One must care about a world one will not see.
In 2115, unbeknownst to the world, a savior was born unto the future…
Antanas sits and watches entranced, his drink untouched, as the young woman, a natural exhibitionist, dances on the table before which he sits. Bathed in the bright spotlight affixed from the ceiling half a room away, her face bears the beauty of her Estonian descent, and her body is that of a goddess. He admires, with his artist’s eye, her well-sculpted glutes, her narrow waist and full hips, well-proportioned breasts, and especially her legs—lush, rounded thighs, taut hamstrings, and curvilinear calves.
Antanas has had success finding subjects at several other similar clubs where women dance, nude, for tips and drinks. He is eighteen and already well-known in Lithuania for his work in clay. Several of his pieces, all nudes, are on display at the Kazys Varnelis House-Museum in Vilnius. Varnelis had spent the second half of the 20th century in the United States and was renowned for his abstract paintings of optical illusions. Before the fall of the United States in the latter half of the 21st century, his work had been on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and the Art Institute of Chicago. Antanas will likely never travel abroad, as the airline industry succumbed (for myriad reasons, not the least of which were acts of terrorism against refineries as well as a lack of qualified pilots) long before he’d been born, so he has no idea whether any of Varnelis’s work overseas have survived, although rumor has it that much of it—that which has not been brought home to Lithuania—now belongs to private collectors.
When she finishes her routine, Antanas tips the woman generously and asks, in her native tongue, that she join him. If she is impressed by the size of his tip or that he speaks Estonian she doesn’t show it; she merely leads him by the hand to a more secluded portion of the club where she begins quoting him her prices. Antanas offers two bills and asks that she merely sit and enjoy a drink with him. The woman accedes, betraying mild surprise that nothing more will be required of her. After her drink arrives—vodka with water on the side—Antanas introduces himself as an artist, one of Lithuania’s most promising young sculptors. The woman looks unimpressed.
“I want you to sit for me, nude,” he says and watches the woman’s esteem rise with the posturing of her head. “I’ll first need to make several sketches in various poses, and for the clay I’ll require several sessions of no more than a few hours each over several days. I’ll pay you, for each session, whatever you earn for a good night’s work dancing.”
“Nothing else will be required of me?”
Unaware, in his youthful naiveté, of what she is intimating, Antanas shakes his head and watches the woman consider his proposition.
“How do I know you are who you say you are?”
Hurt by her accusation, Antanas shows the woman his identification and tells her a phone call to the Kazys Varnelis House-Museum will prove the validity of his claim.
The woman nods and Antanas wonders if she is considering the notion that she is to be immortalized in clay or simply allowing her self-image to run away with itself, the result of what she may perceive to be, like the other patrons of this establishment, his obsession with her body.
“My name is Loviise,” she says. “When do we start?”
“Tomorrow morning,” he tells her, and gives her his address.
For the remainder of the night Antanas watches Loviise dance. She seems to prefer the sensuous as opposed to the overtly provocative, but she indulges in whatever each patron demands to maximize the size of her tip, and Antanas, his creativity inflamed, imagines a variety of poses by which he might denote Loviise’s incredible anatomy for all time—what little of it remains in the world of man.
Tomorrow arrives and with it Loviise to Antanas’s studio. After two hours Antanas has four sketches: one with Loviise, on her hands and knees, looking back over her shoulder; another in a reclined position on a bed; a third showing Loviise standing, her right leg bearing most of her weight, hands on hips with feet widely spaced; the fourth her feet again apart but with toes in and knees together, with Loviise bent at the waist, torso nearly parallel to the floor, to show her backside, her right hip thrust in that direction and slightly higher than the left as she peers back at the viewer.
When he is finished Antanas bids Loviise to inspect his work. She seems disappointed.
“These look nothing like me.”
Antanas smiles. “No, I suppose they don’t. For my sketches I focus on your musculature—what makes your anatomy do what it does.”
“Draw stares wherever I go.”
“Yes, I imagine it does that,” Antanas says with a laugh.
“Will the sculpture look like one of these?”
“No, it will look more like the real you.”
“Which will you choose?”
“I don’t know yet.” But already Antanas is torn between two—the one that shows Loviise in seductive repose or the one with her bent at the waist; the latter draws the viewer to her backside and best showcases her legs, the stretched hamstrings and graceful curves of her calves, and he likes her asymmetrical posture. While the former, a more traditional pose, shows elegance, Loviise’s open legs indicative of trust. Antanas begins to consider the necessity of a second piece.
