--I GUESS SOMEONE’S LOOKING OUT FOR ME
A Lover of Beautiful Things
I was spooked. He’d been following me for the last two hours, through both levels of the mall, the food court, waiting outside of Macys with a magazine curled in his palm like a baton or a sledge hammer.
I admit I led him on a bit. At Victoria’s Secret I paused, feigning a do-check in front of the display window that featured a trio of mannequins whose cleavage, G-strings, and vapid, heroin stares were impossible not to envy. I flipped my hair and reapplied some lip gloss. He was twenty feet behind me. Still, I caught his reflection in the glass and glare. He might not even have noticed my little maneuver, yet it seemed as if he did. In fact it seemed as if I was the reason he existed.
I had very little money. However, I bought a pair or cheetah-print thong panties that were half-off. I wanted to be carrying the Vickie Secret bag through the rest of my excursion and I wanted him to be wondering about the contents. I even asked for a larger sack than was necessary.
I was ill-prepared when he came running up to the car. I mean, I hadn’t expected that at all. Part of me thought I’d imagined the whole surveillance thing.
But no, he came at me like an assailant with marching orders.
I reached for pepper spray I didn’t have. I cupped a car key between my fingers, ready to gouge his eye out.
He was panting. And cute--in a sweaty, mocha-skinned hirsute way.
He said he was a photographer. I said, “Sure you are.” He said, “No, really.” He told me I could be a model, said that I had the look they were after. I got smart-ass on him, said, “Who’s they?”
He gave me the card I still have to this day.
He said, “Call me. Check out my website, I’m legit.”
All those girls on his site were something, so exotic or pale, most with stunned expressions not dissimilar from the Vickie Secret mannequins.
Could I help myself from wanting to be featured like those others? Of course not.
My mother wanted to go with me to Raul’s studio. (Raul was his name.) I told her what she knew already, that I wasn’t six years old anymore. I was that plus ten, sixteen.
“Call me when you get there,” she said, making me pinkie-promise, which I hated.
I surprised myself. After a couple of minutes I lost all inhibition. I was naked before I knew it. He said he’d pay me, but I just laughed. He took stills and video. I’ve been back a few times, whenever I need a confidence boost. I know now that those girls on his site are just stock photos from someplace else. But it doesn’t matter.
He tells me he’s a lover of beautiful things. He’s never actually said that I’m beautiful, but that doesn’t matter either.