This is exactlythe sort of thing I wanted to feature when I started Acetylene Eyes—something to aim a one finger salute in the direction of all the endless rehash of explicit imagery with only two criteria: keep the titillating bits visible in the frame and in focus; something with a modicum of consideration for composition, form and content.
As an image maker invested in questions of public vs. private—particularly as they pertain to the politics of graphic nudity and sexual tableau—this image fascinates me.
During my junior year of college, I was assigned a room in a flat with six other students. I knew not one of them on move-in day. But nine months later, six of us were very close; two in fact, remain, very, very dear friends.
Another dear college friend enjoys describing me as “violently allergic strangers and bullshit;” so it was a bit surprising that I gone on so well with my flat mates.
All I can say by way of explanation is I have never been as comfortable in my own skin as I was sharing space with these people. Virtually everything I know about living in, participating with and fostering a community comes as a result of those nine months—everyone looked out for everyone else in the most simple and touching ways.
Within two weeks, no one locked their doors. Within two months doors were rarely closed and no one really knocked so much as peaked their head inside to ask if it was okay to come in.
One of the many amazing memories I have of this time has the same hypnogogic quality as this image.
It was toward the end of the term. I had come back from my morning class (Russian) to find the flat empty. My intent had been to nap but between the mild hangover from the night before and caffeine that allowed me to drag my ass out of bed in time to make it to class I couldn’t fall asleep.
The thought occurred to me that if I could get myself off, there was a better than average chance I might be able to pass out again. And it was one of those rare times, when as you get started you realize your body is ready and willing but the orgasm you are chasing proves elusive.
My eyes were closed so I didn’t realize Lela in the room until I heard her exclaim: Oh…
I suffered a litany of close calls as a teen but somehow no one had ever caught me in flagrante delicto until that moment. I stopped masturbating but more in the pausing the action instead of the trying to hide what I had been doing. It surprised me that I neither felt horrified or even a little bit ashamed.
I opened my eyes. Lela, all freckles and strawberry blond hair was standing maybe four feet away from me staring at me.
Her right hand flew up to hover an inch or so in front of her eyes; her pale hand seeming paler against her reddening face.
Uh, hey, I need to ask you something. Um…could you, you know, definitely finish taking care of this but maybe put on a towel after and come out to the kitchen for a minute?
Instead of backing away room, she merely turned, dropped her hand from her eyes and pulled the door to but not closed behind as if she was just trying not to disturb someone who was sleeping.
I’d assumed I wouldn’t be able to finish but I quickly found my rhythm again and came like gangbusters in less than five minutes.
As soon as I could I slipped on a t-shirt and pajama bottoms.
Lela was sitting on the stool at the breakfast bar, still a little red faced, reading a photocopied packet.
Before I could say anything she had her arms wrapped around me.
There were no apologies because none were needed. No embarrassment or shame. For the first tim in my life just exuberant acceptance.
I inquired what the hug was for and she responded that’s what I came looking for you for in the first place. That and—sheepishly—to see if you’d let me borrow your car so I drop the donated food at the shelters tonight?