ORIENTALISM IN A YOUNG MAN

“Madly Anointed, Kissed, Bowed Down Before” — oh, yes.  I’ve seen it before my very eyes.  “Oooooh, Mr. Saddle, I just loooove your work!”   But she’s not looking at the work.  She’s looking at him.  Or more specifically, his zipper.  He is well-packed, but she doesn’t know how good a shooter yet.  She badly wants to find out.  Wants to get astride the saddle, so to speak.

He’s not even young: rather grizzled.  Okay, very grizzled  Not very tall.  Pretty strong, though.  Sculptors do develop shoulders.   But she’s thinking too much about Rodin, Picasso, Pollock — boasting cocksmen.  Some guys do get old and tired, even if they are famous and the toast of the country.

I’m his model, his beautiful young Native American brave who hunts the buffalo in only a breechclout.  Sometimes the customers come on to me, but not this one.  To her I am invisible.  Indians are used to being invisible.  She must have a father complex.  Of course, she’s no young chick herself.  She leeeeans on his shoulder, draaaaging her dangling boobs along his denim shirt.  So innocently.  He pretends he doesn’t notice.  That will set the hook better than responding would.  He’s not thinking about her body — he’s thinking about her checkbook.  But later.  It’s time to close and he’s NOT inviting her to dinner.  There ARE limits.

We eat out.  Neither one of us wants to cook or wash dishes.  He’s always after me to eat salads, but I stick to pizza and beer.  I’m always after him for his smoking, but he pays me no mind.  He likes to pretend he’s in an old noir film, blowing smoke.  Blowing smoke, all right.

When we get back, he goes to the shower.  “Bean?  Bean!  Come wash my back.”  I got my name by announcing when I was little that I was a “human being.”  My family teased me by pretending I was saying “human bean.”  People here don’t like little boys who put on airs.  They didn’t take me seriously.  Sometimes not even seriously enough to make sure I had enough to eat or a warm place to sleep.  I don’t always want to wash anyone’s back, but I do it.  I’m not stupid.

Anyway, he’s cute when he’s all wet.  He’s so hairy he’s like a teddy bear and I like to dry him off the way you’d dry a little boy — getting into all the crevices, like, well, between his toes.  When he’s dry and tousled and pink-cheeked, I can hardly resist him and kiss him on the mouth.  He responds.

The doorbell.  I hope it’s not that woman.  No, it’s Sad’s agent.  Yeah, I call him “Sad” and there IS something sad about him.  Like all white men.  Especially the ones who long for the 19th century.  “Why gone those times?” they sigh.  But — the doorbell.

The agent, Sid, has been on a kick for quite a while.  Someone explained Orientalism to him and he got it into his head that the American Indian is the new Oriental, the jeweled exotic with the clever tongue and substances of magic effect.  It’s a 19th century idea really, to be so in love with desert people on horseback.  But it does fit, doesn’t it?

In a Seven of Swords way — do you like Tarot?  Sad LOVES Tarot and I’ve learned to tell the cards for him.  (A woman I knew in college taught me.)  It’s not that he’s superstitious, he’s just so narcissistic that he wants everything to be about him.  The Seven of Swords is a two-edged card about secrecy and trickery.  It’s really my card and I make it come up in almost every reading.  I never really tell him which card is his.  Best for him to keep wondering and considering.
“Read this!” insists Sid, and pushes a computer download into my hands.  “Orientalism is the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists. . . . Orientalism was more widely used in art history referring mostly to the works of French artists in the 19th century, whose subject matter, color and style used elements from their travel to the Mediterranean countries of North Africa and Western Asia.

“These meanings were given a new twist by 20th century scholar Edward Said in his controversial book Orientalism, in which he uses the term to describe a pervasive Western tradition, both academic and artistic, of hostile and deprecatory views of the East, shaped by the attitudes of European imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries. When used in this sense, Orientalism implies essentializing and prejudiced outsider interpretations of Eastern cultures and peoples. Said was critical of this scholarly tradition.”

Sounds like Sioux to me.  But Sad has an idea for a new bronze and he and Sid go off to make little mockup miniatures on the kitchen table with toothpicks for spears.   I take my iPhone to bed to watch vids for a while.  I’m getting a little tired of all this mercantilism, all this narcissism, all this . . . what is it?  Orientalism.
In the morning when I wake up that woman is back.  I walk down the street for ice cream.  Hey, that’s a good breakfast!  Dairy, isn’t it?  I’m lactose tolerant.  I can handle it.  I love vanilla white.

But when I come out of the shop with my triple-dip cone, I almost run into a guy coming towards me, almost smoosh my ice cream on his silk shirt.  While I’m watching the ice cream and desperately juggling to keep it from going on the sidewalk, a hand comes out to steady mine.  A black hand.  A very BIG black hand.

He lifts my hand up to his beautiful ebony face and he swallows the whole top of my vanilla cone — takes it in his mouth and puuuuulls it slowly between his red velvet lips.

I lift my gaze to his smiling eyes.

It’s a few days before I get back to the issue of Orientalism.

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