After Refreshment

(Almost 2 years later.)

“So, the first question is: Will you keep waiting?

I have to shake my head to clear it a bit. I realize that my neck is stiff. My arm, too. How long has it been?

“The first… Wait for what?” I thought I had come back to myself before responding, but it apparently wasn’t me yet.

Fred is as alert as before. Bruce seems to be asleep.

I take a deep breath and try again. “You asked if I will keep waiting?”

His expression does not change. “Yes. I don’t mean just here and now. I mean in general.” I must still look confused, because he leans back in his chair and glances around. The cafe is empty now, except for our table. “You haven’t heard me for… How long?”

I just shake my head. I have no clue.

“Well, we needn’t go back too far. What I said a couple of minutes ago was that I was ready to read back the questions. We seem to have formulated….” He fiddled with the legal pad in front of him. “…three of them.”

THREE?!” I’m aware that I said this much too loudly. Bruce, though he does not seem startled, looks up at me.

Fred blinked. “Yes, three. Is there a problem?”

“I expected there to be a lot more.”

This time, it is Bruce who responds in a low voice. “You want quantity? We should check out the quality before complaining.”

I know he’s right, of course. “Sorry. Go on.”

Fred still exudes patience. “As I said, the first question is: Will you keep waiting?” I can see the pad from which he is reading. Though it is upside down, I can read it: “1. Will I keep waiting?” Only question 1 is written on the exposed page.

Bruce is looking at me intently. “We know what that means, I think.”

“Yes, I think so too. It’s not just any waiting. It’s waiting for God. Waiting on God, as they say.” Fred nods. “The answer is yes. But the point is not just to speak answers now, is it?”

Fred nods again. After a few seconds, he continues. “Further discussion is certainly not forbidden, but my sense is that we’re nearly done. Should we proceed to the second question?”

“Yes, please.”

He picks up the pad, flips the first page up over the spine, and sets it down again. “The second question is: Will you trust the one for whom you wait?

I look at Bruce, who meets my eyes but says nothing. After a moment, a slight nod.

I look at Fred again. “The word ‘belief’ is not there.”

He understands it is not a question. “We’ve spent a lot of time on that, as I think you are now only remembering dimly. The conclusion for now is that the trust cannot wait for the belief.” He picks up his mechanical pencil, apparently wanting something to fidget with. “And your struggle with the belief part will not end in this life. You know that without a question being written down.”

No one says anything for a while.

Fred again: “You’ve already felt the belief following the trust, yes?”

I glance at Bruce, who is smiling at that. Back to Fred: “Yes, I have. Another yes, then. Please go on.”

Page flip. Another silence. This time longer.

I finally break it. “Is there a problem?”

“Not with us. It’s selfsystem hesitation. I’m not sure why, though could make some guesses.”

“No need. Take your time.”

[pop]

“Ah, that’s it!” Fred is staring at the page in front of him. I can see that whatever is written there is darkening and becoming more clearly visible. He looks up at me with a grin. “Free Association strikes again!” He clears his throat. “The third question is: Will you take your time?

Bruce looks surprised, but mirrors Fred’s grin.

I’m still trying to take it in this third question. “Take my time? Does that mean I should not hurry, or does it mean that I should take time for the waiting, I mean give time to the waiting? Or wait, does it mean taking…” I take a breath. “Does it mean taking the time, taking it into account, taking the time as if I must account for it? Don’t tell me!” (Bruce’s grin has gotten bigger.) “It means all of the above, doesn’t it?”

Bruce noisily pushes his chair back from the table and puts his hands on his knees in a ‘welp, we should get moving’ sort of way. “It does mean all of that, but we mustn’t let the not hurrying part get lost.” He stands up. “And don’t forget that it’s WE. Will WE take our time? You’re the EE-GOH, sure, but you’ve been learning about how little that can mean. You and I both have a history of hastiness, ya know?”

I reach out for his hand, but he comes in for the hug.

I (we; the selfsystem) locked this guy up for years. I was very afraid of the idea of letting him out. I realize now, more fully than before, that he was very afraid too.

“And we are still afraid.” I’m not sure if he spoke this, or if we both just thought it together.

Letting loose, we both turn to thank Fred. He’s already gone, of course.

With his pencil.

But the questions are still there.

And the street is dark. It occurs to me again that the actor playing Fred is dead.

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