No, not an it that you’re supposed to readily identify. It.
I can somehow tell by the knock that it’s It. When I open the door, I see that It is still played by Kathy Bates. But something is very different. She’s dressed, but I can’t tell what she’s dressed in. It’s as if I keep forgetting what it looks like, even as I’m looking at it. She’s… very indistinct, somehow. She is staring at my face, looking surprised.
“Hi. Can I come in?” Her voice is a bit distorted, which fits the rest of the picture.
“I guess so.” I step back to let her enter, then pull the door shut. “Have a seat.”
The room in which I’ve been “on retreat” since the cafe meeting has light purple walls and dark purple carpeting. There’s a cot, two chairs, and a small table. On the table is Bruce’s Bible (still approximately hymnal-sized) and a new-looking copy of the Book of Common Prayer. Noticing them now reminds me of why It may have looked surprised. I’m played by William H. Macey. Under the BOCP is a paperback copy of Freud’s The Ego and the Id.
It has settled in one of the chairs. “So, have you and Bruce melded or something? Or is this just for my benefit?”
“As far as I can tell, it’s a for-now thing. It doesn’t feel permanent. But I know it’s not just for your benefit.”
It nods, but then stays silent. Yeah, that’s part of the indistinctness. It is not a she today, but also not a he. It is an It.
I let the silence deepen for a moment as I slowly settle into the other chair. The surprised look is gone now. When it’s clear that It is not going to speak again until I do, I speak softly. “What’s up?”
Now It is avoiding my eyes. “I’m supposed to tell you something, but it’s not coming to me yet.” Its gaze drifts to the Bible on the table, and remains there.
The silence is heavy. This is part of the waiting, right? That thought works for a minute or two, but then I think: The waiting. Am I waiting on God? No, I’m waiting on my own stubbornly sexual embodiment.
Now It turns its head and looks me in the eye. The voice comes out differently, lower and harsher. “Who are you to say… I mean think that isn’t a part of waiting on God?!”
“You know about waiting on God?”
Not as harsh, but still pitched low: “Waiting is, in a sense, the main thing that I know. And if you think for a second, you’ll remember that I am always with you in this embodied life, a sort of companion of God in that regard.” She gestures at the Bible. “The way you used to read that book had you thinking that I’m the very presence of Satan in your life. Now you know that this cannot be true.” [Pause] “Even though it can sort of be true, in a way.”
Silence again. I don’t think I need to respond yet.
It bows its head, as if in prayer.
It is prayer. I find myself shivering slightly.
At length, It looks up at me again and points at my chest. The pitch is more normal, but still with the slight distortion. “You’ve got that shard in there, but you’re not ever going to be done owning it here below, no matter how many versions of Christianity you…” [Pause] “…you date. No matter how many you date.” Then comes the crooked smile, and Its face becomes more distinct, momentarily. “No matter how many of them you crawl into bed with.”
I notice that my jaw has tightened, and consciously loosen it. “Is this what you are supposed to tell me?”
“I think that’s most of it. There may be a bit more.” It bows its head again. Is what she says coming directly from God?
She smiles again. “It’s too damned hard to tell, isn’t it?” Back to praying.
I resume waiting. On It and on God.
But it’s not long until she looks up again. “This is the last time I appear by way of this actor. From here on, someone or something different. I don’t know where, when, who, or what.”
I just nod.
“You get someone different too. ‘You’ meaning our ‘I’, not just Bruce. The ego. No more stupid vampire-slayer vibe. Again, I don’t know who. Oh, and be careful of Siggy! As much as I appreciate the P.R. I get from him, you and I both know his help is limited.”
Again, I just nod.
It stands up. “That’s it for now.” It walks to the door quickly and opens it, then looks back at me with the crooked smile. “See you in your fantasies.” It walks out and closes the door with a thump. I hear no footsteps, and know that if I opened the door again, there would be nothing there.
I look at the Bible on the table again.
Another amazing doubling:
The Bible is both noticeably smaller and noticeably larger.
“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?”
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.”
“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.
In case anyone is interested, I have revised my “Cosmik Debris” page to reflect the recent move to association with an Episcopal congregation (with some other adjustments here and there). If you don’t care, go find some puppy or kitty pictures.
