Chapter Nine

Blaine Hall, Room B102
University of Washington, Seattle
Dec. 15, 1956

Dear Mother and Daddy,
I know it’s been a long time since I’ve mentioned sailing. You must be thinking (and hoping) that I do nothing but study. Finals begin next week, but I’m caught up, so when Dr. Rosenau and Frank suggested going for a sail Thursday evening, I decided to go with them. It was divine - there was no moon and the stars were like diamonds in the sky...

The chimes were ringing three o’clock the following afternoon when I ran up to David’s office in the Health Sciences Building but, instead of finding the lights on behind the glass door and hearing the sound of music from twenty feet down the hall, his room was dark and taped to the door was a piece of paper:

P.P.M. Meeting 3-5
Inquire at office for messages

I read the note several times. What was a P.P.M. meeting? Why hadn’t David called me? I could just as easily have come at a different time. A cold hand clutched my heart as I began to wonder if he was avoiding me. “Inquire at office for messages,” had to mean the typing. I continued down the hall to the departmental office where Iris Williams was bending over a typewriter; she glanced up at me without breaking the rhythm of her fingers on the keys.
“With you in a minute,” she said, returning her gaze to the note pad at her side. Iris’ unwashed hair was falling in front of her eyes and across her forehead, reminding me of a sheepdog. She finished the page, pushed her hair to one side, and looked up.
“What can I do for you?”
“I work for Dr. Rosenau. Did he leave anything for me?”
“Oh, you’re Kate Collins, aren’t you?” A lightbulb of recognition flashed on over Iris’ head and we stared at each other for a moment. I felt infamous; she Knew Who I Was.
“Yeah, he asked me to give you this.” Iris took a heavy manila envelope from the corner of her desk and handed me the package. “He’s very nice, isn't he?”
“Who?” I said stupidly, and then recovered myself. “Dav… Dr. Rosenau, yes, he is.”
Feeling foolish, I turned and left the office. Frank was waiting for me outside the door and fell into step beside me.
“Frank, what’s a P.P.M. meeting?”
“That meeting of David’s? Geez, I don’t know. I think it's got something to do with the premedical curriculum. I wouldn’t wait for him if I were you. He probably won’t be out much before five. Don’t the two of you usually go over to the HUB around now?”
I nodded.
“How about joining me for a cup of coffee, instead.”
Frank was too full of Christmas spirit to notice my lack of enthusiasm and he managed to keep the conversation going with a minimum of input from me. He told me he was driving to Spokane the following week to spend Christmas with his fiancée. Frank had never talked much about her, but that afternoon, encouraged no doubt by the prospect of seeing Kathleen after an absence of several months, he related the complete history of their courtship. They’d met in high school as cheerleaders, which I couldn’t picture – Kathleen sounded too shy and Frank was fresh off the boat from Italy. After meeting Frank, Kathleen had converted to Catholicism and, as sometimes happens with converts, she became more Catholic than Frank himself, going so far as to spend two years in a convent before deciding to marry him. They’d been engaged for three years, and while Frank completed the work on his Ph.D., Kathleen was studying for her teaching credential at a Catholic women’s college. When I asked if their long separation was physically difficult for them, Frank looked at me aghast; he babbled something about the wife’s being the vase of chastity of the family and how he’d never done more than kiss Kathleen and hardly any of that.
    “She’s very pure, you know; she’s with those nuns all day long.”
    I was several years younger than either of them, but I suddenly felt old, very old.
“Are you still typing those articles for David?” Frank asked, glancing at the envelope on the table.
“Yes, we haven’t finished yet. He thinks we’ll be done in a couple of months.”
“Can I see what he gave you?”
“Sure, go ahead, but everything's in Spanish. You may be a biochemist and fluent in Italian, but I don’t think you’ll understand it. I read Spanish as well as I do English and even I don’t know half of what I’m typing.”
