Shedding

Entering the Chicago Art Annex on Wednesday evening felt like trespassing. Normally this would have bothered Jayne, but the sugar binges and atonement fasts of the past few days had left her feeling rinsed out. All she could do was trudge forward, which at this moment meant finding a sliver of space on the crowded elevator.

Distracted by the scrum of students who juggled coats, scarves, lattes, portfolios, and art supplies, she began to step out when the metal doors screeched open. She brushed her wavy hair out of her eyes in time to realize that this was the third floor—where Thomas had his life class. This was the floor where he painted the models he talked so much about.

Jayne lunged back into the elevator, and moments later she was on the fifth floor, hugging her cloth satchel to her chest. The noise of the students in the locker-lined hallway ricocheted through her head, and she sought refuge in the most private of public places—the women’s toilet.

Jayne shut herself in a stall and attempted to take deep breaths. She bent forward and got ready to plunge a finger down her throat. But then she realized the last thing she had eaten was an organic carrot yesterday. Even though she wanted to throw up, she had nothing in her.

For appearances sake, she flushed the toilet and washed her numb hands. She frowned at the odd blue-gray hue of her fingers. Outside the bathroom, she hesitated before a stairwell marked as a re exit—stay or go

She again clutched her satchel to her chest and walked toward the studio, room 528. An older guy with artificial-green eyes held the door open for her. His forearm revealed a USMC tattoo of an eagle digging its talons into a globe. She stopped herself from smiling at him. His green eyes would be staring at her naked body soon, assessing and rendering her.

She paused just inside the door and pretended to listen to the lipsticked professor’s instructions. She was saying something about re-envisioning classic poses such as Degas’s “Little Dancer.” She held a coffee-table book open to a picture of a child-like ballet dancer. is gave Jayne a chance to survey the dozen or so students. Most of them were in as many midwinter layers as she was. But there was also a cigarette-shriveled grandmother…

~Melissa Olson-Petrie