‘We need a shared hobby,’ I say. Jeff’s curled up on the couch with his iPad, scrolling fast.
‘Are you listening?’
‘Huh?’ Jeff clasps the iPad to his chest and looks up.
‘I said we need a hobby, something to do together. Just the two of us, you and me.’
‘OK.’ Jeff’s eyes fall back to the screen.
‘You and me and no iPad.’
Thursday night, two weeks later, we’re side by side at easels in a room that smells like dust and chalk. A naked woman poses on a chair, legs crossed, body forward, elbows on knees, chin in palms.
I study the model. It’s not her shape I’m noticing, but the hairs on her forearms that stand up like bristles on a nailbrush. Then there’s the spider-shaped mole on her cheek. It looks venomous – she really should get that checked.
The charcoal is cold against my fingers. I look at my hand, willing it to move. I glance at the empty page. My hand doesn’t budge, the page stays blank.
Beside me, Jeff bends into his easel, his hand swishing and swirling like he’s conducting the model onto his page. His head nods up and down as he looks from the model to his masterpiece and back to the model again.
Our teacher Marjorie is making her way around the room. Student by student, easel by easel, she’s heading towards me.
I stare at my hand again. The charcoal quivers and starts moving at last, but it’s going the wrong way, away from the page.
Marjorie’s with Jeff now. ‘That’s beautiful work.’ Her voice is syrupy. ‘You’ve really captured the lines – her form.’
Suddenly my hand starts moving. I stab at the paper. Long, heavy lines zigzag across my page.
‘Keep up the excellent work,’ Marjorie croons to Jeff before sidestepping over to me.
‘Oh.’ Her voice is no longer like syrup, more like chilli sauce. ‘It’s more like this.’
Marjorie sets to work. Her left hand erases, her right hand draws. ‘You’ve got to feel the shapes, the flow…’
All I can feel are the tears smarting behind my eyes.
‘There.’ Marjorie hands me back the lump of charcoal, half gone now.
When we get home Jeff unrolls his masterpiece across the kitchen table and steps back to admire it.
‘Maybe you could stick it on the fridge,’ I suggest.
‘No, I’ll buy a frame tomorrow. Maybe you could stick yours on the fridge.’
He doesn’t seem to have noticed that my artwork didn’t make it home – it went straight in the bin outside the art school.
‘That was fun.’ Jeff grins at his drawing. ‘It was good to do something together.’ He grabs his iPad and flops onto the couch.