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 made 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.)
Fred pauses a few seconds, then answers:
“In the middle of things, as always.”
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.
I repeat Bruce’s whispered response. “Of course!”
“It’s a church!”
I don’t even realize I’ve said it until Bruce looks around at me. He is a few feet ahead of me, examining the sign in the front of the building. It’s variable lettering reads “EVERYONE IS WELCOME.”
He crosses his eyes and tilts his head mockingly. “DUH!!” I ignore this.
“It’s an EPISCOPAL Church!”
“Does that surprise you?”
“I know it probably shouldn’t.” I look up at the imposing architecture. “But yeah, it kind of does. Are you sure this is where we’ve been headed all this time?”
“As sure as I get about anything. I’m also reasonably sure that you are sure of it.”
“I’m not sure if I can tell lately what I’m sure of.” Now I’m looking at the oversized wooden doors. “Yeah, I guess I’m pretty sure of it too. Do we go in?”
Bruce’s face is very serious now. “Yes, definitely. That I am even more sure of.” Then he suddenly looks puzzled, and lays his hand on his sport coat, feeling something inside.
The puzzled look fades into some combination of excitement and fear. “My Bible.”
“What? Is it gone?”
“No.” He looks at the door, and then back at me. “It’s gotten bigger.”
My review of The Bardic Depths is up at The Imaginative Conservative:
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.”
“Neither do I.” He doesn’t seem bothered by this.
So we keep walking.
The flat, stale smell of death is on the curtains
In my room, and on my trousers too
As if I’d been there, standing near her arm
And gotten splattered when she fired the gun
It’s like the scent of brains and dark despair
Death in our time stays apart from us
Hiding, though the dead are known and near
But someone has to find it in fresh sleep
When coldness comes, invited by our hands
Or steals upon us sudden, as we walk
It was her husband found her, I was told
Husband, lover, one who shared her bed
One who knew her smile, her warmth, her care
But knew her darkness too, had felt her anger
Sometimes aimed at him, or aimed at her
I imagine finding love in blood and tears
Below the stars that witnessed its demise
A tightness grips my heart with that same cold
As if a part of me had passed there too
Or somehow felt the bullet blasting home
I imagine being him, enduring pain
That no known voice can give a proper shape
Wishing my blood ran into her veins
Or my heart beat within her chest for her
Or my head took that missile in her place
I feel all this from distance safe, and time
That runs along a different axis here
As though the shot were in another world
The blood upon another planet’s soil
But no such alien to us is death
The smell still clings, and haunts my home and work
I’m guessing it will fade across my years
But do I want it so to fade? Perhaps
Or maybe I would keep a hint of odor
To keep my blood from clotting in my limbs
Perhaps I’ll keep a hint of her with me
That I might always find my love in time
Before she puts her hand to steel and fire
Before she puts a dagger to her soul
That I might bleed before another dies
The last of the “20 Looks at The Lamb” has finally arrived, if you care:
Yup, I took the plunge and got my own domain. The URL is now http://pblum.xyz. The old address (petercblum.wordpress.com) will still redirect to the right place, though.
Every night I pull my tears
From pockets of my pants or jeans and
Toss them in the laundry hamper.
There they sit, for one to seven
Days (depending when we wash) in my
Room of rest (but not always sleep).
They never sit alone as they wait,
Soaked in the cotton/poly white that I
Carry for mucous, sweat… and this.
Mornings I take one, neatly folded and
“Clean,” the tears all rinsed away
(meaning merged with other liquid,
Diluted to indiscernibility).
But that they’re gone is no mere absence, their
Trace still haunts the washed white cloth
Invisible, unlike occasional blood.
Sometimes tears of others mix when
I’ve a cloth and they’re without. It’s
“Clean,” but still they mix therein. So
At night, when I tiredly pull my tears
For washing, it’s more than just today’s
And more than mine, aware or not.
That “clean” is never purely so can
Irk one. But with tears I’d guess
It fuels the soul to carry such traces.