Antanas asks Loviise to arrive the next day at the same time to commence work on the clay, and she leaves, seemingly taken aback that nothing more is required of her.
With Loviise gone, Antanas, still chaste at his young age, is acutely aware of the desire with which she’s left him.
Antanas stands back to admire, for a moment, Loviise’s lovely body, which he’s just finished posing for their morning session. She lays on her back, left leg upright but bent at the knee just so to flatter the gentle swell of its calf, foot balanced on a fifteen-centimeter stiletto; her right leg, also bent at the knee, lays flat on the bed at a right angle to the left, its thigh taut, the point of her stiletto-clad right foot nearly kissing the point of its counterpart; her back slightly arched with her right hand rested lightly on her ribcage, nearly in support of her breast, while her left arm falls above her head, where her long brown hair is carefully arranged to look natural on the pillow upon which her head rests. The stilettos are all Loviise wears.
Antanas allows his desire to wash over him for a moment as he drinks in Loviise’s nude form, prone on the sheepskin blanket, his eyes linger on her legs, her rose-tipped breasts. She smiles at him, perhaps guessing his thoughts. Antanas blushes and turns his attention to the mound of clay before him.
“I’m surprised you chose this pose,” Loviise says from her reclined position. “I had taken you for an ass lover.”
Antanas laughs but is unable to mask his embarrassment at her accusation. He briefly considers letting her in on his wish to do a second piece but decides to wait. Instead he says, “You have a beautiful body.”
Loviise sighs as if his assessment were something she’s heard countless times. “They are just body parts.”
Antanas wonders, as he picks up a chisel and sets about sculpting the clay’s shapelessness into the semblance of Loviise’s form, if this were Loviise’s way of telling him she tires of hearing such praise. “You are right,” he says, “if you consider only their basic functions—legs as a means of perambulation, breasts a source of nutrients for infants, the breadth of a woman’s hips to accommodate child-bearing. But there is something artistic in anatomy. God must have been a sculptor when he created Adam and Eve.”
Loviise laughs. “God created all creatures, great and small—the colorful and the graceful as well as the unsightly. To propagate their species, a toad must copulate with a mate. Surely they are not driven by their attraction to another toad?”
“Who can say what attraction exists between genders of another species—perhaps toads perceive the human form hideous. I suspect it is only instinct on which they function.”
“Which is no different than any man I’ve known,” Loviise says with a smile designed to distract Antanas from her callous tone. “At least that’s been my experience.”
“Beauty can be found in many places: in a song, a poem, a glade, a panorama, a woman’s body. That’s not to say such beauty speaks to everyone, but to those who seek, such beauty exists.” Loviise says nothing, so Antanas adds: “Even a baby responds more favorably to a beautiful face.”
“What can a baby know of beauty?”
“Infants are very perceptive. Symmetry is the basis for much beauty. While a baby certainly is incapable of reasoning, it responds more favorably to aesthetically pleasing features.” Antanas works his chisel through the soft clay that will become Loviise’s left leg, removing portions of unwanted clay as he goes.
“But getting back to your comment regarding body parts,” he says. “The history of art is a catalogue of beauty at any given moment of the past. Consider that Peter Paul Rubens, a Flemish painter in the seventeenth century, portrayed his nudes as pear-shaped and somewhat full-figured—by today’s standards they would be considered overweight, even obese. But in Rubens’s time, such images depicted the very wealthy aristocrats. To be slender, waifish, betrayed one’s status in society as underprivileged. Yet in the mid- to late twentieth century, the standard for female beauty in print, film and fashion was astonishingly slender—the latter, I suspect, was to allow no distraction from the clothing the model wore. Many women succumbed to anorexia.”
“Which only serves to prove that women have, for centuries, been objectified for their bodies.”
“Yes,” Antanas says, admiring Loviise’s body in its prone position on the bed. “But you allow it, no?” Not an accusation; merely observation.
Loviise seems startled by Antanas’s perceptivity but quickly recovers. “It serves me,” she says. “It provides me a better living than I could otherwise hope for in this dying world. Even if it has left me handicapped in many ways.”
“Handicapped?” Antanas watches Loviise consider her reply.
