I met an artist on Bumble. While we were messaging over the app, it seemed like he was relatively normal. We talked about Game Of Thrones and Stephen King and Ted Bundy. The subject matters were all pretty dark, but I didn’t really pick up on the fact at the time. After all, I was a fan of the same things. I couldn’t judge him over them.
On our first date, we visited a museum in the city. I had suggested the idea, assuming he would be able to teach me about the paintings. But he wasn’t a fan of any of the classic statues or still lifes. He explained he liked more ‘experimental art.’
I asked what the hell he was talking about, so he showed me a video of a woman who swallowed different colored paints and forced herself to vomit over the canvas. He showed me another where a man dipped his limbs in paint and then rolled his naked body across paper spread across the floor.
Those videos probably should have freaked me out. They should have been red flags. But I was a writer. I knew how bizarre the creative process could be. Besides, I thought the videos were pretty interesting. Gross, but interesting.
On our next date, I visited his apartment. He had an abstract painting hanging above his couch. It was one of those art pieces broken into three separate parts. Red paint was splattered across the two side pieces. The middle piece was blank.
“I hope you didn’t vomit all that paint on there,” I joked.
He laughed. “No, my process is more fun than that. I’ll show you later.”
He made tacos and poured beers for the both of us. We ate them on his couch while watching an episode of Modern Family. It was one where Claire and Phil, a married couple, decorated their bodies with squeeze bottles of paint and had sex on a canvas.
“I’m guessing you picked this episode on purpose,” I said. “But I’m not sure if doing something like that is romantic or sexy or fucking creepy.”
He laughed again. “Don’t worry. What I want to do is a little different, a little more unique.”
Somehow, the conversation transitioned into a makeout session. When we decided to move into his bedroom, he lingered to unhook the blank, middle canvas from the living room wall. He placed it on the mattress.
“I don’t think that’s big enough for us to fit on,” I said.
“I don’t need your whole body on it,” he whispered, twirling me around and bending me over the bed. “This is what’s going to happen. You’re going to press your palms against this canvas and I’m going to thrust into you while you make the most beautiful, sensual, intimate art this world has ever seen. All you have to do is trust me.”
He had been kissing my neck in between words, so I had closed my eyes — until something cold hit my wrists. My eyes popped open. A knife was flush against my veins.
I stiffened. “What the fuck? What are you doing?”
“You’re a writer. I’m sure you’ve heard what Hemingway said: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. It’s the same with paintings. With anything creative.”
“Put it down. Get it away from me.”
“The pain will only be temporary. The art will last forever. You can keep the finished canvas if you want. We’ll make another for me next time.”
“You’re out of your fucking mind.”
I had taken self-defense classes in the past, so it didn’t take much time for me to elbow him in the ribs and wriggle from his grip.
I grabbed my phone and booked it for the door, but on my way through the living room I couldn’t help but look at the paintings already hanging. I wondered whether those other girls agreed, whether they bought his spiel and considered the idea romantic — or whether they just hadn’t gotten away.