On the set they make me lie beneath you, disappear under you. It is not easy; you are not much to hide behind. For hours our sweat mixes; at first it is electric: the lights, the flashes, my mouth pressed into your shoulder just so. I taste your salt, smell that you are just like anybody else. Three hours later our bodies jut against one another. They tell me it is my fault we are still here. It is always the parts model. We move inch by inch, slide against each other. I stretch each long finger as a woman brushes a fresh coat of clear polish over each nail. We inhale together. The photographer nods and you and I are finally a team; it is electric again. Flash. Pause. Slide. We breathe together.
When we are free, my hands slide along your sides as I get up. I stretch my hands, remember other touches as I forget the feel of you: the touch of a purse: slippery leather, the impossible tightness of a new zipper. Grains of fry salt rubbing my fingertips as they try to capture me dipping perfect fry into perfect fresh ketchup swirl. I don’t eat them after. A Dawn commercial: the warm, lost feeling of my hands immersed in soapy water, the sudsy residue between them after. Model parts feeling your soap, your little ramekin of ketchup, your new purse. After, the dry, the moisturize, back to protecting.
Sometimes the models want to know what is wrong with their hands. They will hold them out in front of their faces, as if seeing ugliness for the first time. But not you. You know you need me, parts of me, between you and the camera. You are a professional. You stand where you should stand. Pretzel yourself with me. Shift just so, as we are told. Say goodbye, breathe into my face with fresh, impossible fresh breath.
Krys Malcolm Belc’s collection of flash essays, IN TRANSIT, is forthcoming from The Cupboard Pamphlet. His work is in or forthcoming in Granta, Black Warrior Review, Brevity, and elsewhere. He is a 2017 Sustainable Arts Foundation award winner. Krys lives in Marquette, Michigan with his partner and three sons and is an MFA student at Northern Michigan University.