Finding the first chapter

I am writing a memoir, Stuffy’s Story – 3 Mums 6 years. I could write it in chronological order, but fear this may be too predictable. Instead I have used memories from the adult Steve that will act like an introduction to the early years. Here’s my first chapter, so you can see what I mean.

Age – 46 years.

Maha reclines naked on the teak day bed, surrounded by cushions, his gazed fixed on me, inviting. I sit five meters away at my easel, brush in my right hand, palette in the left and a blank canvas awaiting attention. Tubes of acrylic paints litter the floor at my feet. They don’t fill my nostrils with the rush of turpentine that my oils offer, but I prefer them for starting a painting, blocking in outlines, transporting that sexy male body onto the canvas. Maha is patient, tantalising, silent. I stare, taking in every detail, gauging proportions, preparing the first stroke, knowing others will follow quickly.

His head is raised resting in the palm of his right hand. His facial features typify the Balinese male: straight, thick short-cropped black hair; large dark brown eyes, with an extra line on each eyelid; full sensuous bee-stung lips naturally coloured a rosy dark chocolate. His whole face smiles with closed  lips . He knows I don’t paint teeth, they never look quite right.  My eyes progress along his resting body, past the neck, over the solid toned chest to his snake-like hips. They are swivelled to give me a complete view of his short pubic hair regrowth, obviously shaved a couple of weeks ago and his flacid  uncut penis resting on his right outstretched leg and framed by his left, with the bent knee pointing skywards. The pose is sensual, directing the viewer along his body, either upward or downwards to his genitals, enticing imagination and fantasy.   At 20 years of age, Maha represent youth, beauty, vitality and sensuality. His honey bronze skin is flawless and screams exotic. I am ready.

“Hold the pose. Don’t move.” I instruct and begin painting. Brush to palette to canvas, the lines flow easily. My eyes dance between Maha and the canvas; painting, defining, correcting.

“Can you lend…” Maha says.

“Stop talking, hold the pose. You move when you speak.”

My lines flow quickly and the dance continues. Outlines blocked in, I start to define features.

“My girlfriend’s preg…”

“Shh. Hold the pose, don’t speak. We can talk later. Just fifteen minutes more.” I say.

Yellow ochre, raw sienna, chocolate brown, ivory black and arctic white; compete to be used, each time by a new brush, keeping the pigments clean, unmuddied. I stand, move backwards and again my eyes dart from model to canvas, satisfied. “Nearly finished,” I say, and sit. Most brushes are placed in the pot of water, but I keep the white one to blend yellow, a touch of brown with the white already in the hairs of the brush and start to block in skin tones.

“You can relax now. Come and have a look, tell me what you think.”

Maha stands, and stretches. Completely comfortable in his nakedness, he doesn’t wrapped himself in a sarong, like some of my other models, but just wanders over to stand behind me.

“What do you think?” I ask, still adding shades to his flesh.

“Good, looks like me, but my kontol is bigger than that.”

“I think the proportions right. That’s the size of your penis,” I say as he moves to my side.

I turn and face his erect penis, but redirect my gaze to his laughing, inviting eyes.

“Maybe your right,” I say, flicking his erection with my paint brush.

“Now you have to clean that paint off,” he teases, walking towards my bathroom. “Coming?”

I don’t have to be asked twice.

Returning to my studio, I grab a bottle of Bintang and two glasses from the fridge. We sit on low stools beside my painting. “I forgot the opener,” I state standing. Maha lifts the beer bottle and rips off the top with his teeth before I can move.

“Stop,” I shout, but too late as I hear the cap tinging on the tiles. “Your teeth are perfect. Don’t do that again. You’ll wreck your looks.” Maha flashes his flawless smile, unconcerned.

Sipping our beers, I ask, “What did you want to talk about?”

“I need to borrow $100. My girlfriend’s pregnant and we need it for an abortion.”

“Oh,” is all I can say. I sip more beer, wanting time to think. “Why don’t you get married?”

“She’s too young, only sixteen. We’re not ready.”

“Are you in love?” I ask.

“Yes. I love her and I know Wayan loves me. We are both from Bondalam. There are no jobs there and so few on the North side of Bali.  We want to stay working here. One day we’ll get married, but not yet.”

The acrid smell of fish-paste frying invades my studio, distracts and slaps me.  The warung next door is making sambal. I await the rub and the kiss that will follow as they add diced garlic, onions and chilli to the cooking pot. The breeze is strong this evening and carries the heat of the chillies to tease our eyes and make them water. We look like a couple who are watching a soppy romance film. Maha and Wayan’s story is a romance, but not soppy, it is deadly serious.

I remain silent, contemplative, sipping my beer. Maha stares at me, awaiting my answer.

“Does she want an abortion or is it your idea?”

“Wayan wants it. It’s her idea, not mine. I am ready to marry her, but she is not…” He sniffs. I wonder if it is the spicy sambal or real tears.

“Maha, I don’t believe in abortion. I can’t lend you money for that. Sorry.”

This beautiful man, so full of pose, sags on his stool, defeated.

“Maybe I have another solution. This painting’s going well.” Our eyes stare at the incomplete reclining nude. Maha is now sitting up straighter. “I’d like to paint every night this week. I pay you $20 per modelling session, so if you can model for me for the next four nights, that’s $100 for the five sessions. Can you come at eight each night?”

“Of course.” He has found his smile again and beams appreciation.

“I’ll pay you the $100 on Friday night after the fifth session. You can use your money any way you like. See you tomorrow.” My gaze follows Maha to the door and beyond to his motorbike. Seconds later Maha’s motorbike accelerates down my driveway, off to meet his girlfriend. I am left with my thoughts; remembering Sanda Kowald, and am grateful that she didn’t make the same decision as Maha and Wayan.

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