Bruce (still Macy) and I are sitting at an outdoor table at a cafe. It’s hot. I don’t remember us arriving here, but somehow I know that we sat down at this table only moments after It (still Bates) had departed. Her body heat was still evident on the seat of my chair when I sat down.
The cafe reminds me of that scene from Inception, in which the landscape of the surrounding city begins to explode. It feels creepy, even though nothing dream-like is happening. Yet.
Bruce is now wearing a black t-shirt. On his right upper arm is a tatoo of a single rose. Though I know that he just got it earlier today, it looks as though it has been there quite a while, as though it belongs there. His Bible, currently about the size of a hymnal or a “pew Bible,” is open on the table in front of him. Romans, chapters 7 and 8.
I am nursing a cup of black coffee. He has an ice water and a smoothie. I can smell mango, but the color of the concoction leans in the direction of pink. We’ve been silent for several minutes, enjoying the refreshment.
“It’s not red.”
He looks at me, possibly a little annoyed. “Black.” He slurps and looks away. “I like black.”
“But your Bible is not black.”
“Right.” He looks down at it, as if he had forgotten it was there. “Am I right that it’s closer to gray?”
“Maybe dark gray.”
He glances my way again, but then looks at the nothing about seven feet behind my left shoulder. “I don’t know what that means yet.”
After another half-minute of silence, he looks directly at me, his expression suggesting that he just realized something.
“We’re waiting for someone, aren’t we?”
I hadn’t known it until he asked. “Yes, but I’m not sure who.”
“Not Godot, I’m guessing.” Am I joking?
“No.” His reply is almost a whisper. He begins studying the floor a few feet from his chair, where there is another nothing.
The transformation of the situation from refreshment to waiting creates a palpable discomfort. Luckily, it doesn’t last more than a couple of minutes more.
Both of us look up. I shiver ever-so-slightly, realizing that I had not had any sense of the newcomer’s approach or presence before he spoke. The actor is Ron Glass, appearing as he did in Firefly, but dressed in a more contemporary and nondescript way. That hair, though.
“Shepherd Book?” I seem to have developed something of a habit of realizing after the fact that I had said something.
His face breaks into a dazzling smile. “Nope, but I can enjoy the fact that you remembered. Is this seat taken?”
I hadn’t noticed until now that our table had three (and only three) seats. Bruce makes a gesture at the seat, indicating permission. “Welcome” might be a bit strong. He sits gracefully, and looks over his shoulder for the wait staff. We wait. He raises a finger to a passing waiter, then points at my coffee cup. The waiter nods, and our new companion returns his attention to us. “You’ll want to know my name. It’s actually not important, but you can call me ‘Fred.'”
Without quite meaning to, I slip into an officious tone. (Remember how that tone bugs me?) “Are you a part of the selfsystem, or are you a drone?”
I look at Bruce, who shakes his head, indicating that he doesn’t think it’s important to pursue. He picks up the questioning: “Why are we here with you?”
“I believe I’m supposed to help you formulate some questions.”
“About recent happenings,…” He points to the rose tattoo. “about that,…” He points at the Bible. “…and that,…” He looks up at the approaching waiter, who bears his coffee. “…among other things.” As the waiter places the coffee in front of him, he reaches for one of the plastic containers of creamer.
Bruce’s eyes have narrowed, and he takes a deep breath. “You said formulate questions. Am I correct that this implies that you will not be answering them?”
As he stirs his coffee, Fred meets Bruce’s eyes, looking serene. “Correct, sir.”
I speak up again: “Who will answer them?”
Fred gives me a surprised look, then gestures at Bruce. “He will, of course.”
The waiter returns carrying a yellow legal pad, which he places on the table between Fred and Bruce. Then he produces a high-quality mechanical pencil and lays it on top of the pad. He then departs without a word.
Fred looks neither at the waiter nor at the pad, but at his coffee. “Shall we get started, then?”
Bruce’s eyes are still narrowed, but there is a hint of a grin. “Where do we start?”
The serene manner departs, and Fred’s look becomes serious. (…as a heart attack, I add mentally. I still expect the city around us to start exploding.)
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.”
Now we are standing just inside the doors. The space we have entered is what was called the Conversation Room on the old blog, modeled on the living room of our childhood home. This is impossible, of course; but here it is. It was here where I first spoke to Bruce (then simply known as “Bible Guy”), after his release from isolation from the rest of my selfsystem. We’ve come a long way, it seems. And now we’re back home.
