Joseph sat apart, in a corner. Not because the midwives wanted him out of the way, he’d found them past midnight, frantically knocking on doors, and they’d come quickly, but because doubt had returned and he wasn’t ready for it. The journey had been difficult, then shepherds came saying angels were singing in the sky. Nothing was simple, nothing within the reach of his understanding.
He’d called the day they married Bright Friday. It was his favorite day of the week, then Bright Saturday, Bright Sunday. He reasoned, she sees behind a membrane and I don’t. I see what’s in front of me. She sees the transparent structure of the world and I can’t see it. Maybe that’s why we’re perfect for each other. Besides, we love the same God. That will be enough.
But now the room smelled foul even though he’d washed everything down with buckets of clean water. He’d wanted cleanliness. Then privacy. Now he wanted Mary to look stronger than she did, more able to bring other children into the world. He wished her hips were wider, her breasts more full. Birth from a virgin is not possible, and he wondered when the true father would show up. It could be one of the shepherds for all he knew. Maybe they mocked him.
If God gives us love, why not the necessary courage to sustain it? If God gives courage, why isn’t it permanent?
He stared at his knees and did not see Mary, who looked away from the baby and across to him. She felt the presence of his doubts and their power. Afraid, she wondered, are we no longer us? In a brief moment of sleep, Joseph walked toward her. He was an old man and as he walked white powder fell from his elbows and knees. She woke with a jolt. The baby was crying. Something is disintegrating, she thought. He is leaving us.
By anonymous; owned by Banco Intesa; exhibited in Palazzo Leoni Montanari, Vicenza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons