* * *
When the promise of spending hours in the presence of hot, fit, and famous naked men fails to excite me, it’s time to concede that I’ve hit a new level of apathy.
Last year, I’d been in a similar situation—all the naked men, so much hotness to immortalize on film— and I’d been practically jumping out of my skin with anticipation. Much like my friend James is right now.
“I think you’re going to have to give me a ‘bitch, be cool’ lecture,” James says, as he slowly blows a tendril of smoke into the air.
Curled up on a rattan love seat on the opposite side of my balcony so I don’t get a face full of his cigarette smoke, I can’t help but laugh. “And why is that?”
James, resplendent in a lime green suit, complete with acid yellow bow tie, rolls his eyes. “Don’t be coy, Chess. It isn’t a good look on you.”
I’m mildly interested in knowing what ‘coy’ looks like on me, but I don’t bite; I know perfectly well why James is freaking out. It’s cute, though he’d hate it if I told him so.
Instead, I shrug and flick a dead fern leaf off the seat cushion. “You’re seriously this excited because we’re going to photograph a bunch of naked football players?” I shake my head, as if I’m completely clueless. “We work with some of the most beautiful people in the world. The body is nothing more than shapes and shadows to me at this point.”
Not that this will matter to James. The moment I’d told him we were doing a calendar shoot for New Orleans’s NFL team, that all the top players would be participating not only a photoshoot, but a nude one, James had gone into fanboy hissy fit mode. For him, that usually means chain smoking and talking non-stop.
At this point, James is so worked up, he doesn’t seem to notice that I’m leading him along. He snorts as he takes another drag, squinting at me through the smoke. “Naked I can handle. Shit, I kept it together quite nicely when I had to stick rhinestones on Gianna’s breasts, with her nipples all but staring at me while I worked.”
“They were fantastic breasts,” I admit, remembering the stunning model and how James had turned beet red up to the roots of his auburn hair.
James is in charge of makeup, misting, and sometimes touching up our models. He’s a consummate professional, but he’s not immune. Some of our models, be they women or men, turn him on.
Unlike me; I’ve been so apathetic this past year, I’m fairly certain a guy could wave his dick in my face during a shoot and I wouldn’t respond. Professionalism aside, it’s not exactly a good thing. In truth, it’s a little worrisome.
Years of shitty dating experiences and not one glimmer of commitment have left me feeling defective and brittle. On the bright side, I have a job I love and a loft condo in my favorite city, New Orleans. My life is fulfilling and, frankly, just getting warmed up. Still, I can’t seem to escape these bouts of lethargy.
James, unaware of my inner turmoil, nods as if remembering Gianna, but then sighs. “Tits are nothing compared to this torment, Chess. We’re talking NFL players here. My home team,” he adds with emphasis, then fans himself. “Jesus, I might actually blush, or fucking stammer, or something equally mortifying.”
“Ah, right.” As if I’d forgotten what an extreme football fan James is. During the season, he goes on about team records and playoff chances and who fucked up what play or who is his complete hero because of one win, until I’m ready to tear my arm off just to hit him with it. “The struggle is real, eh?”
Something in my expression clearly gives me away because his mouth snaps shut and he gives me a long glare. “Bitch.”
I laugh then. “You’ll be fine, James. One week of naked football players parading in front of you and then it will all be a faint memory.”
“Who says I want it to be a memory?” He wrinkles his nose. “I’m going to enjoy this. And so should you.”
I didn’t want to do this shoot. James and I are overworked at the moment, and I’m feeling the tell-tale dull pressure behind my eyes that signifies a cluster of migraines are headed my way.
I shouldn’t complain. Success has fallen into my lap these past few years. I’m a design major. Cyn, my college roommate, who now lives in New York, is a fashion major. I started doing photos for her fledgling collection, and people liked both of our work. Things took off from there, and I’m not looking back.
Were I not exhausted, I might be okay with reining in a bunch of overgrown, muscle-bound boys—because that’s how the male athletes I’ve worked with before usually behave. But now I don’t want to deal with any of it. I want to crawl into bed and sleep for a week.
Unfortunately, James, who also acts as my booking agent, insisted I take this job. It was for a good cause, rebuilding housing for flood victims not only in the area, but also in the greater US. And, because it would feature our city’s football heroes in the buff, it was guaranteed to be a big hit.
“Besides,” he had said over the phone last week, “they want you. Your naked fisherman calendar impressed them.”
I’m fairly certain the fact that the buff fishermen images went viral is what impressed them. But I found myself saying yes. Damn it all.
“It’s just a job, James,” I tell him now. Because, honestly, I don’t want to get excited over men I can’t have. Famous football players definitely fall into that category. I just want an honest working Joe with a clever mind and a talented tongue. A cute smile wouldn’t hurt either. Is that too much to ask?
Right,” James drawls. “And gelato is just another word for ice cream.”
I gasp. “You hush your mouth, mister.”
A faint pounding noise catches my attention. James lurches up as if he’s been pinched. “Shit biscuits, they’re here!”
He stands there, flapping his hands for a minute, before stomping on his cigarette and giving me a panicked look.
I smile, though I feel the strain on my cheeks. “Bitch, be cool.”
“Huh. That was actually depressingly unhelpful.” A small pout pulls at his full beard.
“If it will make you feel better, I can oil them up.”
Outraged horror has his eyes going wide. “Take that from me and I’ll salt your coffee for a week.”