I’m still played by Gellar. Bruce is now played by William H. Macy (as he was back then), but he looks older and has longer hair. To say that I am rather freaked out by all of this is an understatement.
He breaks the tense silence. “So… Here we are again. Why here?”
Through the right hand door at the far (South) end of the room steps Tom Waits. Excuse me, someone who is played by Tom Waits. He is smiling as he walks toward us. “Welcome!”
Waits has played roles here before, but it seems different this time. His appearance is somehow clearer, more vivid. He is wearing a clerical collar, but has a lit cigarette in his mouth. “I’m not really very important in this particular scenario. I’m just supposed to make sure you know that where you are really going is in there.” He points back toward the door through which he entered.
Having said this, he nonchalantly proceeds to walk between Bruce and me, exiting through the large archway that has replaced the doors through which we entered, and then disappearing to the left, into what I remember as “the den.” His smoke hangs in the air briefly as we look at each other.
Bruce looks puzzled, but I am sure of one thing. I point at the South door. “As he said, in there is where we are really going.”
Now he looks scared, and he seems to want to say something, After a moment, he turns and walks slowly toward the door. I follow.
The door is open, but what is beyond is not visible until we pass through. He goes first. Just before I enter, I hear him gasp and loudly whisper.: “Of course!” I see it now, and feel some sort of leap; was it in my stomach, or my heart?
We are now at the rear of the sanctuary of the Methodist Episcopal Church in which I was [we were] baptized.
These words won’t wait for me to “mean”
They won’t sit idly by
As would-be meaner, I
Pretend I’ve intentional control
They rush like rapids on rocks
Not measured flow in locks
Their stubborn semantic pathway destined there
These words will meet an “eager” ear that
Wrings from them a sense
All full of danger dense
As I still ready reasons flaccid
You hear before I’ve said
Your ear a Procrustean bed
Cuts off the feet of “what I meant”
These words have spoken long before I speak
Returning to me void, my bloodied blade
Or so it can appear
If your expected ear
Conforms to my sad self-told tale of woe
“Knowing” you won’t really hark to me
I see them fly like birds
Walking again. Didn’t Nietzsche have something to say about thoughts being better if one is walking? I’m played by Sarah Michelle Geller (again). I’m not sure why I can’t shake that yet, or whether I should shake it. Walking beside me is Bruce. When I last saw him, in 2013, he was played by Christopher Walken, but now he is played by Anthony Head (in Rupert Giles persona. I don’t know how long we’ve been walking.
I sigh. “Did it really have to be the Giles vibe?”
“Would you have preferred Dr. Frank-N-Furter?”
“Hmm… I guess not.”
“This is not what we’re supposed to be talking about, you know.”
I glance over at him with a grimace. “There’s that ‘should.’ I knew that would come up soon. I didn’t think I missed it, but maybe I did at some level. Do you know what we should be talking about?”
Eyebrows. “I assumed that you knew.”
“Not exactly. I was yelled at a while back by a dimly remembered 6th grade teacher, and I’ve known since then I was supposed to (‘should’ again) stay on the blog thing. But the fragments are scattered, and my sense of continuity isn’t worth much at the moment.”
We walk in silence for a while. Eventually, I speak up again. “I guess I want to know about you, now. Do you still have your Bible?”
He pats his blazer to indicate an inner pocket. “Still here, though it’s gotten disconcertingly small.”
“And the shard?”
He absently indicates his chest with his thumb. “Still in here. The scar is not going to go away.”
“You don’t just represent the fundamentalist anymore, do you?”
“Well, yes…” He’s avoiding my eyes now. “…and no.”
I have to meditate for a while before pressing it any more. The scenery changes as we walk. It’s important that it changes, not how it does. I didn’t tell you about the scenery before, and I’m not sure if I remember it now.
He picks up again before I do. “The ‘yes’ part is not too mysterious. The shard is in my heart because that’s its home.”
“And the ‘no’ part?”
Now he glances over and meets my gaze. “That’s more mysterious, but it can be said, at least.” He falls silent.
After a couple of minutes, I can’t resist making that rolling motion with my hand. “And?”
He keeps looking ahead now. “The heart.” Pause.
“It’s not just mine.” Several steps, then softer. “And I’m not just me, of course.”
A five or six minute silence.
I look over at him again. “I don’t know where we’re going.”