Cecilia paused. She could never remember their names. Perhaps she is never told; perhaps she is made to forget. Briefly wondering how many have come and gone, she then decides that names are ultimately inconsequential, before lamenting sotto voce, “What’s in a name…”
They are only labels. She’d been given many labels by the therapists, in their vain attempts to understand her. Sufferer of pictophilia or metrophilia or autagonistophilia or whatever ~ilia sprang into their desperate minds. It never occurred to Cecilia, though, that her concupiscence was “suffering.”
Just a harmless fetish or two, not madness. There is surely a difference. Not all ~ilias are dangerous, after all. So what, if she was drawn to artists. So what, if she was excited by the intensity of their piercing gaze, as they painted her portrait. They’d proclaim it was amore a prima vista, amidst their subtle seductions.
She felt like they bore into her soul; the only ones who could see her, see her secrets, see her desires. She supposed, none truly ever could. Although, the best of them could capture something in the portraits; in her eyes. Something thrilling, yet unfamiliar, someone deep inside whom she longed to know.
Cecilia stroked a finger across the clotting rue. She’d let them paint her, then she’d let them paint her. She was in control, the seducer; she was the power, and she was powerless.
While massaging the ruby rue between her thumb and forefinger, she turned away pococurante, wondering why Ophilia loved it so. It was one of her fetishes, she assumed. The aroma, or the texture…
Ophilia only visited after Cecilia fell asleep on nights like the last. From what she gathered, for she could never remember waking during the night, Ophilia had her own pruriences. Not the least of which, the therapists would no doubt label erotophonophilia.
It confused and frightened Cecilia, at first. She soon rationalized, however, that it was none of her business how Ophilia spent her evenings. “Come Dio comanda,” she’d think. Ophilia made her whole, so she learned to turn a blind eye to these “cries for help,” as the doctor’s would say.
Ophilia would also let the artist paint her, surely waking him from contented slumber in a boon to his ego, but afterwards, she’d paint with him. She, too, is an artist, it seems. Cecilia’s portraits always bore a more scarlet hue, the mornings after. Sometimes still wet, and flecked with the telltale rue.
After cleaning herself, Cecilia began to dress. She could never stay long in the mornings; it became habit to muse to herself, “Tanto va la gatta al lardo che ci lascia lo zampino.” She knew Ophilia made it more challenging, but they worked so well together; feeding each other, supporting each other…
The last thing Cecilia would do before leaving, almost reverently, was remove her portrait from the easel. Kleptophilia? Is it really stealing, since Ophilia contributed to the final masterpiece? For they each were masterpieces, regardless of talent. She always kept the paintings to add to their oeuvre. A magnificent gallery of themselves.
Deep in thought after leaving the flat, while neatly rolling the canvas, Cecilia bumped into him outside the door. Upon dropping his paintbox and portfolio, he began profusely apologizing. They always apologized first. She had come to expect it, and found it endearingly opportunistic.
After gathering himself, he saw her for the first time. “E tu come ti chiami, bella?” he put suavely, suddenly envincing machismo. Cecilia smiled, taking him in, as she absentmindedly, elegantly tapped at the ends of the phallic, portrait scroll to straighten the curl.
She then coquettishly replied, “Sei un’artista?”
art: Portrait study #2 by Jeremy Mann