personally like I was rejecting her or something instead of the idea. “Look, it’s not you. I think you’re wonderful, but you have to understand where I’m coming from…”

“I do understand. But this is the moment we can make an impact on the world – if you participate in my little project.” She came over and knelt beside the bed. I didn’t look at her. I couldn’t look at her. What she wanted me to do was beyond my capabilities to deal with.

“Hey,” she said, trying to take my hand before I jerked it away from her. “Hey, this is a very big deal, and your involvement is crucial to me.” Reaching out and putting her hand on my stomach she added, “We could change the world you and I.” She reached again for my hand, leaning in very close to me, and this time I let her take it.

Her hand comforted me a lot in that simple act. I began to weaken. “Well,” I said. “I know I understand what all this means to you, but I’m not canvas and I’m not clay. It has meaning for me too, just not the same or as great as it does for you.” She leaned over me then and kissed me. A long passionate and needful kiss that pulled me into her. And I almost believed that it was because she liked me or something. What can I say? A kiss like that, from a woman that beautiful? I was sold. I’d have jumped off the diving board at the end of the earth for her at that point. “I’ll do it,” I said when she pulled away. “But not because of that kiss.”

She smiled and squeezed my hand. “We start first thing in the morning.” Standing up, she added, “I’ll come for you when I’m ready.”

“That’ll be fine.”

She left, and left the contract lying on the bed for me to sign. It was standard fare for her and her lawyers, all about how I wasn’t going to sue, and would not be able to claim any damages, and how I wasn’t going to see or talk to anyone about the project until its conclusion. The rest of my night was spent curled up on my bed, getting to a point where I decided to just go with it, let the adventure happen. It would change my life if I would let it, and I had to admit, I had been looking for a change like that for most of my life. Then again, this wasn’t exactly the kind of change I had been looking for. It was this sort of indecision that kept me up most of the night, and many other nights, but Twiggy always made me feel better about it. She had written into the contract these rules of conduct. There was a stipulation in that clause of the contract that said I also had to memorize these rules. She called them “The Three Rules of Art”. Here they are, in case you’re wondering: 1. An artist may not injure her art or, through inaction, allow her art to come to harm, 2. The art must obey instructions given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law, 3. The artist must maintain the existence of the art as long as such existence does not conflict with the First or Second Law. The first time I read them, they didn’t make any sense to me either. I mean, what was all that about not hurting the art? It was almost like she was afraid for my life or something.

On the first day, she called me out to the main gallery, where she and a few people had gathered to start building the project. She had me strip down right there in front of her and the entire crew, an all-woman crew of intimidating, strong and strong-willed women who were by mandate forbidden to interact with me on a personal level. They could measure me or make me stand in certain places to see how well something was going to work or not, but they couldn’t really talk to me or be friendly toward me or anything, only what was necessary to get the project going. They measured every single inch of my body, and had me lay in a prone position for a few minutes every day, and things like that, building the project specifically around my size and shape. Every day was the same and it was humiliating for me. I spent those first few days with my ears and neck a fiery, blotchy red from my exposure to these women and the way that they handled me. Twiggy was often involved with these aspects too, when she wasn’t busy consulting the builders in the construction of the platforms and walls, or the engineers in the construction and design of the toilet. But, it’s amazing how fast you can get used to things. Even though I was the only one running around naked like that, I pretty soon got used to being naked all the time, and got to where I would spend the better part of my free time naked too, since I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything.

That first week, Twiggy was too involved in the construction of the project to do more than acknowledge my presence. I wanted to sit down and talk with her some more, but she otherwise only stopped by my apartment briefly to say, “Good Work” and “See you in the morning.” I basically became the elephant in the room – a burly, paunchy, redneck standing naked among a group of highly intelligent female construction workers circling with all their tools of industry swinging from their belts. A picture of that might have made Twiggy some money too.

After the second week, the project construction was nearly complete. I asked Twiggy to stay for a bit several evenings that week, so that I could talk to her about some ideas I had. But each time she refused, claiming that she didn’t want to break the “first law” of the artist, the one about not allowing the art to come to harm.

“Why don’t you stay for a bit and have some coffee with me,” I’d say.

Looking down, almost bashful, she’d say, “Really, I can’t. It wouldn’t be fair to you.” And she’d look at me real quick then look away. “I’m afraid I’ll end up hurting you and breaking my own rules.”

“I don’t think you have to worry about me. I can take care of myself. Besides, how could you end up hurting me? I just want someone to talk to for a little while.”

Without answering, each time, she would just turn and leave the room. I had to shrug it all off and assume she knew what she was talking about, although I couldn’t imagine how she thought she was going to hurt me. Really, I was getting bored, and only wanted someone to talk with instead of being ignored all the time.

I went right on being ignored, though. The next Wednesday was slated for the opening of the exhibit, and I don’t think I had spoken to a single person for seven days straight. I was excited but anxious about the opening and I just wanted someone to talk to about that. I had gotten myself worked up over the course of those seven days, so by the morning of the opening I was pacing my apartment and twitching and talking to myself. I was like a caged up animal without enough room to run. What kept going through my mind was the fact that my life was about to change completely and forever. This was a point-of-no-return kind of thing. I’d probably never feel comfortable showing my face in public again. I’d be rich but I wouldn’t be able to do anything with it. Still pacing and twitching, I picked up the phone and called Twiggy. I told her I didn’t think I’d be able to go through with it.

