Sleepless (a remix of the Endymion myth)

The first time she saw him, she knew. She needed him to pose for her. She’d put him on film. On canvas. Maybe even in stone, though sculpting wasn’t really her forte.

He was too beautiful not to enshrine that way – too handsome for words. Sitting on the library steps with his guitar, the case open at his feet he exuded the quintessence of youth, confidence, and sex appeal.

He’d already collected several handfuls of coins and a few bills, and it was barely ten-thirty in the morning. This did not surprise her.


If he were still there when her class was over, she thought, she would introduce herself. Gauge his interest in modeling. As she didn’t have time for even a ‘hello’ right then, she dropped a twenty in the guitar case, and mirrored his grateful smile as she moved beyond him.

The art room was on the third floor of the library building, overlooking the front steps. She could hear the faint notes from his guitar through the open window. They were doing abstracts that week.
“Here’s today’s challenge,” she told the group of first-year students. “Try to depict music through painting.”

After the expected questions about the kind of music and if she meant actual notes or just how music made them feel, questions she’d been fielding for centuries, it seemed, she took up her own notebook and sketched him from memory. It was a decent likeness, but it didn’t do enough justice to his real beauty. If nothing else, she had to see him again.

The steps were empty when she left the building at the end of her day.

But she couldn’t get him out of her mind. She remembered the soft, dark, chocolate of his curly hair, the startling blue of his eyes, and the way his lips formed a perfect, kissable bow. She recalled long, elegant fingers plucking the strings of his acoustic instrument and the definition of his chest beneath the tight T-shirt he’d been wearing.

Every night, she drew him, the details shifting as her memory faded.

Her obsession, however, did not fade. Several weeks after she first saw him on the steps, she caught his image – badly photographed – on a flyer for a local club. She ripped it off the bulletin board and went home to take her first real shower in weeks.

The club was dark and close. The neighborhood was typically seedy. The crowd was almost entirely students, but not, as she’d expected, almost entirely female. She got a glass of wine from the bar – slightly better than the two-buck chuck that had been her mainstay when she was an undergrad – and took a seat in the second row of tables.

The young folk around her sang with him on the choruses, but she was silent, watching him. Memorizing him. During his last song, their eyes met, and she made a gesture, which he answered with a nod. After the show, they met in the alley behind the bar.

“You’re the art lady right? I’ve seen your stuff in the university gallery. I liked it.” His words were casual, but the expression on his face was anything but.

She smiled a slow, seductive smile, and pitched her voice low. “I’m going to make you immortal,” she said, if you let me.”

He kissed her with his perfect mouth.

She took him home to do a lot more than kissing.

She woke before him and used the time to drink in all the details that had begun to seep from her mind. She ran her fingers over his bare skin, memorizing the textures. She leaned over him and inhaled his scent.

She never asked his name. Nor he hers. It didn’t seem to matter.

Heady from sex and the need to truly capture him – perfectly this time – she crept from the bed leaving him in deep sleep. She skipped the sketches, went directly to the canvas. He slept the clock around and she kept painting the whole time.

It became their routine. He played in different bars every night, and she went with him. They went back to her place after, and she painted while he slept.

His mornings came later and later, and her nights grew shorter and shorter.

She was with her nameless musician in her bed and still with him in front of her easel when she crawled out of the covers. She started a second painting, then a third. She stopped going to his gigs – he played for her when he came back every night.

She couldn’t get the paintings right. But she continued to try. She made cups of tea but set them aside to correct a line that was too dark or a strand of hair that wasn’t in the right place, only to pick them up later to find the liquid within cold and bitter. It can’t have been that long… she thought, padding to the kitchen to make another cup.

Her canvases piled up, and when she was out of stretched canvas she pulled the photographs off the wall and started painting him directly on the cracked plaster. She twisted her hair into a messy bun and didn’t even try to scrub the paint from her skin.

When she needed to remind herself of the precise curve of his lips or the exact position of the crease above his left eyebrow, he was there in her bed, a male sleeping beauty waiting for the princess’s kiss.

She forgot to eat until she fainted from hunger. When she pulled herself off the floor she found that the fruit in her bowl had gone rotten. She found a chocolate bar and devoured it then grew giddy from the sudden rush of sugar.

The university contacted her next-of-kin – a niece who was a second-year law student. “Your aunt has missed three classes,” they said. “She didn’t call to cancel. Just stopped showing up.”

“That doesn’t sound like Aunt Lena,” the young woman answered, worry creeping into her voice. “I’ll go to her apartment.” Her boyfriend insisted on going with her.

They found the artist, cold and breathless, on the floor in front of the wall where she’d put the musician’s image. A flyer announcing his gig in a city a thousand miles away was clutched in her stiff hand. Below his image, the name she hadn’t asked for: Endymion.

When the autopsy report came back it said that Professor Selene Perez had died of exhaustion.

Photo by stasia04.