monday song #59: rachel rides the short bus


“don’t move. i’ve almost got your left eye.”

kevin does as he’s told, watching rachel scribble and erase, scribble and erase.

“are you almost done?”

she focuses on the sheet of paper in front of her, “every time you move, you make it take longer.”

he’s been sitting there for over an hour. that’s a long time to do nothing. if he’d been thinking ahead, he would have taken out his cell phone at the start. now it’s too late.

so he’s been occupying his time sneaking peeks at her while she works.

as she sketches, he catalogs an array of expressions: focused, when she puts pencil to paper; inquisitive, when she looks at him, waiting for further inspiration; satisfied, as she starts at it again; frustrated, as she rubs away an errant line; confused, as she stares at the page, trying to figure out what part of his face is out of place.

to think that every expression contains the same building blocks, each with subtle shifts in stance: her eyes narrow and widen, her cheeks rise and fall, her chin tenses and relaxes, her hair wags from left to right or dangles quiet, her lips pursing, mouthing silent words, curling to smile, drooping to admonish. it’s like a dance troupe, impossibly synchronized: an intricate choreography that speaks directly to the audience, as surely as a spotlight illuminates the night sky.

a tiny part of him resents the surrender of control, suspects that what she needs in these moments is to find her balance, her safety, at his expense.

but the majority of him is desperate for a mental camera, a way to capture this scene, so he can relive it again and again. only the two of them share this world. whatever the confusing dynamics of their relationship, she is choosing to be with him, now, alone.

he never grows tired of looking at her.

he wouldn’t call her beautiful. that suggests conformity, like she would bow down to the powers that be and look for their acceptance. far from it. but in his private universe, her beauty is legendary. she’s magnetic, a face that a camera would never grow tired of.

he wants her. he knows it with certainty, but he knows he has to respect her boundaries. he would die to kiss her, and for her to kiss him. this is love. it has to be.

but it can’t be.

she hasn’t said it. but she doesn’t have to.

so he tells himself that this is good enough, as he watches her grow more and more satisfied with the portrait. he tells himself that what he really wants is just to hold her. like spoons. underneath the covers. that’s all he wants. that would be paradise.

he tells himself this, and part of him believes it.

“done!” she looks up, beaming. he returns her smile, lets his shoulders relax, circling his head to unlock his neck.

“can i see it?” he gets up and moves toward the sketch pad, curious.


“wait – what…?”

“the nose still isn’t right.”

he stops. stands still. considers his options.

she looks sheepish. “just a few more minutes.”

if she were anyone else on earth, he would say something biting. something clever that would make her laugh, and then slowly feel bad as she realized she’s been humiliated.

he knows exactly what he’d say.

but he swallows it and smiles, “a model’s work is never done.”