“I’ll be right down,” she said. And, sure enough, she came through my door about a minute later, dressed to the nines and looking as beautiful as I’d ever seen her.

“Jesus, you look amazing,” I said, gawking at her. She had on a flower-girl dress and her wispy white-blond hair was pulled back into a tight pony tail.

“Thank you,” she said, staring at me naked and twitching. “The dogs all appreciate it when you give them a treat. It’s a cheap trick, but something I wanted to try out on this day, if no other.”

“It should work.”

“Then I should take it off.”

“That would work better,” I grinned.

“Shut up,” she shot back, in no mood for jokes. “I want them paying attention to you, to my work, not my tits and hair.” She took a step closer to me, and the twitching overwhelmed me. I rubbed my eye and sat down on the side of the bed. “Now look,” she said. “What do you mean about not being able to go through with this? What do you mean literally? That you’re actually considering backing out on me and not going out there in a few minutes? Or do you think it’s only that you’re nervous?”

Man, she was pretty stressed out about the whole thing. I was too, of course, but I thought I had better reason to be, considering where I was going to be, and where she was going to be. “Of course I’m nervous. I think we can see that we both are. But, no, I’m not backing out on you. I couldn’t afford to even if I wanted to at this point.”

“Yes. And you stand to become quite rich if you go through with this.”

Staring at her intense eyes as she stood over me now, pointing her words down at me, I said, “Don’t remind me,” and some other stuff about how wrong it seemed for me to be well-paid but at the same time nobody would have done it for free, but all I was really thinking about was how beautiful she was and just how attracted I had become to her strength and her body. “I think people will use that against me, or you, if they ever find out how much I’m being paid to do this.”

“That’s the point,” she said, reaching out suddenly, taking my hand and pulling me up to her. “Now let’s get you into that wet suit.”

She helped me get dressed and we walked out together. A small group of nicely dressed people were in the main gallery, and it took me a minute to realize that they were all of the crew people from the past few weeks transformed from sweating, cursing workers to uptown ladies made up for a gala. A few of them were helping make final preparations, helping the caterers set the food out, or cordoning off the line for people to stand in.

They had constructed an elaborate bathroom stall for me to be displayed in, and this was cordoned off too – a velvet red square around the whole thing, to keep people more than an arm’s length away, like it was hanging in the Louvre or something. It had four walls so it could be free-standing and to provide privacy for people once they came in to see me, and it stood on a platform that was about twelve inches thick. Inside and out, the stall was covered with pictures of interesting graffiti Twiggy and her crew had found in public and private bathrooms across the city. She decided not to show any of the phone numbers or generic sex talk that she had found, but went instead with some of the more beautiful drawing and lettering she had found among those numerous offers for a good time. I’d told her I thought the phone numbers and stuff would be more authentic, but she wasn’t really taking my advice on any of this stuff. I have to admit, when we walked toward the stall, the haphazard pasting of the pictures had an interesting effect, making the stall look like some of those Victorian crafts you see, where they have all those pictures of dolls and lace and whatever all pasted together.

I was to get into the stall from the back, through a trap door in the floor of the platform. This allowed me to slither up into the toilet, resting my head, face up, at the bottom of the basin. I wanted to get a look at the whole thing before I got in, but Twiggy grabbed my hand as I started around. She took both of my hands now and held them up to her chin. “I’m sorry now. Sorry that I ever brought you into my demented thinking. Christ, I feel terrible for what you’re about to go through.” She kissed both my hands and stared into my eyes for a moment before she turned and walked away. I opened the trap door and crawled in.

It had been impossible to hear anything when my head was in place because of the wet suit and the water surrounding my head. This hadn’t been considered until I tried it out for the first time and realized that I was closed off. It took Twiggy several minutes to decide if she’d rather that I not hear or get an earpiece as I suggested. She finally went with the earpiece. So, even though I looked like I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I could, though I was forbidden to make any response at all to anyone that came in, no matter what they said.

With my earpiece in place, I lay perfectly still, breathing deeply and trying not to concentrate on the line of water that surrounded my face and tickled and itched me just a little bit. You try to ignore something like that, a little itch, and pretty soon you’re obsessed with it. You have to not only not think about it, you have to not think about not thinking about it. So, I did a lot of deep breathing those first few days, trying not to think about that line of water at all. I could barely see any of the graffiti on the walls around me because I was too deep into the basin and I couldn’t really turn my head. I had nothing else to concentrate on except my breathing, and this breathing became an integral part of my life. It saved me from the ravages of my own thoughts.

Twiggy had planned to say a few words and such before she started letting people in. I had that time every morning to get myself calmed and steadied, ready for the onslaught of people who would soon be coming through that door.

I, Object (part 1 of 3)
I, Object (part 3 of 3)

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