Archive for March, 2012

CHAPTER 12

Posted: March 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Blaine Hall, Room B102
University of Washington, Seattle
Jan. 7, 1957

Dear Mother and Daddy,

Happy birthday, Mother! I’m going to phone you after my first class and give you my greetings in person, but am writing this just in case you’re not home. Even though you’re busy getting ready for the move to Oakland, I hope the two of you have a chance to enjoy an evening out to celebrate.

My friend Frank picked me up at the Greyhound station Saturday afternoon; we had dinner at a seafood restaurant near the marina and then he took me to the residence hall for check-in…

 

When my bus reached the Greyhound depot in Seattle on the fifth, I looked anxiously out the window for David and finally spotted him standing apart from the crowd, aloof as always, his hands thrust deep in the pockets of his overcoat.

I went running to his arms as soon as I stepped off the bus, and we embraced with a long kiss, oblivious of the people around us. David was grinning from ear to ear. “God, it’s good to see you. It seems more like two years than two weeks. Give me your baggage check and let’s get out of this place.”

By the time we finished our meal and left Sam’s, it was eight o’clock and already dark. Throughout dinner we chatted gaily, delighted to be together again, but on reaching David’s car I fell silent. Two weeks at home had given me plenty of opportunity to worry about spending the night with him and I was starting to shiver with anxiety.

“Where are we going?” I asked, as we drove down an unfamiliar highway.

“Straight to hell, probably. Seriously, I’m heading toward North Seattle. I don’t want to be too near the university. I think there’s a number of … motels on Aurora Avenue.”

“Where do you usually take your girlfriends?”

David didn’t smile. “I’ve never done this before with anyone.”

I slid over beside him and put my head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. Bad joke. That makes two of us.”

We left Highway 5, turned up Aurora and passed a couple of prospects. “Those seem decent enough,” David remarked. “At least they’re AAA approved. Do you have any preference? TV?” He shot me a quick smile. “Twin beds? Shower?”

“I’m not much of a TV watcher and I’ll leave the bed arrangement up to you. I would like one thing, though.”

“What is it?”

“A bathtub. I feel so grimy after the bus ride. I’d love to relax in a tub of hot water.”

David circled back and drove into the closest motel. He returned from the registration desk with a key in his hand and a smile on his face.

“Done. No TV, a double bed for me and a bathtub/shower combo for you. And courtesy coffee in the morning.” David carried my bag to the room and I lingered outside for a few minutes, petting the motel owner’s golden retriever who had padded over from the office to greet us.

David stood in the doorway, watching. “It’s well past nine; surely you’re not going to stay there all night with that dog are you? We can always invite her in, you know.”

I realized he had more on his mind than dogs; almost reluctantly, I said goodbye to the retriever and followed David inside. It was a typical 50’s style motel room, neat and anonymous, amply furnished in chrome and formica. A slightly crooked picture of a Dutch windmill hung above one of the two double beds.

“Two beds?”

“Of course. One for you and one for me. Which one do you want?” David started to laugh. “They came with the tub.” He locked the door behind us and put his arms around me.

“What name did you use when you registered?”

“My own. I gave the biochemistry department as my address, though.”

We stood holding each other without saying a word. David looked at me.

“Do you still want to take a bath? While you’re in the tub, I’m going in search of a drugstore. I forgot to bring a razor; if I don’t shave I’ll look like a bum in the morning.”

David left and I started to unpack. I laid out on the bed the nylon chiffon nightgown my parents had given me for Christmas, a timely and rather uncharacteristic gift. It was light blue, and cut low at the neckline, with appliquéd flowers on the yoke and sleeves. David returned about ten minutes later and knocked on the bathroom door to let me know he was back. I dried myself, loosened my hair so it fell to my waist, and put on the gown. I peeked out at David; he’d pulled a chair beside the bed lamp and was sitting with his legs crossed reading a newspaper.

