The Sitting

Steve Gilmartin's "The Sitting" is an unsettling experience of artistic objectification and being an alien in your own skin.

She has never seen snow but they said that her new dress has the same brilliant blue-white look. His hand rests lightly on her shoulder which is bare and blue, the color of a clear sky just beginning to brood and get heavy.

Her skin makes some men think she is cold. The warmth of his hand has melted her shoulder strap. She looks past him at the blank, lemon-colored wall whose streaks seem to contain the outlines of about-to-fall-asleep animals.

Her teeth are showing. She knows her neck is several sizes larger than his and thinking about this sometimes makes her laugh. But he has never mentioned her blue skin, only touched it. Perhaps he can’t see blue. He has never mentioned their necks.

She knows he will not take off his tie even though it only makes his neck seem thinner. She likes her dress, not so much for its whiteness, which the sales girls said went so well with her blue, but for its melting brown shoulder straps. The sweat that had been building beneath his hand begins to slide down her back.

It won’t show and neither will the jerking of his head, the way her shoulders jiggle with suppressed laughter. The pressure of his hand has been increasing. He may be trying to keep her still for the artist. The corners of her mouth turn down trembling as she holds it in. Nobody who sees the painting will notice his tuxedo or bow tie. She knows that her blue skin is all everybody will be able to see.

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Steve Gilmartin

Steve Gilmartin

Steve Gilmartin is the author of a chapbook of mistranslations of Emily Dickinson from the German, Comes Up to Face the Skies (LRL Textile Series, 2013). His fiction and poetry have appeared in many print and online journals, including and/or, Big Bridge, Café Irreal, Concis, Drunken Boat, Eleven Eleven, Mad Hatters’ Review, Otoliths, Rivet, and Unlikely Stories. He lives in Berkeley, California.

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