“I am pleased the world will not outlive me,” she says. “In time my beauty will abandon me and where would that leave me?”
Antanas is silent. He knows opportunities, for men and women alike, are dwindling along with the planet’s resources. For a woman like Loviise, like the women of biblical times, she is surviving the only way she can.
The world’s oldest profession.
Loviise intrudes on his sad thought: “Would you deny you would like to fuck me?”
Antanas blushes and thinks about admitting that he’s never been with a woman, but he doesn’t wish to betray his naiveté. Instead he merely says, “I’m very attracted to your form, for my art.”
“You’re a liar,” Loviise says with a sarcastic laugh.
“I find you very desirable—as you’ve already told me many men do. Your profession invites it, even if your reasons for choosing such a profession are a matter of survival. I would never force myself on you, nor would I pay you for sexual favors.”
“No? Why not?” The woman who professed to abhor being judged for her body parts sounds disappointed. When Antanas doesn’t reply, Loviise adds, “Perhaps you are a pervert and will tend to your own pleasure over that statue you create, when I am gone for the last time.”
“No,” Antanas says. “That is not my purpose.” The thought that he, or anyone, would find his work pornographic is unconscionable.
“Then why do you create it? You wish to immortalize me in the eyes of men for all of twenty years?”
“This statue will endure for centuries.”
“What good does that serve if there is no one to appreciate it?” Antanas can say nothing to rebut Loviise. Then, perchance wanting to hold on to some ideal of her own she would in all likelihood deny, she adds, “Then maybe it is because you are young, idealistic. Could be you still believe in love.”
“I’ve always believed in love,” Antanas says.
“Then you’ve not yet had your heart broken.”
Antanas thinks a moment of Giedre, the girl who’d done just that, broken his heart, two years ago when her family moved to Finse in Norway. Even though they’d never consummated their love, Antanas remained in touch with Giedre for nearly a year, and then her letters to him became fewer, finally stopping altogether a few weeks ago, and Antanas was forced to consider the likelihood that she’d met someone else. He sighs aloud, which prompts a laugh from Loviise.
“From your sigh it seems you believe otherwise.” When Antanas says nothing, Loviise asks, “What was her name?”
“Giedre.” Antanas’s hands stop their work; he feels Loviise’s eyes upon him. “It was perhaps only puppy love,” he says to hide his embarrassment.
“There is something to be said for young love,” Loviise says. “Innocence lost can never be regained.”
Moved by the sorrow in her voice, Antanas looks up, sees pain in Loviise’s countenance, and grieves for her. Not wishing to intrude on her discomfort, he is quick to look away.
“Where did Giedre go and why did she go?”
“Her family moved to Finse, where a greater supply of fresh water exists, thinking to buy a few more good years before―”
Loviise nods to show she understands. After a moment, she asks, “And you? Why did you not follow her?”
“I’m Lithuanian. I was born here and don’t wish to die in some foreign land.”
“Perhaps you did not love her so much as you thought.”
“Or she, me,” Antanas is quick to add as he works the cool, moist clay of Loviise’s left thigh, such a contrast to how he imagines her real flesh would feel to his kneading hands—smooth, like the clay, but warm, soft like a pillow, velvety.
“A young man should pursue his heart’s desire,” Loviise says, as if she is taunting him. Antanas ignores her.
“And you?” he asks. “Will you return to Estonia?”
Antanas watches Loviise consider several replies before she settles on: “There is nothing for me there. I will remain here, where in all likelihood I will die alone.”
“Surely you must have family, friends, a lover.”
“My mother is dead, and my father molested me when I was but a girl. I have no siblings and my friends, if they can be called that, work with me, and they see me as I see them: competition, a hindrance to making a living. As for a lover… I have as many as I wish.” Loviise sounds proud, but Antanas wonders if her pride is manufactured, a mask to cover up some inner damage. “They provide me pleasure and distraction, but little comfort. But at least they cannot break my heart, as I do theirs when I tire of them.”
