The room below glows with gold sequins, silver glitter dust, and black silk. Everywhere Andy looks she is greeted with grins on bright red lips and question marks in the multi-colored eyes behind black masks. One woman, perhaps the woman Andy had seen diving in through the black door beneath the blue light, licks her lips with a giggle as she meets Andy’s gaze. Andy feels ridiculously out of place, yet it seems that she was who everyone was waiting for. Every stranger she passes spreads a toothy grin in her direction, an unusual hunger coming from behind their eyes. Andy wonders if this is what a helpless, injured animal feels like as coyotes and vultures circle around them.
Fresh-pressed ebony suits, skinny ties in a variety of colors, elegant black masks on every face, elegant gowns in every jewel tone imaginable brushing against the concrete floor. The masks range from a simple black superhero-style mask to extravagant pieces of artwork with horns, halos, and feathers. The women in the room were clearly dressed to reflect their own individual sensibility, while it seemed the men all melded together in the same mysteriously alluring combination of black suit and mask.
“This isn’t what I expected” Andy turns to face Jasper, but finds he’s been lost in the ever-going current of the party. She searches over all the heads in the tiny space, but can’t locate Jasper’s fiery head of hair. As she glances around Andy takes in her surroundings for the first time, finally seeing past the out of the ordinary garb of the partygoers. The entire room is grey concrete decorated with ink stains, shoe scuffs, and what appears to be bleach stains dripping from the wooden ceiling. The walls are covered with pieces of artwork, all Jasper’s. This is the first show solely dedicated to Jasper’s work and Andy knows how thrilled he’s been about this evening. Still this isn’t the crowd she’d expected. She was used to art shows in local bars, people milling about in ripped jeans amidst a few art buyers pretentiously discussing the pencil marks of a piece over glasses of champagne. She was accustomed to art shows filled with the smell of stale cigarettes and weed with hip-hop music blaring in the background.
Andy pushes her way to the walls of the space, losing herself in Jasper’s work and burying the feelings churning in her stomach. I wish I hadn’t finished off my whiskey. She fingers the flask in her back pocket as she takes in a charcoal drawing Jasper had started one night when Molly was out of town. ‘
Wine Wench by Jasper Greenwood’ typed in neat block-lettering hung beneath the linen canvas. Andy knew the drawing was of her. Jasper had gotten up from bed abruptly after sex, leaving Andy’s naked form half-draped in sweaty cotton sheets. “What are you doing?” Andy began laughing as Jasper, naked in the moonlight, started scrambling through his backpack, pulling out piles of books, old pieces of paper, cigarette packages, and his pipe until finally he pulled out his set of charcoals and a small linen canvas. He brushed delicately at the layer of charcoal dust and eraser pieces littered across the canvas from living too long in the bottom of his bag. As he slide the charcoal pieces neatly out of their casing, lining them up on Andy’s bedroom floor, he met Andy’s bemused eyes. His hands stop moving, he smiled, and without a word handed Andy a wine bottle, half-full of day old wine. “Drink this” he kissed her right ear lobe and sat down against her bedroom door, propping the canvas up against his knees.
Jasper sat, completely silent, sketching with charcoal for an hour as Andy drank the day old wine. She let the silence hang in the air. Andy remembered the feeling of warmth both from the wine and the way Jasper’s eyes had glazed up and down her body. Every glance had felt intimate and yet distant. This had been the first night Andy had wondered if she was falling in love. This had been the first night Jasper had ever showed any signs of affection outside of their normal sexual play.
When he had finished the piece, he propped it up on the coffee table and scrutinized it in the moonlight. Andy had rushed behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist to stare at the piece over his shoulder. Though she knew the piece was of her there was nothing specifically “Andy” about the woman he had drawn. The piece was vague, Andy’s tattoos had been left out, her hair had been changed, all she had been was a basic female form for Jasper to build a piece around. His affection had never been genuine, never would be genuine. He didn’t see her. Jasper saw a woman. A woman he could use. A form he could build upon. Jasper never talked about the piece with her. Andy pulled away as he analyzed his artwork, dressed herself, and fell asleep. Jasper and the piece were gone before she woke up.
Tonight, amidst all these bizarre, giggling, shiny people Andy was seeing the piece for the first time under lights. The charcoal had blurred since that night, having probably been shoved into his backpack quickly as he fled the apartment. Yet the female form remained intact. Andy leans in, carefully noticing every curve and arch Jasper’s hand had created while his eyes fell across her naked form. Is any part of this part of me? She stands searching for some familiar body part, some individualistic indentation of the ribcage or collarbones, her nose a mere inch away from the canvas.
“Not really a fan of my work are you?” the grin clear in his voice as Jasper places his hand on the small of her back and bites at her ear. Andy pushes him away with fervor as she backs away from the Wine Wench, shaking off the memory of that evening.
“What the fuck is going on Jasper?” she motions around at the masked guests: the men and women beginning to pair off, nibbling secrets in each other’s ears, the women tugging at ties, the men grasping at asses and pulled-in waists.
“Do you like it?” that malicious grin on Jasper’s face has Andy’s stomach doing somersaults. He pulls her in by his waist and presses his lips to hers firmly.
“Jasper” she fights against his strong hold on her body, “What the hell is going on? You didn’t prepare me for this. I’m way under-dressed. Who are all these people? Why am I even here? Does Molly know about this?” Andy’s voice rings over the crowded room, echoing off the concrete walls. The women giggle as the men whisper in their ears. Probably talking about what a freak I am. Andy pushes past Jasper, heading for the stairs.
“Andy, calm down” Jasper wraps his fingers around her wrist before she can step out of his reach. His eyes lock on hers and her breath catches in her throat. He grabs a glass filled with some form of alcohol and passes it to Andy. “Drink this.” Andy hesitates, still staring at the eyes behind the black mask taking in this look of hunger she’s never noticed before. “Drink.” Jasper insists, pushing at the bottom of her glass. She presses her lips to the edge and drinks obediently, letting the cool liquid slither down her throat and warm her from the inside-out. “Good girl” Jasper kisses one of her collarbones and takes the glass from her hand. “I will explain. I promise. Tonight all you need to do is enjoy yourself” He starts to leave, sharply over his shoulder “Don’t. Leave.”
With that he disappears into the crowd. The alcohol settles into Andy’s chest. Dizzily she notices the room, it feels more crowded then she remembers. The masks and dresses and suits seem to have multiplied. The giggles and clinks of glasses echo loudly in her ears as she leans against one of the cold concrete wall. Her head resting between two of Jasper’s larger, more abstract pieces. Andy notices no one is aware of her, no one’s eyes are following her. They aren’t even looking at the artwork. Just each other. Just masks. Andy slumps to the ground. Just masks.