I opened the door and smiled at him, shyly, clutching the neckline of my nightgown. David glanced up and gave a gasp of surprise. “Kate … I’ve dreamed about this moment for so long…”

I repeated the words David said to me the first time he held me in his arms, “they say anticipation is better than realization. Is it true?”

He replied with mine, “Emphatically not; the realization is infinitely better.”

“You remembered.”

“Yes, dear, I remember. That was a first time, too, just as this is.”

I walked over to his chair and he stood up. “Before we reach the point where we can’t stop, there’s something I have to do. I’m going to shave and take a shower; I won’t be long.”

“Do you always shave at night?”

He took my hand and rubbed it against his cheek. “Almost never, but if I don’t shave now, your face will be sandpapered raw by morning.”

I sat down, picked up the newspaper, and read an article about the preparations for Eisenhower’s inauguration at least three times without understanding a word. I listened to the noises from the bathroom, and when the shower stopped and I heard the sound of David’s vigorous toweling, my mouth went dry. He appeared a moment later with one towel wrapped around his waist and another over his arm.

“Something else I didn’t bring – a pair of pajamas.” He looked down at the towel around his waist. “I didn’t want to frighten you with my maleness.”

I realized why he’d covered himself and tried not to stare.

David put his hand on the light switch. “May I?”

I nodded and he turned out the overhead light, leaving only the small lamp where I was sitting. He crossed over to the bed, pulled down the covers and spread the towel he was carrying over the bottom sheet. I turned off the lamp and stood up. For a moment the darkness blinded us; David reached out to touch me and I began to tremble.

“I’m sorry. Somehow it was easier on the boat.”

“What happened on Sturmvogel was spontaneous; you didn’t have time to be apprehensive. I understand.”

He put his arms around me and started to cover my face and neck with tiny kisses.

“David, when people do this, do they take their clothes off?”

“Well, it depends.” Even though I wasn’t able to see his expression clearly in the dark, I could tell from the sound of his voice that he was smiling. “According to Dr. Kinsey’s study there’s a positive correlation between the educational level of the partners and their state of undress. So in that case, dear Kate, I think we’re entitled to remove these.”

David untied my nightgown and it slithered to the floor, followed by his towel. He picked me up, laid me on the bed, and lay down beside me.

My teeth began to chatter.

“Dearest,” he whispered, “I know you’re afraid. I promise to be gentle.”

And he was. I felt a sudden rush of heat and saw sparklers flashing behind my closed eyelids; it was a strange sensation, neither painful nor pleasant, and I have never experienced it since. Afterwards I lay beside David, half awake and half asleep, listening to his regular breathing. Cars sped by on the road outside the motel; their headlights raked the walls of the room like gunfire and then disappeared, plunging us again into darkness. I studied David’s silhouette in the dim light and began tracing his profile with my index finger.

“What are you doing?” he asked sleepily.

“I’m pretending I’m a sculptor. You’re craggy. You look like you were just carved from a marble block – all angles and planes – no curves. You know, you’ll always be handsome; it’s in your bone structure.”

I ran my finger down his profile again and this time he bit it.

“Are you happy, Kate?”

“More than happy, contented.”

“What’s the difference? In Spanish they’re the same.”

“All the difference in the world. To me contented means something more than being happy; contentedness is an all pervasive joy, a state of nirvana where there’s no more striving, no more desire.” Abruptly I sat up on one elbow. “What’s your name?”

David looked puzzled. “David Rosenau, of course; is this one of your African witchdoctor things about names?”

“The sign by the door to your office says ‘L.D. Rosenau.’ What’s the ‘L’ for?”

“Oh that. ‘Leopold,’ for my father. You can see why I go by ‘David’. Why are you asking me now?”

“This is terrible. It just occurred to me I’m in bed stark naked with a man and I don’t even know his name!”

David laughed. “Do you know one of the reasons I love you? Because you’ve restored my sense of fun. I’d forgotten what it was like to let myself go and be utterly goofy. I’ve been so busy living up to the image of David Rosenau – Leopold David Rosenau – that the real me, the quintessential me, was nearly extinguished”.