Frank removed a sheaf of papers and thumbed through them as I finished my coffee. He stopped at one page, read it, and looked at me with a frown. “You’re right; I don’t understand.” Frank replaced the manuscript in the envelope, bent the metal tabs carefully in place, and handed me the package.

When I reached the dormitory, I hurried along the hall leading to my room, key in hand, hoping the telephone would be ringing, but the room was silent. I sat down to study with one eye on the clock. By 5:45 I knew the meeting must be over and David still hadn’t called, but I didn't dare leave the phone, even though I needed to go to the bathroom. I thought of calling the biochemistry department and dismissed the idea. David wasn’t likely to be in his office so late and if, for some reason, he was avoiding me, I had too much pride to let him know I was hurt. At six Norma knocked on my door to ask if I was going to dinner; I threw a final glance at the clock, another at the telephone, and left the room.
After dinner we sat for a long time in a small alcove overlooking the garden while Norma told me about her hunt for a cheap apartment in the university district. The residence hall restrictions disgusted her and, being over 21, she could live where she pleased. Her narration punctuated with vocal exclamation marks, Norma described the place she'd found, a converted sun porch, large and airy, within walking distance of the campus, if two miles could be called "walking distance" and cheap, because the apartment was perched on the top of a steep hill. Norma wasn’t deterred, however; she was a great walker and big on views. I tried to share her excitement but, in truth, I was going to miss her. Norma wouldn’t understand, of course, for she was too self-sufficient to need anyone, just as I'd been before allowing myself to become so dependent on David. The problem of David was weighing on me. Norma's leaving depressed me and even Frank’s engagement seemed like a sort of defection. I was wallowing in self-pity.
“Norma, do you think it’s true a man loses respect for a girl if she allows him to be too intimate with her?”
Norma lifted her eyebrows in surprise at the unexpected turn in the conversation. “Unfortunately, I’ve never had an opportunity to test that theory. I suppose it depends on the people involved.”
“You know how you read in advice to the lovelorn columns something like ‘I’ve been going with this boy for six months. He's pestering me to prove my love to him, but I want to save myself for marriage. I’m afraid if I give in he’ll lose all respect for me…’ and so on.”
“Yeah, I’ve read those letters. I’m dying to see one that goes ‘Dear Ann Landers, you’re all wet. I’ve been screwing with my boyfriend every day for six months and we just got married. He said if we had sex first and he still wanted to marry me, that was proof he was interested in more than my body. Signed: Glad I did it.’”
I laughed in spite of myself.
“Judging from the conversations I’ve overheard around here, this dilemma seems to be fairly common. Something tells me your interest in the topic is more than academic.”
A group of girls sat down near us and we left the table to go to my room.
“You’re right,” I said as I unlocked the door. “David and I went sailing last night. I didn't come back here; I slept on his boat."
"With David?"
“No, he left around midnight. When I went to his office this afternoon to pick up the typing, there was a note on his door saying he’d gone to a meeting. He could have called me, but he hasn’t.”
Norma was sitting on my bed with her back against the wall; she stuffed a pillow behind her. “Hey, wait a minute, that’s a non sequitur. What does David's going to a meeting have to do with your spending the night on the boat? What happened last night?”
I sighed. “I think David invited me to go sailing so we could talk; I'm sure he didn't have any other intentions, but somehow we both got carried away.”
“You had sex?”
“Not exactly, but it was pretty close. Oh, Norma, it was all my fault. David didn’t want to - I practically threw myself at him. I don’t know how I could have been so stupid.”
“So now you think he’s changed his mind about you, lost his respect for you, or something like that?”
“One minute I’m this virginal teenager and the next one I’m pulling a box of contraceptives out of my pocket and begging him to spend the night with me. He’s probably in shock.”
“Did he say anything?”
“Just before he went home he said he was leaving the boat before I raped him – he was laughing and I took his remark as a joke, but now I’m beginning to wonder.”
“You think he went to the meeting because he’s avoiding you?"
