The Sandra Texts
When Katherine was lonesome for Joshua she would give to him objects, little objects. Joshua did not notice this until the day he left for El Paso.
Everything he owned fit into a rental car. That's how he had moved himself from Indiana to San Antonio. That's how he had moved himself back from San Antonio to southern Kansas. And that's how he would now move himself from southern Kansas to El Paso. Joshua and Katherine were packing his few things into such a rental car when he at long last discerned this gesture of hers.
"Here. Take this," she said. "You will need this." Her flushed face stooped over a box. A roll of camera film, it was. Joshua did not need a roll of camera film.
"Here. You'll need this." And she was putting one of her books of Russian poetry into another box. She paused then. She looked at him. Katherine breathed.
Before those moments Katherine's feigned stoicism had convinced Joshua. But at those moments his insight pierced through it to her breadthless love. He remembered suddenly the stick of gum she had slipped into his breast pocket as they stood in the Indianapolis airport awaiting her departure for St. Petersburg. He remembered too the unexplained can of soup she bought for him at the end of her visit to San Antonio.
"Thank you, my dear," Joshua answered. He stopped resisting then these little gifts. He began to let Katherine give to him these little objects he did not need, these little objects that only swelled his impedimenta.
It was the end of their fourth and last summer together. A summer Joshua had spent seeing Katherine off every morning to her job at an insurance company. A summer he had spent at a card table in Katherine's bedroom drafting the outline of his first novel. A summer which, beginning awkwardly, had mellowed as they came to know one another again, as their intimacies reawoke, as the estrangement of time and distance passed. That summer Joshua broke up his long days of work with walks through a nearby bosk, with meditations on flora and insectlife and birds. That summer Joshua composed his first sonnet for Katherine, and wrote his first piece of real fiction. It was a summer whose late afternoons meant tennis between them on the apartment complex courts, and then cool showers before hot meals of pasta and the evening news. A summer in which Joshua read Hamlet for the first time, and spent eight to ten hours a day working for the first time, and felt, for the first time, the suggestion of the writer he might become.
"Here you go. You'll need this, Joshua."
It was a wooden spatula.
"Katherine, my dear."
To reconcile his writing with his love for Katherine, Joshua decided to teach. He entered a teacher's certification program at a small university in El Paso. There was the answer! He would give to her stability by teaching Spanish. He would provide for her an income by teaching Spanish. And still he would have his summers free-- to write, to travel. This was the middle road Joshua envisioned. By Christmastime, though, he saw this middle road for what it was--a mirage. These paths our two actors want to follow are separate and distinct paths. They do not meet. They do not intersect.
The rental car was a blue Chevrolet Lumina with red trim and gray interior. Years later when writing of that scene Joshua would remember the color of the vehicle, and remember, too, the glint of sun off the windshield, and the azure sky reflected in it. He would recall also how it was not until every object he possessed was crammed inside that car, and Katherine was forced to behold this fact, that Katherine seemed to appreciate his great accomplishment of having accumulated nothing. Her apartment was charming and quiet and comfortable, but full of baubles brought back from Russia, and potted plants, and furnishings. She shook her head at him. She chortled incredulously at him. And he stuffed a blanket, the last of his possessions, into the gaps in the trunk. And then he hopped up on the hood of the trunk to fasten it true.
A long time of emptiness followed. Joshua and Katherine sat together on her couch. They communed of the desolate air. He described pointlessly for her the wretched verminous flat he had rented in El Paso. He talked of his landlord who did not speak English; of how he had crossed the border into Ciudad Juárez briefly; of how he had liked the ambience of Albuquerque when passing through it. Pointlessly, he said these things. Pointlessly, because Katherine was not really listening, because he was not really speaking. They were just drawing out their silence together then, drawing it out, drawing it out to the end.
And then, still very early in the day, maybe noon, the hour came. Joshua had to get back to El Paso in time to unpack the car without waking his crowded neighbors. He had to leave.
The rental car running beneath him, their goodbyes having been said again and again over the previous several days, Katherine leaned through the window and gently kissed Joshua.
"Here," Katherine said. "For when you're thirsty."
A soda can, it was, cold and sweating, from her refrigerator.
And as Joshua backed out of that parking space, as he pulled away from Katherine's comfortable apartment, Joshua felt as if he were breaking some great unwritten law. Too, he felt, that to drive on, to defy this law, was to snip the last of the tenuous threads binding he and Katherine together.
He was right on both points.
Still he had to go.