We were silent for a few minutes; David put his arm around me and drew me to him.

“There’s something I want to ask you”, I said, “an anatomical question. No, don’t look at me. I get embarrassed when I ask questions like this and you can see my face.”

“My eyes are shut. Ask away.”

“You know with male dogs, how they have a sort of sheath and the penis is inside and it only comes out when the dog is ready to mate?”

“Yes.”

“Is … that the way men are?”
“You’ve never seen a naked man, not even in a photograph?”
“When we were in Florence I saw Michelangelo’s David, but I was too embarrassed to take a good look.”

David laughed. “Men are different; may I show you?”

I shook my head vigorously. “I can’t look at you … not yet.”

He took my hand. “Then let me show you this way. You said you didn’t know if you should touch me in certain places. Is this what you meant?”

“Yes. Is it … is it all right?”

“More than all right.”

“David?”

“Mmmm.”

“Do you remember the conversation we had at the zoo …when you told me what you were afraid of?”

“Yes, I remember.”

“It didn’t turn out the way you thought, did it? I mean …”

“No, it didn’t. With you it was different, completely different. How about you? All the things you worried about?”

“Me? Was I ever afraid?”

He guffawed.

“David?”

“Yes?”

“Do people ever make love more than once?”

“Sometimes.” He moved his head slightly to catch the light on my face. “You’re very narrow, dear, and I’m … would it be too painful?”

“No.”

He put his hand between my legs, inserted a finger deep inside, withdrew it, and started to massage me with a circular motion. I recoiled in shock and clamped my legs together.

“Please, Kate,” he whispered, “relax and let me touch you. I want us to reach a climax together. Tell me when you’re ready.”

We embraced and David buried his face in my hair. He cried out “oh Kate,” with a moan that was muffled by the pillow, whether from ecstasy or despair I wasn’t sure. I felt like I was surfing the crest of an unending wave. I pulled him tightly to me and we made love twice more without parting before sinking back, wet and exhausted, upon the sheets.

In the middle of the night we awakened again. I don’t know which of us touched the other first; a simultaneous urge made us grope for one another in the dark. We made love drowsily, languorous as a pair of sloths, until the knife-edge of desire blurred once more into sleep.

When I awakened, sunshine was streaming through the curtains and I was alone in bed. I listened for sounds from the bathroom and, hearing nothing, I sat up. David’s jacket and coat were lying on a chair, but his other clothes were missing. “David?” A key rattled in the door and he entered, carrying a brown plastic tray with a carafe of coffee and two cups. Almost instinctively, I pulled the bed sheet up to my shoulders. David’s eyes caught mine and he smiled.
Still holding the tray, he closed his eyes, and sniffed loudly. “Ummm.”
“What do you smell?”
“Sex.”
“Sex?”
“Sex. Or in scientific terms, semen, sweat and vaginal secretions. You and me. Memento of a glorious night in bed.”
“I don’t smell anything.”
“That’s because you’re immersed in it; I just came from the fresh air outdoors. The scent’s an aphrodisiac. I think we should bottle and sell it as the antidote to war. One whiff and people will be so busy screwing like rabbits, they won’t have time to fight.”
“If you’re not awarded a Nobel for your scientific accomplishments, you’ll still win one for peace.”
“My thoughts, exactly; a joint prize, like the Curies’.”

He laid the tray on the table. “We’ve availed ourselves of the tub, the absence of TV and”, he grinned broadly, “the double bed. I thought it was about time for the coffee.”

“What time is it?”

“Seven.”

“Seven! It’s the middle of the night!” I groaned and slipped under the covers, burying my head.