“He hasn’t phoned me, either. What else am I supposed to think?”
“I’m sure there’s a logical explanation, but you’re too busy painting the Devil on the wall to see it. What if the meeting came up unexpectedly? Suppose someone was with him when he wrote the note? Is that all it said, that he was going to a meeting?”
“The second line said to inquire at the office for messages.”
“Did you?”
“Yes, he left the typing for me with the secretary.” I gestured toward the envelope on the bed.
“May I?”
“Help yourself.”
Norma opened the package just as Frank had done a few hours earlier, and examined the contents page by page.
“What a bunch of gibberish. This is what he’s having published in Argentina?”
I nodded.
She smiled triumphantly. “Well, here’s one page that isn’t. It starts ‘My dearest Kate, I lay awake last night for hours…’” She broke off and handed me the letter.
“I’ll leave you to your ‘typing’ while I go search for a job as an advice columnist.”
I smiled my thanks and Norma closed the door behind her. Trembling, I sat at the desk and read David’s letter.

My dearest Kate,
I lay awake last night for hours reliving everything we said and did on Sturmvogel, feeling both anxious and elated, wondering if we reached any decisions, and whether I ever succeeded in making clear to you the nature of my misgivings. I’ve tried to apply the scientific method to our situation but, sad to say, logic is not applicable to affairs of the heart, or perhaps it is, and I’m unwilling to accept the conclusions. I made a mental list of the pros and cons, and while the pros number three at the most, the cons run on for pages.
Seriously, dear, I decided to hold the meeting this afternoon rather than see you, to give you more time for reflection. Please think over everything we discussed. I’ll call you Saturday morning.
All my love,

P.S. Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas - Blaise Pascal

I finished the letter and laid my head down on the desk, suffused with relief. I knew I was foolish to have doubted David; with his letter in my hand I had trouble remembering the apprehensions which were worrying me a mere hour before. Suddenly I realized Frank had seen it when he was leafing through the manuscripts at the HUB. I read David's note again, trying to imagine Frank’s reaction, and when I finished I knew what he meant by saying he didn’t understand.
A nightmare awakened me at two in the morning. David and I were together on Sturmvogel. I was leaning over the side of the boat, trying to run a line to a mooring buoy, but every time I was on the verge of success, Sturmvogel drifted away, and my body ached with exhaustion. I awakened with a start and sat up; I had fallen asleep with my head on the desk, and my neck was stiff. I tumbled into bed fully clothed and turned off the light.
I was still sore the following morning when the telephone rang.
“Hello, Kate? This is David,” he began as usual.
How funny, I thought – as if the caller could be anyone else.
He hesitated for a moment. “Did you get my note?”
“Yes, I found it.”
“After I left the papers with Iris I realized you might not open the envelope right away. I’m relieved.” I smiled and said nothing. “Are you free now?”
We agreed to meet after lunch outside the residence hall and David’s green DeSoto pulled up beside me on the driveway at one o’clock
“Are we going to the boat?” I asked as I opened the door. “I can dash upstairs and change to pants in a minute if we're heading for the marina.”
“No, let’s go somewhere else. How about the zoo?”
“To see the fennecs?”
“I don’t care what we see. I just want to be alone with you. But not too alone.” David took his eyes off the road long enough to give me a quick smile.
Thursday’s clear sky had given way to a leaden overcast with more than a hint of rain in the air. Except for a couple of women pushing baby carriages and a few elderly men walking down the paths with their hands clasped behind them, Woodland Park was nearly deserted. David parked the car and we strolled past the rows of empty cages whose occupants had fled to the heated interiors. We sat on a bench facing the polar bears, the only animals that appeared to be enjoying the weather; across the moat, two cubs were playing tug-of-war with a huge piece of meat, romping and somersaulting from one end of the cage to the other, and we watched them, in silence, for several minutes.
