Stretched across the Briones trail
proud, poised and motionless
was of a young snake basking in the sun.
Diamondback or Gardener we did not know.
The lack of a rattle had us guessing.
Why wasn’t he moving? I wondered, out loud.
He must have just molted, left his skin in the grass,
my friend quickly replied
as if he had some insight I did not.
We stood there for a time
watching the raw, sinuous creature
glisten like a muscle in the sun.
Later down the trail
after there was no more oak to shade us
my friend began to tell me of the time
when he was young
and sought out adventure
at every turn
and how one year he took a job
as a nude model
for a life drawing class.
Initially both he and the young artists
were embarrassed by his nakedness.
During breaks, before sipping tea,
making eye contact
or mingling among the students
he would slip back into the thin skin
of the smock the teacher had given him.
Decorum and decency seemed so important then.
But as the class continued
the smock made little to no sense.
I am naked when they’re drawing me
why not when they’re not?
I had nothing left to hide? he said.
So one day he decided
to abandon the little sheath
and the artifice of modesty altogether
and step right out of his clothes
and stay out of them
until the class ended
three hours later.
Proudly he wore his svelte physique.
This was the way it was, my friend said,
for the rest of the semester
and it was okay for me to just be
the Naked Guy.
He was smiling, as he told this story.
A part of him, I could tell,
was basking in the memory of it –
and nearly glistening.