..First Glyph

The Sandra Texts
Scene 6

Later, Joshua would receive a postcard from her. It would be postmarked Stockholm. And after that, one from Lithuania. And it was true Katherine would eventually return to the United States. She had to. But this fact was no anodyne. To Joshua this parting was a great blow, the vision of her boarding that airplane seismic.

He had written to her tritely once about how oceans could not divide their love. Still this he believed. But oceans could divide them. There was nothing trite about that. Since their coupling they had never been separated. Now they would be--incommunicado, even--for three long months.

Katherine's bags were packed into the belly of the jumbo jet. Katherine's papers were squared with visas for Russia. The two of them stood in the Indianapolis airport, waiting. Katherine was slightly aloof, preoccupied with the long journey she faced. Joshua lay on a figurative sacrificial stone, some figurative Aztec priest carving open his chest.

They spoke meaningless words, matterless words. For the quiet tears dripping onto his lips, her dry eyes and comforting caresses said everything. A year after this, over a Sunday brunch in southern Kansas, Katherine would say of that morning: "One of us had to be strong." And Joshua would feel, though he could not immediately articulate it, that surely there is strength in being able to demonstrate one's emotions, courage even; surely some power lies in a soul that can willingly overflow with expression. Joshua did not say this to Katherine right away, or to himself even. Not until much later, in fact, in contemplating Katherine's gross misapprehension of him, did Joshua articulate it.

He stood in the airport gate opposite. Joshua did not escort Katherine to the queue filing onto the jetway. He stood apart, in the gate opposite, grappling with the earthquake of his being, trembling, the quiet tears pouring now over his lips as the coal-black of her hair passed now out of sight, onto the jetway, toward the airplane that would take her to New York, that would take her to Stockholm, that would take her to Vilnius, that would take her to St. Petersburg.

A stranger looked on Joshua then, a woman passing. The look was intrusive. So intrusive, it was, that now, even some six years later, as I sit here in this Querétaro hotel room, I can still recall the heart shape of the strange woman's face. That intrusive look became a part of that scene.

Joshua slumped then into a seat as the plane taxied. Joshua collected himself then as the plane taxied. Joshua let himself heave and gasp a few heaves and gasps of loss as the plane taxied, until, at last, with his face pink and eyes swollen, the plane lifted off and Joshua could flee the airport under a tenuous veil of self-possession.

Before Katherine's return from St. Petersburg three months later Joshua would seize the freedom of their recent graduation. Joshua would sell all the furniture in their Indiana apartment. Joshua would pack his life into a rental car and drive from Indiana to San Antonio, Texas. There, as Katherine was quite aware, Joshua would move into a converted Catholic convent. Upon Katherine's return Joshua would be just days away from beginning a year as a volunteer teacher in a Catholic elementary school. They would have just one hurried weekend together in Wichita before that term began.

And it was then, in that one hurried weekend, that Joshua first had intimations of the coming end. He was loathe to see them. He refused to acknowledge them. But they were there. Katherine had tasted adventure in her Russian trip. But that taste had not given Katherine a hunger for it. Just the opposite, in fact. In the months after her return from St. Petersburg Katherine planted herself in southern Kansas. The romantic life was not the life for her, she decided, its insecurities, uncertainties. Katherine planted herself in southern Kansas and she refused to leave it.

This was a gulf not even Pasternak could bridge, not even Paz. For Joshua's adventures were just beginning.


John Dishwasher

The Gods of Our Fathers