An old man shuffled up the gravel path toward us holding a leather leash, at the end of which plodded a white-muzzled dog. Both dog and master walked stiff-legged, as though suffering from pain in the groin. As they passed, the dog turned off the gravel to sniff my ankle, and his owner said “Don’t be afraid, miss. Samson won’t hurt you.”
I smiled. The thought of that poor old creature’s biting me was the farthest thing from my mind. I leaned over to pat him and Samson lifted his head to peer at me through eyes bleary with cataracts. Samson was an appropriate name. I murmured a few words of Christmas greetings and the old couple continued their walk.
David sighed. “There I go in twenty years, thirty if I’m lucky.”
“You don’t own a dog.”
“That can be remedied.”
We looked at each other and laughed.
“What have you decided?” I asked.
“The decision isn't mine, it’s yours. Kate, I love you very much. That’s what makes everything so hard; what right do I have to put you in this position? Our situation is simply tearing me apart.”
“With guilt?”
“No, not guilt. With frustration. And apprehension. Thursday night was the epitome of both. It all comes down to this: do we keep on seeing each other, with everything that implies, or do we just walk away from each other, right now?”
“Isn’t there another alternative? Can’t we go back to being the way we were?”
“Before Thursday night?”
“You know that’s impossible, Kate,” he said softly. “If Thursday night hadn’t happened I’d say we had a chance of keeping our innocence a little while longer, but not now. We're on a one-way street, and there’s no u-turn.”
David's was no if-you-don’t-give-me-what-I-want-I’m-going-to-leave-you speech. I knew he was right.
“I understand the frustration, but why are you apprehensive?”
“I’m afraid for you.”
“Because I can become pregnant?”
“That’s part of it, though pregnancy is preventable. I worry how the guilt is going to affect you.”
“But I don’t feel guilty. I know I should, but I just don’t. Maybe I’m amoral.”
“That’s what you think; I know you better. You carry guilt around with you like Sinbad carried the Old Man of the Sea. You can’t even put your books aside for half an hour without feeling guilty. If you’re that way about something trivial, what's having an affair with me going to do to you?”
“Don’t say ‘an affair.’ That’s an ugly, tawdry word.“
     “Kate, you need to go into this with your eyes open. No matter what you call our relationship, ‘a love affair,’ a ‘romance,’ other people won’t be so charitable; you’re going to be criticized and you’re going to be hurt.”
    “I don’t care what other people think.”
David sighed. “It's not only you; I worry about myself as well, how I’'ll feel when all this is over. Yes, you will leave me, it's inevitable," he said in rebuttal to my look of reproach. "Then what? These past three months I’ve been happier, more alive, than at any time in my life and I can't face the thought of losing you. I want to marry you, but that’s impossible. Our whole relationship is impossible. What do I have to offer you?”
“I told you on the boat Thursday night. Your love, your friendship.” I looked at David’s face, tortured and unsmiling, and put my arms around him.
“There’s something else.”
“I hardly know how to tell you this,” he began. “When Arlene and I… when we’re in bed together…”
No!” I shouted. “I don’t want to hear this.”
“Please listen to me. If I don’t tell you, then the rest of what I’m going to say won’t make any sense.”
I stared at the ground again and began to shiver.
“My wife and I sleep in different beds; we share the same room, but our beds are separated by a large hooked rug – and a good deal more. When I want sexual intercourse – I won’t call it making love – I go over to Arlene’s bed and speak her name as abjectly as a little boy begging his teacher for a better grade. Sometimes she pretends to be asleep; sometimes she turns me down flatly or with an excuse; and other times she’ll give a martyred sigh and say yes. You must have noticed Thursday night that I have a fair amount of body hair…”
“David, please, I don’t want to hear any of this.”
“I have to tell you. Arlene has always been repelled by my body, or at least she has been ever since we were married. Apparently she finds me too bestial or too something. Anyway, to keep from contacting my disgusting person she exposes just enough of herself to make the act possible and, it goes without saying, I’m completely clothed myself.”
