last year, for my birthday, schwebel decided he wanted to give me a gift.
i’m sitting by the cluttered, barely-lit desk of his studio. nestled in the hills of ein karem, just southwest of jerusalem, the studio space feels more like a cavern, complete with a wood-burning heater and a small lived-in bed. thick, stone walls of what was once an arab home keep us cozily warm. he wraps his hand around the neck of the bottle, “a glass of wine, babe?” i stop typing for a second and shake my head, “no, no thanks. i need to keep focused, you know.” we’d already split a small bottle of a great local cab over dinner. i felt full and flushed. “well, how about that present then?” he says as he slaps my knee. i perk up. he shoves back his chair and heads toward his collection, where huge canvases (worth thousands, mind you) collect dust. he begins to leaf through old sketches and etchings and pauses on a beautiful cityscape of tel aviv. perfect. i sit smugly. he flips past it, picks up a wooden panel painted bright blue, and studies it for a minute. i can’t quite make out the subject. it looks like two lovers. he turns back to me, “hey, you want a blowjob?” i raise an eyebrow, cock my head, “um, excuse me?” he hands me the piece of plywood. i stare, mouth agape. it is, in fact, a sketch, or more specifically, a self-portrait of schwebel receiving a blowjob. tediously detailed, the overt homage to the art of fellatio depicts a full-figured femme, conveniently unidentifiable, with an enraptured, generously hairy and perfectly perky schwebel, legs literally flailing. my eyes widen. i hesitate. schwebel grabs it out of my hands and sits back down on his cushion. he pulls out a sharpie and flips over the panel. “schwebel for sharon on her 24th birthday,” he writes and hands it back. “thanks for the blowjob,” i reply.