Antanas looks at Loviise’s magnificent body on the divan before him, tries to bring to mind Giedre’s much more girlish figure (she’d been nineteen when last he’d seen her), and wonders how she might appear today—softer, rounder, fuller. Her name means serenity, and she had provided much comfort to him in these troubling times. Still, her form had not inspired him in his art. No sculptures of her nude body would ever grace the halls of museums—not that she ever would’ve agreed to pose for Antanas; she was much too shy. Still, he’d loved her, for her shyness, her sweet innocence, kindness and compassion, her keen business mind (she’d been instrumental in getting his work into the Kazys Varnelis House-Museum), and perhaps most for her ability to find hope where little existed. In return she had loved Antanas, and seemed secure in her place. And here before him is perhaps the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen; yet she is cold, insensitive, indifferent, perhaps incapable of love. Perfect as her flesh is, inside, despite her arrogance (or because of it), she is broken. Lovely as she appears, Antanas knows he could never love Loviise.
“Why do you look at me like that?” Loviise asks.
“As if you pity me.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just that… it hurts me to hear you speak of love as you do. Love is all that matters in the world. I believe it is what we are put here for.”
“There are many forms of love we seek, all of them for selfish reasons. We want it, of that I have no doubt. But few are willing to give it in order to receive it, preferring instead to take. Then there is love of money—which has made the world what it is today. Many love and covet my body―”
“Even as you loathe it, for what it has failed to bring you.”
Loviise falls silent a moment, perhaps taken by Antanas’s vision, before saying: “A love of flesh is not the same as love of a person. This flesh I wear is not who I am, inside.”
Antanas nods. “What were your dreams, as a child?”
“Dreams? What good are dreams? They are but a momentary escape, in repose, from the harsh truth of reality.”
“A wise man once wrote, ‘Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future.’”
“My father dashed my dreams, left me with only nightmares of my past. As for hope, what optimism can be had in the face of what lies ahead?”
“Which makes love all the more important,” Antanas says. “Men and women have been dying for centuries. The man who is told his days are numbered the result of some incurable disease often finds purpose and comfort in love. That our days as a species are limited has always been true; that they now have been given a fixed number makes love imperative, the only thing that should matter.”
“You are young and…” Loviise trails off.
Antanas smiles. “If I weren’t I’d long ago have ended my life. I’m sorry you have no hope in finding love.”
“You hope to find love?”
“I find it where I seek for it—at present in my work.”
Loviise thinks a moment, says, “As a girl I dreamed of making scientific contributions to prolong man’s existence.”
“A worthwhile vision.”
“A child’s foolishness. How could I expect to undo man’s centuries of folly?”
“Many have turned a deaf ear to ridicule to accomplish great things. Not all have contributed to man’s demise.”
“Do you also hope to find love with a woman?”
“Then hold onto your hope, and dreams.”
“I despaired, after Giedre left, that I would ever again find love. But time is mending my hope. Perhaps it will mend yours, too, if you wish it.”
“I give hope to others,” Loviise says, “of finding love, even if their love is misplaced in their hatred of me or in their desire for my body.”
“Everyone wishes to be loved, even you, Loviise. You may be broken, the result of what your father did to you, but you can mend, perhaps not as good as new, but well enough to find your heart’s desire.”
“My heart is closed.”
“That is a choice.” Antanas looks up from where he is working, on the clay that is to become Loviise’s right leg, sees Loviise studying him. Rather than acknowledge his wisdom, she deftly changes the direction of their discussion:
“Giedre left before you consummated your love.”
Blushing, Antanas looks down to where his hands shape the clay.
“Nor have you known the pleasure of a woman’s body.”
Antanas sighs but refuses to look up from where he molds his hands to Loviise’s right thigh.
“You fear me,” Loviise says. “Or perhaps you fear your desire for me, because it is not love.”
Little more is said during the remainder of the session; when Loviise leaves, Antanas looks at the clay he’s formed—two legs and a portion of a torso—and he considers the remainder of the sculpture as well as his subject. He recalls the sculptures of the great artists of the past he’s studied. Beautiful renditions of beautiful women; great works of art. It was said that Auguste Rodin had often molested his models, leaving Antanas to consider whether something of beauty could be created from vulgarity. Had Rodin’s models, too, been broken inside, as Loviise was? Perhaps brokenness was a prerequisite for such women—women willing to take off their clothes for the sake of art. Suddenly he finds it difficult to separate Rodin the man from his art.
Antanas recalls a class he’d taken that presented the history of art. There’d been a discussion about a Canadian woman of the mid-20th century who’d voiced her disdain for paintings depicting the beautiful Canadian landscape, which an artist of the time had defined as made for the canvas. The woman had said, “It’s bad enough I have to live in this godforsaken country, why would I want to hang pictures of it in my house?”
