This is a slightly updated version of this tale. That -- for some reason that I can't recall now -- was not posted elsewhere under its full title. There have been a few minor changes to the text. I thank my proofreaders who assisted in preparing the original for posting. But I'll add, that they have not seen this later version.
You must understand that most of this happened a long time ago now; well the true beginning of it did anyway. The world was a completely different place back then; well as I just said, it was at the beginning. As teenagers we were kind of innocent, and we were keen to explore the new boundaries that certain medical advances had left open to us. I'm talking the birth control pill here and the magical properties of antibiotics that meant most of the better known STD's could be cured with a couple of injections; well reputedly so.
Yet at the same time we were angry about what the old fuddy-duddies had heaped upon us younger generation's shoulders. I'm talking about what is sometimes described now as that "Crazy Asian War." It was the American teenagers who had their innocence stolen by it, but we were with them in our hearts and minds.
It's highly possible that no one, who isn't old enough to have been in the sixteen to, lets say about twenty-five (or maybe thirty), age group during the sixties. Will ever be able to understand what it was like back then; but then all you younger folks have grown up with HIV and antibiotic tolerant super bugs.
I suppose the best place to start the story is some considerable time after the sixties; well after I'd kind-of returned to living in the somewhat more staid society that we all share today.
To be perfectly honest with you, I can't really explain how I came to join that Life Class in the first place. Well, not in anyway that doesn't make me sound like either a pretty sad case, or even a pervert or something. It's all a bit embarrassing to attempt to explain actually; but I'll try.
I was thirty-six and had just come out of a pretty disastrous five year relationship. For the life of me, I can't figure out how it had lasted as long as it did; we had very little in common. Well, that's if you don't take into account a mutual appreciation of sex. But hey man, sex might be fun; but you can take it from me, that sex alone does not make a sound foundation for a long-term relationship. There has to be that little spark, that inexplicable something that draws you to the one person who's destined to be your life partner. Sex helps, but there has to be something extra there as well.
In comparison to a lot of people at the time, Clair and I had everything. A nice home and cars. We were both young, beautiful, athletic and fit. Yeah well, we had an energetic horizontal workout most seven nights a week.
To cut a long story short. Eventually we both eventually came to realise that we were spending more time arguing with each other during the day, than we were making-up those arguments in bed at night. So we called it a day by mutual agreement.
She moved out and left me living alone in our flat. I do believe she eventually shacked up with one of my old friends. Our constant bickering had sort-a lead to an estrangement from nearly all of our close circle of friends. Folks really don't want to spend their free time in the middle of a war zone; yeah that's how bad it had become.
That kind-a left me with a mighty big problem after Clair had gone; I no longer had a circle of close friends. Shit, I hardly had anyone who I could call a friend anymore, except for a couple of the guys I worked with at the office.
Yeah all right, probably I was being a little stubborn, but after folks have purposely pushed you away and left you off the old invitations lists for a few years. You're not inclined to go hunt the buggers out again; well I wasn't.
Anyway that's how I started hanging with Arthur. Arthur was just another of the guys from the office. A couple of years older than myself; he apparently was also on his own most of the time. The disadvantage where Arthur was concerned was he had the reputation of being bit of a weirdo. No that's not right, maybe a little strange from most of the guys' perspectives. Well, on the quiet Arthur was considered to be a little ... odd by most everyone else in the office.
In truth, Arthur was (and still is I would guess) what is sometimes described as an arty-farty type. He was into opera, ballet, art and all that crap. I do believe the only reason I first teamed-up with Arthur, was because -- unlike most of the other unattached guys in the office -- he did not appear to spend his every nonworking moment drinking. Although surprisingly I was quickly to discover that Arthur spent a lot of he free time fornicating.
I have to admit that I soon discovered that I didn't enjoy opera very much. Although I did enjoy the company of the two very cultured and uncommonly (for the time) loose moral'd young ladies who Arthur arranged for us to escort that evening.
