Question: If you’re nude and everyone in the neighbourhood’s looking at you but you’ll never meet any of them, are you really nude?
Today the sun was out for the first time in decades so I got nude and lay on the backyard table. I was never that good at being nude, my body is one of those ones that looks better in clothes. But I got nude and lay there in the sun and felt the rays on my skin and it was truly delightful. I imagined I was Monica Bellucci on the beach at St Tropez and the sound of the washing machine was the sound of the boats pulling out into the cool blue water and the sound of the kids playing in the school across the road was the sound of children splashing in the shallows and the sound of old Piero pottering around in his garden next door was the footsteps of a bronzed god in a g-string padding along the sand selling watermelons.
I imagined hard and it really worked. I could smell the ocean and the coconut oil and the sweet sweet sand. And I wondered, if you can imagine yourself Monica Bellucci on the beach, then what’s to stop you imagining yourself as anyone or anything at any time? And I thought, that’s a relief if I go to prison one day. At least I’ll have that.
The sun was good. It beat down all warm like a blanket and it was that kind of Australian sun that you can lie under in springtime for up to twenty whole minutes without being burnt to a crisp. You only get that sun for a few weeks a year, then you have to slip slop slap. Which is totally boring and has caused widespread vitamin D deficiency, such as in your Faithful Bunny Rabbit. The Doctor said Get Some Sun. So I was. Everywhere possible.
I lay there and felt the nudity and thought about anonymity and how we’re all nude anyway and how funny nude bodies are. And I thought of the Fat Smoking Man from the old building opposite in the Rue Cardinet where I lived in a chambre de bonne on the 6th floor and could see in almost every window, and nobody could see me seeing. They of course knew people must have been seeing, but that didn’t stop the nudity. The Fat Smoking Man came out nude as a cherub every morning, snow or shine, to smoke his cigarette on the balcony. He leant out, deep in thought, and smoked, rolls of fat hiding what I imagined to be a Fat Man Little Penis. I only knew them from movies, generally violent ones like Saw and Sevens. There was a particular kind of penis that went on a big soft body like that. From my height I could only make out the fat rolls and the top of his bald head and his toes. But the way the limited features I could see were angled and placed, the man read Debonair. Perhaps he was Gérard Dépardieu. Perhaps he was the butcher from Delicatessen. He was confident and comfortable as ever. He could have been anyone.
Then, in the palatial apartment directly opposite me was the Prince. The Prince lived his life out before me like a storybook, lingering nude from bed to couch to desk to kitchen to balcony, sometimes accompanied by another random Nude, sometimes several. He wasn’t always nude. But he often was. I was wildly in love with him, he was everything and anything I wanted him to be and I gleefully reinvented him every day according to my mood.
Because this was the thing: you saw these people, but you never knew them. You never met them on the street. And if you did, you wouldn’t recognise them. They were just far enough away that you couldn’t identify them exactly. They were just bodies and faces and hair; they could be anyone. I saw dozens of Smoking Fat Men and Princes every day, corporate Prince, student Prince, young Smoking Fat Man, old Smoking Fat Man… The actual people, quite simply, didn’t exist. They lived only in the pictures they created for you. And the beauty was, they were completely aware of this. So they didn’t give a Hoot if you saw them making love or picking their nose or that they had an invisible penis or that their hair looked like a cockatoo in the morning – they would never know you anyway. So you were never really seeing them at all.
I wondered if old Piero was seeing me at that very moment. If he did, I didn’t mind. Piero isn’t very well and he is old, so if he gets his rocks off on a glimpse of electric white flesh through the cracks in the fence, good for old Piero. I would just keep my eyes closed and take in the sun and be nude and live my life. And if we saw each other at the letterbox I would just say Hi Piero as always and he would wave and he wouldn’t really know me any better because I will have just been his fantasy probably of someone far more interesting like Sophia Loren. Or Monica Bellucci.