It’s true, Antanas considers. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—which is just another way of saying beauty is based on perspective. One man’s art is another man’s pornography.
Antanas sighs as he ponders the lie of his own creation. He envisions the finished piece as beautiful, perhaps his best work to date. Yet for all its beauty, it would not, perhaps could not, reveal Loviise’s tormented inner self. It could show only what she was, never the who: the dashed hopes, the broken dreams, the heartache that all combine to make this woman unique and something more than the shell he endeavors to immortalize in clay.
Later that evening, as Antanas prepares his tools for the next morning, his father comes over to his studio from the house. After taking a moment to admire, from two perspectives, the beginnings of what Antanas will call simply, “Loviise,” he nods appreciatively.
“Your work improves with each piece, sūnus,” he says.
“Thank you, tėvas. It helps to have a beautiful subject.” Antanas recalls his earlier discussion with Loviise, his rumination after her departure, and cringes at his reference to a woman as a subject. Loviise is the sum total of her beauty as well as her personality, intellect, her life experience; but the latter has conspired to contrast with her outward appearance. Broken, she strives to hide her pain behind the perception others have of her.
“She certainly has lovely legs—very much like motinėlė’s, when she was young,” his father says, smiling a sad smile, and Antanas realizes his father isn’t paying him a social call, to see his new work. “I look forward to seeing it completed.”
“What is it, tėvas? You look troubled.”
His father looks from the clay to Antanas. “You should know,” he says tentatively, “Jiera has returned from Finse.”
“What is it?” Antanas says again, his heart sinking when his father hesitates to continue.
“I regret to have to tell you, Giedre was killed a few weeks ago, along with her tėvas.”
“No,” Antanas says, as if saying so would undo it. And then, “How?”
“Many are immigrating to Finse, further straining the water supply there. The local government passed an edict denying entry. The edict also included immigrants of the past year. Many were asked to depart.”
“But Giedre and her parents have been residents for two years.”
“There was an uprising. Giedre and her tėvas were caught up in it, killed along with a dozen others. Victims of circumstance.”
Antanas can say nothing. He’d assumed Giedre’s letters to him had stopped because she’d found another love. He’d grieved her loss to another, had tried to be happy for her. But he finds the truth behind her lost correspondence far more painful. “Giedre, dead,” he says tentatively, trying on the words like an artist might apply a new color to his canvas.
“I’m sorry,” his father says, putting his arms around Antanas. “I know you cared very much for Giedre.”
Antanas returns his father’s embrace and lets out his grief: great sobs of anguish, and he realizes he hadn’t stopped loving Giedre, that his hope they might one day be reunited had never waned.
“You seem sad today,” Loviise says from her place on the divan, where Antanas is arranging her hair on the pillow.
Antanas feels his eyes tear up; he had thought to withhold his grief from Loviise, to lose himself in his work, but her simple statement, posed sincerely—or perhaps it was just the sensuous quality of her voice?—reopens the wound that has had scarce time to form even a scab.
“Giedre,” he whispers, as if her mere name were sacred, “is dead.”
“Antanas,” Loviise says softly, and Antanas tries to recall if she’s ever before called him by name. “I’m sorry.”
Antanas looks into Loviise’s gray eyes, sees his own pain mirrored, and wonders at her ability to perceive the hidden feelings of another; perhaps she is not so cold, aloof, as she wished others to perceive her.
“It is the world in which we live,” he says simply. “We will all join her much sooner than we wish.”
For the next several hours Antanas works silently, sculpting away unwanted clay from Loviise’s torso, tenderly working the clay into semblances of her heavy breasts, right arm and shoulders. On those occasions when he looks up at his subject, he several times catches her studying him. The previous day, when they’d freely conversed, she seemed to relish being the center of Antanas’s world, excluding him from hers. Whether she enjoys watching his hands work the clay or feels pity for him the result of his loss he can’t know, but he feels comfort commingle with discomfiture as her eyes seem, for the first time, to see him.
“I’m tired,” Loviise says much later, not so much a complaint. Antanas has worked longer than he’d originally planned, not wanting, after Loviise’s departure, to be confronted with Giedre’s loss. “My left arm”—the arm that Antanas had arranged above her head—“has fallen asleep.”