David’s voice broke. “The other night, on Sturmvogel, when you pulled me to you and I felt the warmth of your body against me … I wanted to cry, Kate. I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I was on the verge of tears. After all these years it didn’t seem possible anyone could respond to me the way you did.” He smiled and looked at me. “What would you have done if I’d burst into tears then. Me, a grown man?”
“I would have have cried, too.”
He cleared his throat. “Well, to continue. Arlene won’t let me touch her, of course. A thief could penetrate Fort Knox more easily than I could slip my hand inside her nightgown. I don’t even try. She complains I take too long. I can hear her querulous voice now saying ‘can’t you hurry up; I’ve got the alarm set for six tomorrow morning to bake cookies for a meeting.’ Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?”
David was sitting bent over, with his elbows resting against his thighs; he covered his face with his hands.
“How … often …?”
“Before … maybe once every two weeks, once a month.”
“What do you mean by ‘before’? Before what?”
“Before you.” He removed his hands from his face and turned toward me. “Yes, that’s right. I spend the evening with you, I go home, go to bed, and I’m so full of the thought of you I can’t sleep. Do you remember what I said on the boat, how I felt watching you sleeping on the bunk the first time we sailed together alone?”
“Did you notice anything then?”
“Only that you were on the other bunk, reading.”
“Nothing else?”
“What else was there?”
“Ah my innocent Kate. Yes, I had a book in my hand, but I couldn’t concentrate. I kept looking at you and I wanted you so badly my whole body ached. When you awakened I was, to put it politely, aroused. Highly aroused. I covered myself with the book to keep you from noticing. Fortunately, just then, you bent down to put on your shoes; I took advantage of your distraction to escape to the stove, and I stayed in the galley until I could get a grip on myself.
“I must have got home that night about one. I went into the den, lit a fire in the fireplace and poured myself a drink. I just sat in my armchair, staring at the flames and thinking about us for a long time. I wasn’t any too pleased with myself, Kate. I realized my feelings for you were inappropriate and that I should put an stop to things before it was too late – but I didn’t want to. I hadn’t even told you I was married, and I despised myself for the deception. What had we done? Nothing - we'd held hands; it was enough. I knew. You were like a flower, opening to me petal by petal, and I was coming at you like a threshing machine. Well, I went upstairs. Arlene was asleep, really asleep this time, and when she refused me I lost my head ... and the whole time – God help me – I kept thinking of you. Arlene was furious. She accused me of being drunk, and I didn’t contradict her.” He gave a rueful laugh. “Arlene is the safety valve that keeps me on my best behavior with you. She says I’ve turned into a sex fiend; she even asked if I’ve been taking some kind of drug. I told her she should be glad I’m coming to her rather than going elsewhere, and can you guess what she replied? That she didn’t give a damn.”
“Did you ever suggest marriage counseling?”
David snorted. “What good would counseling do? Arlene doesn’t think she has a problem. She thinks I’ve got a problem, that I’m some kind of sex-crazed maniac. Arlene regards the whole business of sex as unspeakably distasteful, and she’s not going to change after all these years. Anyway, I’m beyond caring.”
David took a deep breath. “I realize you’re wondering why I’m telling you all this garbage. It’s because … well, frankly, I doubt that I’m capable of being the kind of lover you deserve or expect.”
“With my vast experience? What do you think I’m expecting?”
“Kate, you don’t understand.”
“Apparently not. Can you say that after what happened Thursday night?”
“Especially after Thursday night; that’s my whole point. For one thing, you were a lot more … willing … than I thought you’d be. Not that I thought you’d scream or slap my face, and I wasn’t expecting you to be another Arlene – God forbid. But I was surprised, maybe even a bit intimidated by you. Your reaction made me realize, rather forcefully, that you’re going to be dissatisfied with the little I give Arlene. Now do you see what I’m getting at, the truth I keep skirting? Thursday night I couldn’t make love to you, Kate. I tried, but I came too quickly. After 23 years of instant, loveless sex, I’m simply not programmed to do any better. Now do you understand?”
