THE VIRGIN by Kerima Polotan Tuvera
1) He went to where Miss Mijares sat, a tall, big man, walking with an economy of movement, graceful and light, a man who knew his body and used it well. He sat in the low chair worn decrepit by countless other interviewers and laid all ten fingerprints carefully on the edge of her desk. She pushed a sheet towards him, rolling a pencil along with it. While he read the question and wrote down his answers, she glanced at her watch and saw that it was ten. "I shall be coming back quickly," she said, speaking distinctly in the dialect (you were never sure about these people on their first visit, if they could speak English, or even write at all, the poor ...view middle of the document...
She liked poufs and shirrings and little girlish pastel colors. On her bodice, astride or lengthwise, there sat an inevitable row of thick camouflaging ruffles that made her look almost as though she had a bosom, if she bent her shoulders slightly and inconspicuously drew her neckline open to puff some air into her bodice.
Her brow was smooth and clear and she was always pushing off it the hair she kept in tight curls at night. She had thin cheeks, small and angular, falling down to what would have been a nondescript, receding chin, but Nature's hand had erred and given her a jaw instead. When displeased, she had a lippy, almost sensual pout, surprising on such a small face.
So while not exactly an ugly woman, she was no beauty. She teetered precariously on the border line to which belonged countless others who you found, if they were not working at some job, in the kitchen of some married sister's house shushing a brood of devilish little nephews.
And yet Miss Mijares did think of love. Secret, short-lived thoughts flitted through her mind in the jeepneys she took to work when a man pressed down beside her and through her dress she felt the curve of his thigh; when she held a baby in her arms, a married friend's baby or a relative's, holding in her hands the tiny, pulsing body, what thoughts did she not think, her eyes straying against her will to the bedroom door and then to her friend's laughing, talking face, to think: how did it look now, spread upon a pillow, unmasked of the little wayward coquetries, how went the lines about the mouth and beneath the eyes: (did they close? did they open?) in the one final, fatal coquetry of all? to finally, miserably bury her face in the baby's hair. And in the movies, to sink into a seat as into an embrace, in the darkness with a hundred shadowy figures about her and high on the screen, a man kissing a woman's mouth while her own fingers stole unconsciously to her unbruised lips.
When she was younger, there had been other things to do--- college to finish, a niece to put through school, a mother to care for.
She had gone through all these with singular patience, for it had seemed to her that love stood behind her, biding her time, a quiet hand upon her shoulder (I wait. Do not despair) so that if she wished she had but to turn from her mother's bed to see the man and all her timid, pure dreams would burst into glory. But it had taken her parent many years to die. Towards the end, it had become a thankless chore, kneading her mother's loose flesh, hour after hour, struggling to awaken the cold, sluggish blood in her drying body. In the end, she had died --- her toothless, thin-haired, flabby-fleshed mother --- and Miss Mijares had pushed against the bed in grief and also in gratitude. But neither love nor glory stood behind her, only the empty shadows, and nine years gone, nine years. In the room for her unburied dead, she had held up her hands to the light, noting the thick, durable...