Antanas laughs. “And now it will be up all night.”
Loviise joins his laughter. “I wondered if you might have a sense of humor. Come, help me up.”
Antanas walks to where Loviise lays and offers a hand, still damp from clay; she takes it but instead of leveraging herself upright, she pulls him down to sit on the edge of the divan.
“I’ve enjoyed watching you work,” she says, placing one of his hands on a breast. “Watching your hands work my breasts, so lovingly,” she adds with an envious glance at her twin. Antanas feels his face redden. “I wondered how they might feel on mine. You have strong hands, but soft. Can you deny you haven’t wondered how my real breast might feel?” Antanas only looks up from where his hand rests, to find Loviise looking at him. “It’s okay if you want to squeeze—just pretend it is your clay.”
Antanas feels his hand constrict, the breast yield amiably, then he caresses the soft warm flesh, such a contrast to the cool medium of his art; he feels the nipple stiffen beneath his touch, hears Loviise’s quick intake of air.
“Kiss me,” she says.
Antanas lowers his head to partake of Loviise’s parted lips.
Afterward, as Antanas drinks in Loviise’s beautiful body, where traces of dried clay dust reveal where his hands have explored—cheek, shoulder, breasts, hip and thigh—he is unprepared for the flood of guilt that now assails him. He’d barely time to commence grieving for Giedre, whom he hadn’t seen in two years, and who in all likelihood had found love with another, and he now finds himself burdened by his perception of his betrayal.
Antanas studies Loviise’s eyes; in turn hers study his, and he wonders at her reasons for seducing him in the manner she had. Was it because he’d maintained he would never pay for her favors or force himself on her, because he’d professed his love for another woman? Because her arrogance sought to be his first? Or because she felt pity for him, seeking to distract him from his grief for a time? Certainly it wasn’t because she cared for him. Or me for her, he censures himself. Something in him had broken at the news of Giedre’s death and so he’d sought succor in the arms of another, lost that which he’d hoped to one day give to Giedre, or someone else he might come to love.
“You feel guilt,” Loviise says. Her tone is not critical. “Because of Giedre.”
“And you wonder at my reasons for giving myself to you.”
Antanas nods; Loviise sighs. “It was not out of pity, if that is what you are thinking.” And: “You are unlike any man I’ve met. You are filled with hope, your dreams flourish, which makes you very handsome to me, and desirable.”
“A folly of youthful naiveté,” Antanas says with no small measure of irony.
Loviise ignores him. “I loved watching you work. Your hands work artistry, create beauty from shapelessness. I envy your love of your work, and wanted to feel your hope inside me.”
“You feel no love for me.”
“I don’t know you well enough to feel love. Love comes only later, when our clay masks come off and we can see the unpleasantness in our partner without looking away.”
Antanas is unable to disguise his disappointment by looking away. Loviise goes on:
“You were right yesterday: there is a part of me, a part I thought dead, that desires to be loved. Others have fucked my body, but you, Antanas,” she says, enticing him to look back at her. “You loved my body, tenderly, attentively—even if you are inexperienced.” She smiles at him affectionately, proof, to Antanas, that she isn’t mocking him. “You cared about my pleasure, and made it your own.”
“Well,” Antanas says, somewhat embarrassed by Loviise’s praise, “tomorrow I will finish with Loviise. What would you say to sitting for another piece?”
Loviise smiles warmly at Antanas and says, “I was hoping you would ask.”
Antanas finishes Loviise’s left arm and hair before, forced to confront his greatest fear, turning his attention to her face. He can easily mold her features as she presents them to the world—elegance mixed with manufactured haughtiness—but he wants something more. Like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, whose fixed gaze and secret smile provoke a silent communication between subject and viewer, Antanas wants, needs for the sake of his art, to portray, along with Loviise’s great beauty, something of her inner brokenness. Her smile, which personifies equal parts seduction and arrogance, he manages to fashion, in the set of her mouth, into semblance of a mask; while the eyes—slightly downcast—seem to refuse to meet the gaze of the imaginary viewer, contrasting with the smile. The overall effect, Antanas hopes, will invite the viewer to consider something of Loviise’s inner ache.
When he finishes, Antanas invites Loviise to inspect herself. Unlike their first sessions, which ended with Loviise donning a robe before inspecting Antanas’s work, she pads over on bare feet unaware of her nudity, perhaps secure in his presence. Antanas hopes her security is sincere and not manufactured, as he envisions it is when she dances nude for her clients. She seems intent on inspecting her own face, ignoring those aspects of her figure she’d previously discounted as body parts. Perhaps she is already intimately familiar with his imitation, having watched him work on them the past two days, or perhaps she is merely familiar with their representation as seen through the lustful glances of her clients. As she studies herself, from several perspectives, Antanas is acutely aware of her body not as a subject but as a woman, the woman who’d introduced him to the pleasures of the flesh; if Loviise is aware of his scrutiny she gives no hint. She studies her features long moments, and Antanas begins to fear her disapproval. Finally she asks:
“This is how you perceive me?”
A moment later Loviise nods. “There is something here revealed I thought my secret alone.”
A wave of relief washes through Antanas that he’s succeeded; but it is immediately followed by angst—that she may request that he change it.
“I thought I’d glimpsed it,” he says, “during our first session, through our discussion. But yesterday, after we…”
“After we made love,” she finishes, looking up at him. It is the first time she’s looked at him since coming over to inspect his work. Again she seems to see him, into him, as if he is someone she is loath to hope exists.
“I don’t pity you,” he says, answering her two-day-old charge.”
“But you grieve for that which you perceive as lost.”
“Wounded,” he corrects.
Loviise smiles, takes him by the hand to lead him back to the divan, where they indulge in their sexual passions for the second time in as many days.
Afterward, as they lay basking in the afterglow, Antanas wonders if Loviise might be the woman to replace Giedre, feels uncertainty creep in—whether Loviise might feel love for him. As if she is privy to his inner thoughts, Loviise advises: “Don’t confuse love with sex, Antanas.”
Because Loviise is his first lover, Antanas can’t know that men often blur the two. Confused by her statement, he says nothing.
“I know you love my body, which is not the same as loving me. You want to fix in me that which you think broken, which is both admirable and foolish.”
“Foolish?” Antanas asks, suddenly fearful that Loviise will one day break his heart, as she has told him she’s done many times when she tired of her other lovers. He’d originally thought her comment a lie, to keep up the barrier between them; but now he is forced to consider the truth behind her statement. “Love is never foolish,” he adds.
“But lovers often are just that. No, I’m not referring to you but to me.”
“It is not foolish to believe in love, to desire love, to wish to give love.” Antanas hears Loviise sigh beside him.
“As you’ve already deduced, and shown in your statue, I’m broken.”
“To remain so is a choice.”
“You know nothing of me.”
“I know what you do for a living, and that it’s something you detest.”
“Yet it is something at which I excel. Opportunities in the world today are slim for a woman like me.”
“You don’t have to continue doing something you despise.”
Loviise laughs softly, a canorous sound to Antanas’s ears. “I should work for you? How many statues of me can you create from your obsession with my body parts?”
“I’m not obsessed with your body.”
“So you think,” Loviise says in a patronizing tone.
“You don’t know me so well as you believe.”
“But I know men. You love Giedre, mourn her loss, perhaps seek to replace her to allay your ache.”
“You could work for me, from a business perspective. Promote me, my work.”
“I know nothing of business.”
“It’s not so difficult. I could teach you.”
Loviise falls silent and Antanas hopes she is considering his proposition. A moment later she says: “To what end? Do you imagine that, as time grows short, your art will have meaning?”
“Art will always have meaning,” he argues because he wishes to believe it will be so.
“I love that about you, sweet Antanas—your romanticism.”
“Do you believe that your art, your dancing, will also endure near the end?”
“Pornography has always had its place in the world, perhaps more so in times that were darkest.”
Antanas sighs, unable to refute her wisdom. “Just promise me you’ll consider it.”
“Very well,” Loviise says, but Antanas wonders if her concession is meant only to end their discussion. A moment and she punctuates its end by reaching down between his legs. Antanas feels himself respond and gives in to his desire.
The next day Loviise arrives to commence work on the new piece, and the next day again. Nothing is said about Antanas’s proposition, but each session ends with their customary love-making and Antanas begins to believe in a happily ever after as he feels Loviise begin to feel hopeful about her future.
However, like Giedre, Loviise abandons Antanas, before their third session—long before she might tire of him.