The Sandra Texts
Her legs folded beneath her, Katherine sits up in the disheveled bed, naked, sheets pulled up by her hands to hide modestly the fullness of her breasts, the paleness of her pale skin. She holds her hands at her chin as she gazes intently down at Joshua. He lies on his side, across the full mattress, the corner of this same sheet pulled up over his middle. Joshua's head is propped up on his bent arm as Joshua marvels at Katherine's beauty, as Joshua marvels at the fact he has made love to this stunning creature.
"But I promised...," she says.
And he listens to the sounds of her voice trickling through her lips. And he sighs at how he has survived these early days so well. Or, rather, it is me here in this Brownsville hotel room sighing these many years later, sighing for Joshua, for how he has weathered those cruel vicissitudes of budding romance.
"I promised God I would make love again only when I was in love."
And hanging between them as they gaze at one another is the magic of that first date. That first date of Our Town and a pizza bought by her. That first date of Joshua's passion and commitment to his art made clear. That first date that had forged them precipitously into an almost-couple.
"If that first date had not been so perfect, Joshua," Katherine would tell him again and again over the ensuing five years, "We probably would not be together right now."
But it had.
Hanging between them, too, was that night out with her friends, that first encounter of his with the attentions other men showered upon her, her artless affable acceptance of them, her approachability newly seen. And that first jealously of his, so uncharacteristic of him. And that first spat over his belligerent sullenness. And how he had "no right to expect anything" from her. And how Katherine had hung back then even so, to walk with Joshua, to wordlessly show her concern, to mollify.
Hanging between them, too, was the party of one week before, where, out of his presence, a male acquaintance of Katherine's sneered at Joshua; impertinently pressed Katherine to define what she saw in the long-hair, why she bothered with him. How many times would she parry that challenge in the coming five years! How many times would they laugh together over it, collusively, as if playing a trick on the world!
And the schism, the schism hung between them, that schism of last night, of the gathering at her flat. They were both fiercely independent. Because of their fierce independence each refused to take that essential but terrifying last step that turns romantic possibility into romantic reality. Neither would give enough to trust the other. Neither would surrender enough to make a first nakedly vulnerable gesture of faith. Obdurate, they stood. Counterpoised. Neither to relent. The tension of it--so taut--drove Katherine away from that gathering at her own flat. She retreated. But she retreated, of all places, to Joshua's flat. Joshua, of course, refused to follow. Adamant he stood in Katherine's living room. He would not submit. Neither of them would submit. Both refused. It might have meant their demise had a stranger not appeared before Joshua as if from a mountain top. "She likes you or you wouldn't be here," he counseled. "One of you has to let down your guard or you're both going to lose." And seeing the wisdom of this, immediately Joshua went to Katherine. Immediately he went to her to disrobe her; to make love to her for the first time; to wake then afterward, near her child-like breathing; to behold her sitting up now, the coal black tresses of her hair falling over her pale youthful skin; to see the sheets close up over her breasts; to hear her say, "But I promised God..."; and to look at her as he did right now, having surmounted those cruel vicissitudes of the early days; to say to her hopefully now, with an intensity that made him who he was, "Maybe you have not broken your promise."
And how desperately Joshua wants to tell Katherine of his passion. How he wants to articulate the words that burn so boldly in his eyes. But how he fears it, to say it, as if the uttering might shatter the dream. So vibrant she seems there, a vision. And somehow untouchable. Somehow impossible. Porcelain.
Keeping himself covered, thus, Joshua eases now from his recumbent position. He eases now through the silence to lay his head upon Katherine's lap.
He feels Katherine's posture relax suddenly.
He feels Katherine's hands begin to stroke his hair.
Joshua looks up to Katherine.
He sees that the sheet has fallen from her breasts.
He sees that she smiles.