Ditto, goes for the few evenings we spent at the ballet as well. But Jesus if we kept that game up for very long I'd have had to cut my hours at the office back; god knows where Arthur found all those frustrated females.
Luckily our employer had been one of the first around to introduce flexitime working. That meant that I could take time to recover and go into the office late the morning after we did go the ballet. Oh well, you see, the seats are cheaper on weeknights and Arthur and I weren't particularly made of cash.
The art exhibitions Arthur dragged me along to, were a little different. There, we had to do some work, and actually hunt down our prey. I can't honestly say we, or rather I, was very successful at those little soirees.
Geeky old Arthur seemed to be able to pick up a bit a spare at the drop of a hat, almost anywhere. God, the other guys back at the office, especially the office wolves, would never have believed how much of a babe magnet Arthur was on the quiet.
Maybe that was Arthur's secret; perhaps the ladies sensed the utter discretion of the man. Arthur never did brag about his conquests; even to me. And I'd seen him heading for the bedroom with some unbelievably tasty looking females on his arm. Too often, I might add, married females. But then again, they might have been divorcees; I have no idea how to tell the difference for sure.
Whatever, wandering around those art gallery's, raised my appreciation of one particular type of art, nude studies. In particular tastefully drawn studies of the female form, nude. Yeah, all right, most men appreciate the female form anyway. But I seemed to develop a kind of infatuation of pencil or charcoal sketches of slender female bodies.
Nothing too detailed, or what might possibly be described as crude. Just a few cleverly drawn lines on a plain background, that implied in the viewers mind, the beauty of the subject.
My trouble was that I could rarely afford to buy any of those pictures to take home with me and admire at my leisure. I'd soon be very broke, if I got into that game. I liked far too many of them to chose just one or two to buy.
Then at an exhibition one evening, after I'd lost track of Arthur when he'd latched onto to a very affluent looking female, who I do believe was possibly spending her ex-husbands retirement plan. I found myself totally lost in admiration of one particular sketch.
It was no more than a few gracefully curved lines, but had captured my imagination. But the price tag was well over five hundred pounds. And there was no way in the world that I could justify to myself spending that kind of money on a piece of paper.
I was still staring at the masterpiece, when a guy approached and placed a sold ticket on it.
I have no idea why I said, "Shit!" out loud, although it was what I was thinking. That label meant that I would not be able to return to the gallery at a later date to study the sketch again.
"Beautiful isn't she? I'm very proud of that one!" A voice said from behind me.
I turned to see that Elvira -- the artist in question -- had been standing behind me; Arthur had introduced us earlier in the evening. Elvira was at least sixty, and maybe even older. Mutton dressed up as lamb, unless I was very much mistaken, she was as bent as a nine bob note. Elvira certainly appreciated the female form.
To be honest Elvira must have been a real looker in her younger days. "What a wasted life!" Had been the first thought that had crossed my mind when I had been introduced to her.
"Yes, you really have captured the essence of the sitter in that one, Elvira. I envy you, for your skill in being able to do so." I replied, trying my damnedest to use the same kind of arty-farty language that Arthur appeared to be so adept at.
It must be the cultured way Arthur spoke that attracted those females to him. It certainly wasn't his looks. But then again, maybe Arthur carried something around in his trousers that most of us other mere mortals haven't got? You can never tell with geeks, you know. Well us guys can't anyway; god alone knows what kind of x-ray vision or radar women have, that can tell the difference between a rolled up sock and human flesh.
"Do you paint yourself?" Elvira asked.
"No, I have to admit that I've never really tried. Well, I buggered about in the art class at school, but I can't say that I was any good with a paintbrush. Don't do a bad job with the old roller on the house walls though." I grinned back at her. Immediately wishing I hadn't tried to be funny.
She smiled, glanced back at the picture before us and then looked at me again.
"Art classes at school rarely inspire anyone... ?"
.... There is more of this story ...