The two often showered together, as a way to cleanse the soul. Though naked, there was an asexuality about the nightly ritual; the pale backs and bellies, wettened hair and spray of water from the generous shower head misting the fine lines of their strong young bodies, lending a dreamlike quality to the everyday reality of the shower.
There were limbs to be stroked over with profuse quantities of foam; soap was passed between hands in an unconscious fashion. He stood much taller than she; she had to lean her head back and squint against the misted droplets to look him in the eye. Sometimes her neck would begin to ache from bending it so heavenward, and she would then have to look at her feet and belly, the water running in thick streams down her ears, until the ache ceased enough that she could look up at his face again.
He attended to her cleanliness in a persistent and attentive way. He ran a familiar palm against the secret spots behind her ears, and rubbed a rough cloth along her spine. They talked about unconnected topics, the subjects of the day’s musings, intimately revealing the mechanics of their commonly whimsical processes of thought. They had been discussing some trivial household purchase, its value and fulfilment of their initial expectations, when a familiar silence has passed over the bathroom, softened by the persistent ‘shushhhhhh’ of running water. She took the soap from his hands, and was sliding it over his flat stomach, when she said:
“You have a body like Jesus. Have I told you that?”
He said nothing for a while, letting the rush of water fill the air. He was waiting for the clarification which he knew would come. Her pauses were not consciously constructed, but were placed there through a habit of saying startling comments which required the processing of the listener before elaboration would be infused, creating sense. He liked to think that she enjoyed that her comments were often startling, although both knew that her mind operated on tangents that made such comments unsurprising
She passed her gaze across the full wide chest against which the soaked hair fell, along the thin hips and down the legs to the long, fine feet. Then she looked up again, narrowing her eyes against the steam.
“Like Jesus when you see him in the churches, on the cross. He has slim hips ….” Here, she put the soap on the edge of the shower and rested her hands lightly on the curves of muscle that jutted above the hipbone, “…and those bony legs, that knock-kneed, sorrowful stance. He is like you. You are like Jesus.”
He looked down at her and wondered at the reverential tone she had adopted when addressing his body. He knew she did not like churches, or Jesus, although maybe it was what men had done with the churches and Jesus, and not the things in themselves, that she so disliked. Certainly now she was in a semi-religious idolising state; she moved in close and embraced his steady maleness, disregarding that she had to close her eyes against the full force of the shower, feeling his hard chest against her small soft one and thinking that behind that rock-like presence lay a fragile, sorrowful, giver of all he had to give. For he gave with a selflessness and devotion that could only be expected of a saint. She imagined him sad and alone and her heart gave a little cry within her ribs, that made no sound outside of it. She stayed pressed against him, and said:
“You are like him in other ways too, I think. I mean, what they say Jesus was like. Well, even if he never was, you are like what a Jesus should have been. You give so much, you are so absolutely generous, so unselfish…..”
She trailed away and for the first time he spoke, aware that she revered him at this instant.
“I’m not at all” he said warmly, to diffuse her. “There are things about me. Do you think I am like that in every way?”
He avoided using the word ‘Jesus’ because it made him uncomfortable. She stepped back behind the jet of water but left her hands upon his hips, so she could look up at him with that familiar, searching gaze he well knew. She looked as though she was thinking hard.
He was struck with how her eyes were so often sad when they looked at him searchingly. Full-pupilled, melancholy eyes that were half in shadow, like a cloud passing over a sunlit scene. Eyes like a sad, lost frog.
He touched her heavy pale lids, the water running into her eyes as he did so, causing her to blink confusedly, as though she had not seen his hand approaching.
“Such sad eyes!” he half-mocked. “Why are your eyes always sad when you look at me lately?”
“They’re not …” she murmured, but it was although she had said nothing, because when he looked at her mouth it was set in a full-lipped rigidity, with the droplets running across it but never moving, a statue of Helen of Troy, immobile in the shower.
She shook her head in a sudden animation and tipped her head back, throat exposed, and opened her mouth so that the water could enter. She seemed as though she were drinking, but through the shadowed stem he could see the water spilling from the corners of her mouth in a thick ungentle stream.
She saw him again. He was cupping the shower’s jet between his hands as though he were holding it. As though the water was a solid pole which he was grasping. His fingers were placed, gently rounded, one hand at a slight angle above the other, curled around an invisible barrier, his face set in concentration as he tried to grasp that which was constantly moving, its nature such that it could never be held.
With her mouth open wide, looking to heaven, his benevolent hands elegantly frozen above her and his face towards the sky, she felt as though she were in a Renaissance painting, adoring him; a disciple gazing up at Jesus as he showered her with love.
Love Story by Aline Mara
Love Art – Springtime by Maurice Denis, the MET Museum.