A home without air conditioning in Phoenix would be like a cabin in Anchorage without heat. And yet, here I was, in the heat of summer, stripped down to my panties and sweating through my eyelids in a sweltering old house in Phoenix with nothing for cooling effect but a massive electric fan.
My friend Amy, coworker actually, had invited me over to help her out with an art project. Amy and I shared a waitress shift at a retro diner nearby.
It was about three-o-clock on a Tuesday afternoon. The neighborhood was quiet except for the sounds of someone moving boxes or equipment in another room. The heat made me feel like a lizard must feel before the sun comes up; sluggish and uneasy. Except for the motion and noise of the fan, everything seemed locked down tight inside of a bubble of heat. A drop of sweat streaked down my spine and lodged in the thin elastic band of my underwear.
As I stood up from stacking my clothes in the corner, Amy handed me a glass of cold lemonade. Then she called to her husband.
“Honey, Mandy’s here,” she said. “Let’s get to work!”
I sucked down half my lemonade in one, swift slurp and let out a little burp. “Excuse me,” I giggled. “So how many have you made this week?”
“Two table bases and a decorative bust,” Amy said.
Amy’s husband Bill appeared. He wore his long brown hair in a ponytail and had an artsy, hippie scruffiness about him. Unshaven face, a few beads woven in his beard.
“Hey babe,” he said, hugging my bare torso. “Amy told me all about your ass. This is going to be fun.”
I giggled, not in a nervous way, but still feeling slow from the heat yet anxious to get going. “Um, thanks Amy,” I said.
“The thing is,” she chimed in, “you have to have a certain kind of butt to hold up a table. Seriously. I’m not kidding.”
“Nice to meet you officially Bill,” I said. “Ready when you are.”
I was only 19 but had been living on my own for three years. I worked two jobs and went to school. The college party scene was getting old. When Amy told me about her project, I was immediately intrigued. I liked surprising myself with acts of social defiance. I was excited to “do it for art,” even though I had no idea what “it” would entail exactly.
Bill was only too happy to explain. “OK, first you need to take off those cute panties and hop up here on the massage table.”
I flung the panties off of my ankle towards the clothes pile.
“Here,” Amy said, handing me a beer. “This is way better than that suck ass lemonade you’ve been drinking.” My heart began to race a little. I took a few foamy gulps of beer and hopped onto the table. My ass immediately began to sweat on the vinyl table, but Bill directed me to lie down. He picked up a jar of Vaseline and looked directly at me, head cocked. “I’m not going to get all fresh on you,” he said. “But I have to put Vaseline on your twat to keep this shit from sticking to your hair….and stuff.”
My young brain didn’t think to say, “Thanks Bill, but I’ll do that part myself.” I just laid back and let him do his thing. If he got off on it, I couldn’t tell. He seemed intent on the task at hand. Amy just stood back and grinned. With her there, the sweet, slightly crazy rollerskating waitress, and the little beer buzz in my brain, it didn’t seem like a big deal.
The task at hand, in fact, was making latex molds of nudes that were then filled with hardening material and sold as funky furniture – table and lamp bases and the like. I was told I’d be given a caste of my own contribution in a few weeks. I hadn’t said anything to my boyfriend about this little adventure. In fact, I hadn’t told anyone. Not too many people would have understood at the time. I didn’t even understand completely, especially as I melted in the heat, what the allure was. Something about it seemed like a break from mediocrity, a chance to do something strange. A way to keep myself weird, as is the hip way of saying it nowadays.
The sun drifted lower and hotter in the sky and made the white rice paper blinds on the peeling wood frame windows glow from the outside in.
“This will feel good,” Bill said, holding a small paint canister and brush. “It’s wet and cool. You’ll feel it tighten as it dries, but it won’t hurt. Just relax and enjoy the ride.”
And thus, somewhere in the world, my ass is holding up someone's table. Amy said she'd mail a "copy" to me, but it never arrived. I hope my little 19-year-old butt is out there having fun....but it doesn't matter too much, because the current model is having a fucking blast!