David pulled at the blankets and I pulled back. “¡Dormilona! Come on, up, up! ‘morning’s at seven, the hillside’s dew pearled, the lark’s on the wing, the snail’s on the thorn, God’s in his heaven and …’”

“I’m tired!” I uncovered my face and stuck my tongue out at him. We laughed and I sat up again, still clutching the sheet. David poured the coffee and handed me a cup.

“You’re looking very fit this morning, Leopold David Rosenau.”

“I’m feeling exceptionally fit, thank you, well rested. And you?”

“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” I answered with a giggle.

“Are you … all right?”

“I’m fine … a little sore.” Actually, I was very sore, but I didn’t want to tell him.

“How about this. Why don’t you go back to sleep for a while and I’ll sit in bed and read the paper.” He draped his trousers over a chair, propped his pillow against the headboard, and got into bed beside me in his sport shirt and underpants.

I pretended to be asleep for a couple of minutes while I watched him through my eyelashes. “I forgot to bring a tape measure!” I exclaimed suddenly.

David looked up from his paper. “What for?”

“There’s some peasant community in Europe – in Czechoslovakia I think – where the mother measures the bride’s neck on her wedding night and again in the morning. If the girl’s had an orgasm, her neck gets larger.”

David exploded with laughter. “Where do you get all this stuff? I swear you’re making half of it up.”

“I’m not either,” I replied with mock indignation.

“At least you’ve answered one of my questions.” David looked pleased. “How many times?”

“You know how terrible I am at math. I can’t count that high. Couldn’t you tell?”

“Oh, I had a sneaking suspicion. Either that or you’re a consummate actress.”

I moved my hand along David’s chest and started to unbutton his shirt.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?”

“Making you comfortable.”

He gave me a long look. “I always wondered what would happen if a satyr met a nymph. I believe I’m finding out.”

I propped myself up on one elbow and cradled my chin in my hand. “I want to ask you something. Seriously. After the first time were you doing it because you felt you had to prove something to me, I mean because of your age? I love teasing you, but I’ll stop if you’re doing this out a sense of obligation to me or because you think I’m expecting it or…”

“I’m not trying to prove anything to you. One can’t will these things you know. If that were possible, there wouldn’t be any impotent men. I feel … like someone who’s dying of thirst in the desert when out of nowhere he stumbles upon an oasis.” David rolled up the newspaper, flung it gaily across the room and turned to me with a smile. “I’m thirsty again.” He hooked his index finger over the top of the sheet I was still holding up to my chin and started to pull it down.
After months of a chaste courtship – if it could be called that – David’s uninhibited sexuality took me by surprise and I wasn’t sure how to react.
“I’m so flat-chested ….”
David lowered the sheet and pressed me back against the bed. “I adore your firm little breasts.” He nuzzled my armpit, caressed my nipples with his tongue, and covered me with kisses. “Can you tell the effect they have on me?”
Feeling his bulging erection, I realized that women’s magazines were right when they said large breasts aren’t everything.

We were still asleep when a maid knocked on the door at eleven. David showered hastily, and by the time I was out of the tub, I found him already dressed and straightening the bed. He picked up the bloodstained towel he’d spread over the sheet the night before, looked at me sadly, without smiling, and carried the towel to the bathroom. I heard him running water in the sink.

We ate a late breakfast at Manning’s Café, near the university – eggs, bacon, hash-browned potatoes, toast and – for me – a piece of banana cream pie. David winced at the idea of dessert, but I was ravenous and still at the age when I could eat sweets with impunity.

“Don’t turn around now,” David cautioned as I smothered my toast with strawberry jam, “but there’s a man near the cash register who keeps staring at us, about 30, dark hair, olive complexion, glasses. Do you know him?”

I turned my head slightly and searched for the man out of the corner of my eye. “It’s Mr. Maldonado, the Spanish professor I had last quarter.”

“He’s leaving,” David said in a low voice.

Maldonado crossed the room to where we were sitting. Feeling embarrassed to be seen eating breakfast with David, I didn’t look up. He passed by our table and paused for a moment before going to the exit.

