But I ruined the mood, stupidly, clumsily—by asking if he would sit for me.
“I want to paint you,” I said.
“Again? You already did.”
“That was four years ago. I want to paint you again.”
“Uh-huh.” He didn’t look enthusiastic. “What kind of thing do you have in mind?”
I hesitated—and then said it was for the Jesus picture. Gabriel sat up and gave a kind of strangled laugh.
“Oh, come on, Alicia.”
“I don’t know about that, love. I don’t think so.”
“Why do you think? Painting me on the cross? What are people going to say?”
“Since when do you care what people say?”
“I don’t, not about most things, but—I mean, they might think that’s how you see me.”
I laughed. “I don’t think you’re the son of God, if that’s what you mean. It’s just an image—something that happened organically while I was painting. I haven’t consciously thought about it.”
“Well, maybe you should think about it.”
“Why? It’s not a comment on you, or our marriage.” “Then what is it?”
“How should I know?”
Gabriel laughed at this and rolled his eyes. “All right. Fuck it. If you want. We can try. I suppose you know what you’re doing.”
That doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement. But I know Gabriel believes in me and my talent—I’d never be a painter if it weren’t for him. If he hadn’t needled and encouraged and bullied me, I’d never have kept going during those first few dead years after college, when I was painting walls with Jean
Felix. Before I met Gabriel, I lost my way, somehow—I lost myself. I don’t miss those druggy partiers who passed for friends during my twenties. I only ever saw them at night— they vanished at dawn, like vampires fleeing the light. When I met Gabriel, they faded away into nothing, and I didn’t even notice. I didn’t need them anymore; I didn’t need anyone now I had him. He saved me—like Jesus. Maybe that’s what the
painting is about. Gabriel is my whole world—and has been since the day we met. I’ll love him no matter what he does, or what happens—no matter how much he upsets me—no matter how untidy or messy he is—how thoughtless, how selfish. I’ll take him just as he is.
Until death do us part.
Today Gabriel came and sat for me in the studio.
“I’m not doing this for days again,” he said. “How long are we talking about?”
“It’s going take more than one session to get it right.”
“Is this just a ploy to spend more time together? If so, how about we skip the preamble and go to bed?”
I laughed. “Maybe afterwards. If you’re good and don’t fidget too much.”
I positioned him standing in front of the fan. His hair blew in the breeze.
“How should I look?” He struck a pose.
“Not like that. Just be yourself.”
“Don’t you want me to adopt an anguished expression?”