There is one person seated in the sanctuary, on the far right side, halfway toward the front. Immediately after I say “Of course!”, she stands and briefly looks at us. It is It (played by Kathy Bates, from about the time of Misery). After giving us a look, she quickly moves toward the front and ducks out a door on the right side.
It’s Bruce who speaks. “Well, I’m not sure what all I expected to find in here, but I certainly didn’t expect her.”
“Where I go, she’s already been.”
He glances at me with an enigmatic grin. “Oh yes, I forgot.” He moves to the left, and begins to take in the stained glass windows. The images there are fuzzy and indistinct, I assume because I don’t remember them clearly at all. One of them is Jesus praying, I think, but I’m not sure which one.
I move up the center aisle toward the front of the sanctuary. The pews and carpeting have a smell that I remember. When I near the communion rail, I notice the baptismal font standing a bit to the right. It strikes me as both familiar and strange. When I reach the front and come nearer to the font, something on the floor catches my eye.
“Bruce, come up here. I think you’ll want to see this.”
He turns from his examination of the fourth stained glass window (were there four?) and walks to the front to join me. “What is it?”
I wait for him to join me without answering. Following my gaze, he sees it. There on the floor, about a foot from the base of the font, is a single red rose.
For an indeterminate amount of time, neither of us moves or speaks.
Finally, Bruce steps forward, stoops, and carefully picks up the rose. He holds it gently, staring at it intently. I wait, knowing there is nothing for me to say yet.
It is at least a full minute before he finally speaks. “I was baptized with this. Sprinkled, with water from the font.”
“I thought so.” Long pause. “Do you know why it’s here now? Or why we are here now?” It’s not that I have no inkling at all of the answers, but it seems right that they be asked aloud.
“Well, we were supposed to find it now, clearly.” Painfully obvious, but I remain quiet. He holds the rose higher and rotates it, examining the stem as if the answers are inscribed on it somewhere, somehow. “My guess is that I’m supposed to… What? Incorporate it in some way?”
“Like the shard?”
He looks at me, for the first time since he first saw the rose. “Yes, I think so. But I doubt that it will be as painful. Physically, at least.” His gaze returns to the flower, which suddenly (and impossibly) seems to brighten, to become much more red.
Bruce smiles. “The rose is without why.” I know (but don’t have to say) that his reference is to Angelius Silesius, via Heidegger.
“This baptism was the first of two.” I had not expected to say it, but there it was.
“Yes, I know. But I don’t think incorporating this will amount to a simple renunciation of the second baptism.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, we’ve been learning for a while now that my fundamentalism, which was the water that was poured over my head in the second event, is never going to go away. Somehow, it must remain.” He takes another step, up to the font. “Would you remove this lid for me, please?”
I wonder at first if the lid of the font will be heavy, but I find that it is as light as it would be if it were Styrofoam. But it is clearly wood. I hold the lid and step back slightly.
There is water in the font (of course). Bruce gently places the rose down so that the stem is in the water, with the flower resting beside the basin.
What happens next is disconcerting enough that I nearly drop the lid. Bruce speaks, but he speaks in two voices at once. This should make it difficult to hear what either voice is saying, but I can hear and understand both of them clearly. Looking at his face, I can see that his lips are forming both sets of words at the same time.
“In the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.”
“In the name of the Over-I,
and of the I,
and of the It.”