The Naked Guy in the Basement

You know what it’s like, right?  Moving in with a roommate, having to decide what comes with and what can’t fit–the usual.

So I decided my round kitchen table wouldn’t fit.  I asked the Ukrainian movers (whom we nicknamed Jay and Silent Pavel) if they could bring it down to the basement of the gorgeous old Brooklyn house that would be my new home.  I followed them out of perhaps a misplaced sense of hospitality.  In no time, they plunked it on the cement ground and headed back up.

I lingered at the bottom of the stairs, trying to find the light switch.  And that’s when I saw him.

Leaning back against a beam, glistening slightly in the shadows.

My roommate was an artist.  And I guess he hadn’t made the cut.  A charcoal nude.  A sketch.  A sleeping man reclined on a sofa, a book on his lap.

He was… beautiful.

I stood in awe and gaped.

Finally, I stumbled back up.  I staggered to the studio, bathed in light, where my friend was chatting with my new artist roommate.

I didn’t bother with preambles.

“Who’s the naked guy in the basement?”

My friend’s face was a canvas of Gobsmacked.

Within a few months, The Naked Guy in the Basement–for thusly was he renamed–made it out of the basement and, with much fanfare, onto the living room wall.  By the time I moved away, packing my few belongings into J’s car for the long drive south, he was a mainstay for all of us.  My roommate endowed him to me as a goodbye gift, although I wouldn’t see him again until I finished with Peace Corps.

That day, the day I moved out, I saved loading the art until last.  Turning to grab the last few pieces, I saw he was missing.  Him and a Dali sketch another friend, Ev, had given me years gone by.  Saint John of the Cross, it’s called, and it’s my favorite Dali.

I stifled a squeak and ran about the house looking for them.  Through a window, I saw J make her way down to the car.  I ran to the front door.


She turned, cocking her eyebrows.

“Do you have Jesus and the Naked Guy?”

Her expression told me she wasn’t the sort to yell the answer to that one on a Sunday morning.

Now that I’m moving into my own place sometime soon–months after moving back from Peace Corps–I need to unbury my art at my parents’ home.  I think Jesus and the Naked Guy might just be under my bed, but I’ll find out for sure soon enough.  🙂

Brooklyn View, Winter Storm

Brooklyn View, Winter Storm


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
This entry was posted in art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, books, Brooklyn, moving, New York, photos, whatnot and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Naked Guy in the Basement

  1. MauiPotiki says:

    It’s not often you can say you have Jesus and a Naked Guy under your bed …

    • sputnitsa says:

      🙂 True. 🙂

      I have a bunch of paintings under my bed, protected from the dust with sheets… Can’t wait till I can finally put them up on my walls again…

  2. Beth says:

    Great story. 🙂
    I hope that you find The Naked Guy and Jesus soon!

    • sputnitsa says:


      I too look forward to being reunited with Jesus and the Naked Guy. But I have no idea when I’ll manage to bring them north again. I’ll have to get a new cylinder for the art to move it up, but that’ll cost me the nice frame on Jesus. The Naked Guy’s frame is eh, and could be lost and replaced…

      We’ll see 🙂

  3. Yarnspnr says:

    Yes, very interesting and entertaining yarn. The line drawing of the person I know as Sputnitsa is taking on some vibrant colors. It reminds me of the kind of artwork I used to see and buy on the streets surrounding Hyde Park in London back in ’69 when I first lived there. Of course the PCness of the time would never have allowed for the words “Naked Guy.” You could run around that way, say at “Woodstock” or through your high school gym as a “streaker,” but little olde ladies died at the word “naked” back in those days. You could do it, but you weren’t supposed to talk about it. Ahh, the ever interesting morals of the American people!

    • sputnitsa says:

      Hahaha! I can’t imagine how your line drawing is changing! 🙂

      Interesting note about the art around Hyde Park back then. Were the nudes in a certain style, was there a slant or ideology to the art that was being expressed?

      This guy (my nude) is really lovely; although he’s sketched in black, the overall feel is very warm, and very homey. He’s just an ordinary man, in profile, sleeping on the sofa with his book. The pose is so relaxed and real, it kind of strikes one. It strikes me that we don’t see nudes like that, especially of men, because all my guests comment on him.

      I love how “naked” was a bad word. I guess I see “nude” as air-brushed nakedness, and his pose is so natural, I had to use the word I see as more natural. 🙂

      It would be interesting to read a comparative study on the morals (expressed in action and counterposed with word) of Americans and some other cultures, as they change over time…

      The odd thing about Jesus—and I certainly mean him no disrespect to be paired (painting-wise) with the Naked Guy–is that I’m not usually partial to depictions of him on the cross. I’ve seen some beautiful and deeply moving paintings of him in some other situations, but by and large I am not fond of the crucifixion imagery. But Dali captures it in an AMAZING way. Are you familiar with it?

      I believe the painting was attacked in a gallery/museum once by someone who took offense at the depiction, because of the viewpoint of the viewer–above Jesus. That to me is its strongest aspect. He is depicted so sensitively…with so much heart to it. And imagination.

      I prefer the sketch to the painting, though. The sketch is in brick-colored strokes; the overall effect is warmth and humanness. The painting is more…dramatic. Or dramatized, as I feel it.

  4. Yarnspnr says:

    The art at Hyde Park is probably still going on today. It’s kind of a national tradition. There was every kind of style you could name shown there. We bought three paintings, one a rather modern painting of St. Paul’s, one a painting of English and French ships having at each other that Beth would like. And an exquisitely done nude girl with a rose done in pastels.

    Yes, Dali was one for imagination. ‘Christ of St. John on the Cross’ is a truly wondrous piece of art. I can understand why you enjoy it!

    During the 50’s and early 60’s on TV sitcoms such as “The Honeymooners” Ralph and Alice could not be pictured in bed unless they had one foot touching the floor. British TV in the late 60s allowed complete nudity. Odd how different areas of the world look upon the natural state. I’ll never understand it.

    • sputnitsa says:

      🙂 Nice, your art purchases. 🙂

      It’s also interesting how we mythologize certain concepts in time. There’s a great book called “The Myths of Motherhood” (or something like that) which looks at how we portray motherhood through the ages–not just how, for instance, motherhood was conceptualized in the 1950s, but also how TODAY we mythologize the 1950s concept of motherhood: and the two don’t match at all. I think the book looks at “nakedness” as well, but only tangentially.

      It’s fascinating.

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