“I'm ... not sure. After you explained what happened I thought ... you did what you did because you were afraid I’d get pregnant.”
“That’s what I wanted you to think, because I was too ashamed to tell you the truth. Erase any image you have of altruistic David sacrificing his pleasure on the altar of your virginity. Thursday night on the boat I had every intention … you can visualize the scenario, can’t you?” he asked almost savagely. “We’ll be in bed together, full of desire, and I’ll finish in twenty seconds, that’s if I’m lucky and haven’t botched the job before I even touch you. Then you’ll turn your back to me, wondering if that’s the way love-making is supposed to be, wondering why you’re so unsatisfied, and feeling guilty because you’re so naïve you’ll think it’s your fault. And you’ll lie to me, out of kindness, and I’ll know you’re lying, and I’ll be consumed with guilt because I’ll know it’s my fault. Oh hell, Kate, we're going to exchange one set of frustrations for something else ten times worse.”
“It's not going to be that way; I know it's not. You’ve told me your fears, now let me tell you mine. If I confess to you all the things I worry about, you'll die laughing. Here I am 19 years old and you’re the first man I’ve even kissed. I haven’t had the sexual apprenticeship of other girls my age. David, I don’t know anything, and I'm afraid you’re going to be disappointed with me. This is so hard to say … am I supposed to touch you below the waist and if so, where and how? Am I supposed to keep my legs flat on the bed … or what? Am I supposed to lie still or move? Am I supposed to part my lips when we kiss? I'm scared stiff ... I'll do something accidentally which violates some sexual taboo that everyone in the world but me knows instinctively."
David couldn’t repress a smile. “Dearest, you’re worrying over nothing. Whatever you do to give pleasure to me or to yourself will be right. There aren’t any rules.” He squeezed my hand. “After everything I've said, do you still want to continue seeing me … and all that implies?”
“You know I do. You said the decision is mine, but what about you?”
“I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t already made up my mind. If I thought otherwise I’d have written you an entirely different kind of letter. I would have said something like what a sweet girl you are, but I’m a married man, the difference in our ages, blah, blah, blah. That’s the letter I should have written … but I didn’t.”
“Speaking of your letter, I never saw it until Norma found it when she was looking through the manuscripts. When you weren’t in the office and you didn’t call I was afraid … you'd changed your mind about me. I can laugh about my fears now, but I was in a sorry state yesterday afternoon.
David shook his head in disbelief. ”What a little ninny you are. I’m sorry I worried you, but how could you possibly have thought such a thing?”
“I don’t know; in retrospect my worries do seem rather silly, even to me. I guess I was afraid you thought I was immoral or too easy or something like that. I should have more faith in you.”
David regarded me gravely. “No, you should have more faith in yourself.”
“Even in the depths of despair, though, I was positive I’d see you at least one more time.”
“Such confidence. What made you so optimistic?”
“Because I still have your watch. Remember? You gave it to me Thursday night.”
David smiled. “You're right. I’ve been meaning to ask you for it.”
I took the watch from my purse and handed it to him.
“Why do you wear your watch with the case on the inside, over your wrist?”
“To protect the face.”
“Do you know there’s something sexy about men who wear their watches on the insides of their wrists?”
David laughed. “I think you’re slightly crazy.”
I leaned over and whispered in his ear. “You know something else? I love the hair on your chest.”

We left the polar bears and walked to the Reptile House, with its promise of warmth and shelter. Inside his glass cage, a large python gazed at us impassively, his head resting on a stack of glistening coils.
“What do you know about birth control?” David asked. He must have felt my body stiffen. “Look, dear, you told me you don’t want to think about the future. Well, if we don’t take some precautions then, believe me, we'll have plenty to think about.”
