State College

I’m auditing a class on Roman portrait statuary because I’m interested in draping, how even in marble fabrics cling desperately to skin, how millennia ago the desire to capture a man’s body was strong enough to devote hundreds of hours to chipping at stone. It’s an upper-level course, but there are a few freshmen who can’t seem to focus, including a lacrosse bro who likes to mime intense listening just to raise his hand and say he thinks the opposite. The professor thinks this is funny because on syllabus day she mentioned that everything she’d present is conjecture. She paces like we’re on a walking tour, reminds us, due in part to the ruined state of surviving statuary, there’s no way to know precisely how Romans lived. I’ve taken to ignoring Lax Bro’s jokes because they’re stale and because I’d rather just watch his jaw move. Chiseled. When I look at the statues on screen I imagine him in place of the marble, suddenly wanting more than anything to record the whole of him. Though I know better photographers have already done it, I fantasize about asking him to pose for portraits in the ruins’ style (nude, perhaps holding a frisbee), stopping him after class to ask if he’d ever modeled before. He’d say, No man but it sounds fun. And I’d have to say something like, Yeah brah it’s chill, to not let on that it isn’t about recreating the past but about observing the present. The exchange couldn’t include any allusion to desire; I’m sure that’d end it. Would it be easy to pass for straight in this fantasy, the only queer person in the room? The professor moves on to the relationship between the emperor Hadrian and his young ward Antinous, more than likely both sexual (common) and romantic (not), and why there are more surviving statues of Antinous than of multiple emperors. She gets excited because there’s a cult involved and asks if the class wants to spend a few extra days on the pair. Of course I’d like more, but the room is silent until Lax Bro says,

I really don’t think
anyone cares about that,
I mean, no offense

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