1. I pray for him each morning. Denied a place where my virginity could flourish, I became obedient to a husband who joked on our wedding night how I had narrowly escaped having my pretty little thing locked up where no one could enjoy it. I feel my baby kick as I leave church and wonder if the child leaps for joy like John did in the womb of Holy Elisabeth when she met Mary. The convent was denied to me but I pray for Ambrosias each morning here in church in the quiet of dawn, before the heat of day, before the heat of cooking. It is the only cool and quiet I know. 2. Mother said we paid our tithe to God. Ambrosias, she said, went for a monk and I should therefore marry. One from ten, she said, sufficed. The priest agreed with her, it was arranged. I tried not to be sad. There are two roads, the abbess told me, and they are equally difficult. The road I walk is pain of childbirth, pride of the world, my desire to my husband, his ruling over me, and the future, so unknown, filled with children yet unborn, sorrows unlived—yes, joys as well, I will admit. The path I was denied, she said, is a long, cold road, like the snow on the distant mountains of Binalud, austere and beautiful, yet not an easy way, fraught with different perils: From those to whom much is given, she said, much is expected. 3. There are the dances, the feasts, the pleasure of intimacy, the joy of carrying a child. On the road barred to me there would have been consecration, the silences I long for filled with God, the joy of living life wholly to the Lord. Misunderstanding, strife at times, comes between my husband and me, and my parents and his. I haggle in the market place, broken things are never fixed, and constant work wears me out. The convent, I imagine, has its own set of pains—I know in fact, I have been told as much, and when I was a little girl some nuns were kind but some would slap my face and call me dolt when I got my catechism wrong. Dust settles on the shoulders of shepherd and king, and the dust of sin could even creep into a holy place. I should have no illusions about that. The pleasure of a nun is to be stoled in her virginity, white as egret’s down, as stars, moonlight, carried to heaven in a vessel filled with her unmingled essence. I am a vessel pierced, but the cicatrix is children, pleasure, attraction of warmth, obedience to the first command to bear fruit, multiply, and fill the earth, the task given to Eve, Mother of all.
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