I considered for a moment. “At the university all the girls have to enroll in a health education class – that’s a euphemism for sex – in order to graduate. I took a test at the beginning of this quarter. It was full of words like dysmenorrhoea and endometrium, and I got such a high score they excused me from the class and gave me credit for the course. The university must think I know something.”
“That’s my Kate,” David said, patting my head with mock condescension. “Full of book learning. But do you know anything practical?”
“Well, I have a friend in Utah who told me about diaphragms. I’ve never actually seen one, but I have an idea how they work.”
“Then you realize they have to be fitted by a doctor?”
“Yes, I know, but … isn’t there anything besides a diaphragm?”
“In Puerto Rico they’re experimenting with a pill that inhibits ovulation. It’s essentially estrogen, the same hormone a woman secretes when she’s pregnant. The pill's supposed to be extremely reliable, far more so than a diaphragm, but it has side effects. Some of the researchers are colleagues of mine, but even if I could pull a few strings and get you a supply, I’m not a medical doctor and I don’t like the idea of your being a guinea pig. There are other alternatives, but I think a diaphragm is the best solution. Do you have a doctor here in Seattle?”
“Only the student health service, and I can’t imagine their providing me with contraceptives.”
“I can give you the name of a good gynecologist, the same one who delivered my children. I’ll write it down for you. David pulled out a small notepad from his pocket, wrote “William Libby, M.D.," tore off the sheet, and handed me the paper. “I don’t remember his address, but he’s somewhere near Doctors Hospital; you’ll find him in the phone book.”
I looked at the name with misgiving. “What should I tell him? What if the nurse asks me what the appointment is for?”
“Tell the nurse you're scheduling an annual physical exam; then, when you’re with Libby, say you want to be fitted with a diaphragm.”
“But I’m not married.”
“He’s not going to ask, but if it makes you feel any better, tell him you’re engaged.”
“For heaven’s sake, he's not going to give you the third degree. Libby won't care why you want a diaphragm.”
“David, wait. Okay, so he’s a gynecologist. What if he’s a Catholic and doesn’t believe in birth control?"
“He fitted Arlene with a diaphragm after Marcia was born. Now go ahead and ask me if he’s converted to Catholicism in the last fifteen years.”
I smiled, feeling a little foolish. “All right, I know I’m a professional worrier. There’s one more thing, though.” I buried my face in David’s shoulder. Can a virgin be fitted for a diaphragm?”
“I think so.” David put his hand under my chin and raised my face to his. “You make me feel like a child molester when you say things like that.”
“I’m sorry; I don’t mean to hurt you. It’s just that I have to know.”
“I understand, Kate, and I realize seeing the doctor will be embarrassing, but having a physical exam is one thing I can’t do for you.”
I hugged him and we kissed. David’s hand slid down my back and over my hips, then up again and under my sweater. I pulled away, laughing. “Hey, wait a minute. I thought you were afraid to be alone with me.”
“Oh, we’re not alone; we have Oscar here as a chaperone.”
I glanced at the snake.
“How do you know his name's Oscar?”
“Because the sign above the cage says his name is Oscar.”
“Some chaperone! Here’s this human drama going on not three feet from his nose, and he hasn’t moved a muscle. He’s probably asleep. Maybe he’s even dead and stuffed. Who would be the wiser?”
“He’s not dead; he winked at me.”
“That's impossible. Snakes don’t have movable eyelids. Their eyelids are fixed and transparent and form the outer …”
David put his arms around me in a tight bear hug and began to swing me round and round like a rag doll until we were both out of breath and giddy with laughter. I pressed my back against the wall and closed my eyes as a kaleidoscope of snakes and lizards whirled in front of me.
“What on earth got into you?” I asked when I finally regained my equilibrium.
“Looking at all these constrictors made me want to squeeze you.” David put his arm around my shoulder. “Come on; let's go to Sam’s and get something to eat.”
I glanced back at Oscar as we left the Reptile House. David was right; I could have sworn the python winked.

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