“What a queer duck!” David exclaimed. “He stared at you for at least three seconds; I wonder why he didn’t stop and say hello?”

“He probably wasn’t real; it was the personification of my conscience, like the cricket in Pinocchio.”

“This is real enough, though. Is he CEM?” asked David, taking a card from his jacket pocket.

“The postcard! You got it! Did he write anything besides my grade?”

David handed me the card. On the long axis of the postcard to David, and with the same ink he’d used to decorate mine, Mr. Maldonado had drawn a huge red ‘A’ at least four inches high, bordered with small black hatch-marks along the edges of the letter.

“What on earth is that supposed to mean? Here’s the one he sent me; it’s straightforward enough.”

David read my card without smiling and looked at the postmark. “He mailed mine three days after yours; that’s strange.” He turned the cards over and his expression hardened.

“Do you have any classes with him winter quarter?”

“No, I have Dr. García for Latin American poetry. You noticed something about the cards, what is it?”

“If this is his idea of a joke, I’m not amused. Look at your card. He wrote the grade as an ‘A’ plus. Now look at mine. The grade is an ‘A’ without the ‘plus’, a big, fat red ‘A’ with little marks along the border that appear to represent sewing or embroidery. What does that suggest to you?”

A chill passed through me. “A scarlet letter, ‘A’ for adultery.”

“Exactly. That accounts for why he sent my card a few days after yours; since you addressed mine to the biochemistry department, he knows I’m on the staff. Your Mr. Maldonado must have been doing a little checking up on me.”

I sat staring at the postcards, too stunned to speak. “But why? Is this some kind of blackmail, or what?”

“I doubt it. Your first guess was probably spot on, but he’s no phantom, and he’s addressing his message to me, not to you. I think he’s warning me off. What do you know about him?”

“Not a great deal; Maldonado’s a Ph.D. candidate from some school in the Midwest, the University of Chicago, I think. He’s been here for a couple of years while he writes his dissertation, sort of like Frank’s position in your department except he has the title of Instructor. Last quarter I had him for Spanish 304; he’s an excellent teacher, very funny and super-conscientious. Right before finals, he gave us a Christmas party. He brought in cookies, cake, punch and his own record of Spanish Christmas carols, and went to the trouble of transcribing the words of the songs and mimeographing them so everyone could have a copy. Then, after he’d gone to all this work, when the students realized they weren’t having a regular class, most of them just grabbed the refreshments and walked out. I stayed afterwards to help him clean up.” My voice broke. “I felt terrible for him. I think he’s the kind of person who can’t take rejection. He seems … so vulnerable.”

David’s face softened. “I’m sure he must have been deeply hurt. Is he married?”

I shook my head. “He’s Norma’s faculty advisor.”

“Is there anything between them?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Is he Spanish?”

“No, he’s an American.”

David read my card again. “Does he always call you ‘Catarinita’?”

“He never calls me Catarinita. He always addresses me as Señorita Collins. No, wait. About a week ago I was in Denny and I saw him in the hall. He was standing talking to a couple of other professors, I didn’t pay any attention to who they were … and just as I passed him, Mr. Maldonado said ‘Catarina’s such a pretty girl.’ Right out loud. It was such a bizarre remark – it was almost like he was talking to himself. David! Could he be infatuated with me?”

David shrugged. “I don’t know what to think.”

“Another thing – it just occurred to me; several times when you and I’ve been at the HUB having coffee together, I noticed Mr. Maldonado there too, and he was looking at us – maybe watching us is a better word. At the time it didn’t strike me, but now … should I tell Norma about the postcards?”

“No, don’t mention them. What’s the point; you won’t be seeing him again, anyway.”

“But the party! Norma’s party! I forgot to tell you. I received a letter from her when I was home and she’s having the housewarming this Saturday the 12th. Norma’s sure to invite Maldonado.”

“How jolly. Well, I’ll be damned if I’ll let that poor devil intimidate me.”
Advertisements