“COME HOME WITH ME. I want to paint you.”
The man had approached Jake’s circle of pals after staring at him from across the bar. One pal snickered. Another’s jaw dropped. But Jake looked at the man—older, handsome, chocolate-skinned, blades of white embossing his close-cropped black hair—and said, “Let’s go.”
No introductions were made, none offered. They ambled down the street for ten minutes in midnight silence before Jake spoke.
“This painting: nude?”
An ember of a smile. “Wouldn’t bother otherwise.”
They were passing a wine store.
“We should get a little bottle of something,” Jake said.
“Got lots of big bottles of something at my place already.”
An artist’s studio, but elegant, spacious, a picture window letting in plenty of moon. Easels. Unfinished canvasses. A cut-glass bowl of lemons on a mahogany table.
Their clothes dribbled to the floor, wine poured. Jake regarded Hudson’s body. Brawny. Mostly trim. Mostly taut. Muscular pecs that drooped, slightly. The brilliant imperfections and noble wear-and-tear of age. Jake smiled.
Hudson directed him to a high stool.
“You paint in the nude?” Jake asked.
“Tonight I do.”
Hudson began. He studied Jake, sometimes for minutes at a time before a single brushstroke. Jake liked it. Hudson’s covetous gaze. No, a satisfied one. One that said, I am having my fill.
Jake felt neglected when Hudson looked away from him to paint. Hmm. I’m jealous of a canvas.
“How old are you?” Jake asked, to recapture the artist’s attention.
Hudson squinted, then swirled some paint onto the canvas. “Age difference work for you?”
“Would work better if you were looking at me.”
“I’ve been looking at you. All night. I’ll be looking at you all morning, too.”
Something strange, and nice: Each brushstroke on the canvas made Jake swoon. The strokes came more swiftly now as Hudson’s stride rocketed, as his momentum soared.
Jake’s head spun. He focused on the bowl of lemons to steady himself. He became aroused. He was not embarrassed.
Hudson’s eyes floated to Jake’s lap. The ember-smile returned.
Jake wanted to move. But that might bruise the spell.
“I would like you to touch me,” he said.
But Hudson returned to his brushstrokes. Some slow and judicious (Jake shivered); others broad and spiraling and whimsical (Jake lost his breath).
“Jake. I am touching you.”
Hudson caressed the brush across the canvas. Long, slow, smooth. “Feel that?”
Jake shuddered. His heart sprinted. He clenched his eyes shut. Reopened them. Looked in his lap.
Jake rose, cloaked his arms around Hudson, nestled his face into the crook of the artist’s neck. Hudson placed virile, gentle hands on Jake’s neck, the small of his back. Their nude skins pressed together. The warmth crackled.
“I would like some more wine,” Jake said. “Then it’s my turn to paint you.”
About the Author:
Joe Okonkwo’s debut novel Jazz Moon, set against the backdrop of Harlem Renaissance and glittering Jazz Age Paris, was published by Kensington Books in 2016 and is a finalist in the Gay Fiction category of the 2017 LAMBDA Literary Awards. His stories have been published in Shotgun Honey, Best Gay Stories, Cooper Street, and Storychord. Upcoming work will appear in the New Engagement. Joe serves as Prose Editor for Newtown Literary and Editor of Best Gay Stories, 2017, published by Lethe Press. He lives in Queens, New York City.
Joe Okonkwo’s “Brushstrokes” first appeared in Love Stories from Africa, a Brittle Paper-published anthology of flash fiction edited by Nonso Anyanwu and with an Introduction by Helon Habila.