Tina now hangs in my bedroom at the foot of my bed.  Tina is a painting done by Paolo, my ex-lover of eight years and the emotional and sentimental favorite among my varied works of art (I suppose I refer both to the painting and Paolo.)  Tina, Paolo’s muse and my competition, is the subject and the meaning of the painting. Tina is the reason the love of my life and I didn’t survive in a relationship.


I surprised Paolo one evening, arriving home a day early from a business trip.  A classic set up.  I was asking for it and I knew it. His drug habit and infidelity were no secret and just something that we worked around. In fact, we had been working to incorporate the infidelity into our sex life.  Tina was another matter and eventually she beat me hands down. I despised Tina: The severe mood swings, the rages, the depressions, the lunacy.  But I was no match for her influence. Like too many artists, Paolo could not find his muse without drugs or alcohol. Part of me was fascinated by this dynamic, and also oftentimes sexually aroused–which pathetically helped enable my lover’s drug habit.  But Paolo’s use of crystal methamphetamine, known as Tina to her closest friends, eventually drove a wedge between us.

So I knew and I knew even more than Paolo realized I knew. However on that particular evening my premature return home delivered  huge surprises for both of us.  Yes, indeed, I did “catch” him, but not in the “anticipated” sense.

I walked through the door, and looked directly down the hall into our living room, our newly remodeled living room, I might add, and remodeled in my absence.  I later learned that most of the furniture had been piled up in the guest room and not, fortunately, carried away by the Salvation Army or an antiques dealer.

Around the perimeter of the living room, Paolo had propped up a  total of nine mirrors including the six bathroom cabinet doors.  If nothing else, Tina was the mistress of industry. In one corner of the room, he had placed the TV and VCR on a cart and Ken Rykerwas playing porn,  Ken Ryker to be precise. I remember this for a very good reason, as you will discover. Paolo had positioned his easel in the exact center of the room.  He was hard at work on Tina, wearing nothing but a beret (a little affectation of his), a Marlboro Light dangling from his lips, paint smudges wherever he had rubbed or scratched himself and, uh, a significant representative part of porn star Ken Ryker.  Paolo was athletically squatting over a stone pedestal from our garden that had a Ken Ryker Signature Collection 9 1/2 Insertable Inches Dildo stuck to the top.  Mounted on this enormous sex toy, Paolo was riding it slowly up and down while he painted, smoked and listened to the actual Ken Ryker grunting and groaning on the television set off to the side of the room.  The mirrors were of course positioned so that wherever Paolo looked, he would see a reflection of some angle of himself riding Ken Ryker’s plastic penile doppelganger.

Our simultaneous reactions were very different on several levels.  Paolo, a card carrying, no exceptions and very boastful top had an almost foot long dildo three quarters of the way up his tight “virgin” buttocks. He was mortified and, I later learned, terrified that I would  immediately lose interest in him, sexually speaking, finding him in a blatant state of bottom delicti.  However, it is very difficult to interrupt yourself and cover your tracks when found in such a scene, nine versions of  the scene reflected around the room, and your own true self impaled on a dildo topped stone pedestal.  No cover story came to mind so  he simply told me the truth–or rather he provided some background story to the astonishing and rather obvious truth.

He was painting Tina as a surprise 50th birthday present for me.  The painting was based on an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of a young man’s brain on crystal methamphetamine. Paolo was on his third day of a Tina binge and in full Tina-induced sexual frenzy, channeling, he explained all of the sexual and creative energy into my birthday present.

He waited for my reaction.

I was overwhelmed. I was furious. I was amused.  But mostly I was consumed with passion. I stood for a few minutes, as did he, in complete and utter silence.  I’m standing at the door, in a suit and tie, with laptop and suitcase in hand.  He’s naked, covered in paint and mounted on a giant latex phallus with lifelike balls.  Truly a Kodak moment but neither one of us thought to grab a camera.  Go figure.

Nothing was ever said.  I dropped my bags, quickly crossed the room, dropped to my knees and swallowed the other rather large protuberance in that room, the one made of flesh rather than latex.

Paolo, no fool and quite flexible, groaned, mixed a little more white into the indigo with his no. 10 sable brush and then went back to the painting, soon to be my birthday present.

So there we were, Richard performing enthusiastically in front of the nine mirrors.  The reflections heightened my arousal in ways I had never before experienced. Paolo had angled the television so that the porn was reflected in several of the mirrors as well.  Even on my knees, my eyes mostly engaged by his Chelsea bikini wax, I could simultaneously enjoy a rather spectacular view of his amazingly muscular and powerful parte posterior, negotiating Mr. Ryker’s plastic part with determination and considerable control.  Paolo, an artist, had arranged and angled the mirrors with a fine and discerning eye.

I rarely share the history of Tina and few of my friends and none of my relatives are aware of the painting’s somewhat controversial back story.  Furthermore, until writing and sharing this recollection no one other than myself and Paolo knew the final secret behind Tina–or should I say the secret that is blended into the oils and forever immortalized on canvas.  Paolo was fastidious in capturing the viscous result of our mutual passion and incorporating it into the painting, several times in fact.

Drugs are bad. I’m so ashamed of myself.  And you have no idea just how much I love my painting of Tina even though she is a very selfish and destructive muse.