In this episode, I am played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I am wearing a black suit with a white shirt and black tie. I am sitting in a leather chair in the conversation room. (There were never any leather chairs in the room upon which the conversation room is modeled.) The other chairs in the room are more like originals, with the same sort of fuzziness or indistinctness noted when the room was introduced.
There is a fire crackling pleasantly in the fireplace. Outside, it is dark. The room is lit by four lamps and the fire; the chandelier is not lit.
There are two other persons in the room, sitting in chairs several feet away from me, facing toward me but also turned slightly toward each other.
The person on my right speaks softly. “We are here. Will you begin, please?”
“Begin whatever it is we’re supposed to do here tonight.” She raises her eyebrows. “You do know what we’re supposed to do, right?
I shake my head. “I actually don’t know that for sure. I believe our friend here does know, however.”
Bible guy (William H. Macy, cleaned up very nicely, but with several days’ beard growth) is sitting in the chair on my left, with his Bible open in his lap and his head down, reading intently. He does not look up.
The woman in the chair on my right has already changed in appearance twice since uttering her first words. She continues to change in appearance every thirty to sixty seconds. She always appears in black and white, like the image on an old television set. When she changes appearance, there is a disconcerting flicker similar to what one might see when flipping channels on the same sort of old TV.
Bible Guy seems in no hurry to begin, so I speak to her again. “It seems that you are not one of us.”
“Of course I’m not one of you. I’m not even a particular self, as you can plainly see.” If she is irritated, it does not show in her manner. “I don’t really know exactly who I am, though I do know…” A pause, but she continues to look directly at me and not at Bible Guy. “…who he is. Or perhaps I should say ‘what he has done’.”
Bible guy still remains focused on his Bible, but finally speaks. “What I have done to you is what you mean.”
“To those who are reflected in me, or…” Uncertainty. “…projected through me, perhaps.”
Bible guy glances up at her, though she does not return his look. “I have done harm to you, and I will address you as I would address one whom I have harmed. He looks back down at his Bible. “All of you.”
She furrows her brow and looks at the floor in front of her chair. “Some of us know pain from this harm. Why do some of us not know it?”
“I don’t know why. I only know that the harm was… is to all of you.” He closes the Bible and sighs heavily. Then he looks at me. “You know who these women are, don’t you?”
I look at her. I lost count of the changes at about fifteen, but she has looked the same now for more than a minute. I decide it is best to be straightforward. “It seems to me that the common thread is that we acted inappropriately toward all of them at one time or another, some only in speaking to them, but some in the way that we treated them.” I pause, but Bible Guy is clearly waiting for more. “We transgressed boundaries with all of them in regard to sexuality. If I’m not mistaken, these transgressions, some of which were quite serious, were mostly concentrated during the period when you were especially dominant within the selfsystem.”
“That’s basically correct.” His haunted eyes are still fixed on me. “This evening is about forgiveness.”
I think about this for a moment. I am growing rather uncomfortable. “You cannot seek forgiveness from a projection like this.”
“You know damn well that I am not seeking forgiveness from a projection.”
“Since when do you swear?”
“I have surprised myself, though perhaps you are less surprised than I am. You told me that you expected openness from me. I was not at all sure that I could manage it, even though I knew when you told me that it was necessary. It turns out that I am more ready for this openness than I would have expected not long ago.” He looks at his Bible. “I guess I’ve known for a while now that I can only be true to what I find here if I am also more true to myself than I’ve been.”
I seem to be sweating now. I hate it when that happens. “So this is about forgiveness, but you are not seeking forgiveness from these women.”
“How could I? I might be able to locate two or three of them. It’s not the main agenda.”
“So the main agenda is between us?”
He nods gravely. It’s not as though I didn’t know this before, but I guess I pretty clearly did not want to admit it. I look back at the person in the other chair just in time to see a male figure that I vaguely recognize change into another female figure. I close my eyes. It’s as though I’m trying to think, but maybe I’m really trying not to think.
I don’t know how long it is before he speaks again. “This is about you and me. As I said at our first meeting, I’m supposed to forgive you.”
“For the isolation.”
He nods again. “But that’s not all that’s needed here. There somehow needs to be forgiveness between us…” He looks at the projection as it changes again. “…about them.”
This was almost, but not quite, what I had expected him to say. I try not to raise my voice at all, but do not quite succeed. “Forgiveness between us. Was it not under my leadership that we awakened to many of the ways in which we treated women, the ways in which we lived toward the female only as toward an object of lust, the ways in which we profaned and even denied the female among us? Was it not when YOU WERE BOUND that this awakening could finally occur?”
He does not visibly react, but I know that my explicit use of the word ‘bound’ is not lost on him. There must be some satisfaction there.
I go on. “Will you seek my forgiveness?”
“PERHAPS?” I’m not controlling my irritation at all now. “YOU EXPECT ME TO SEEK YOUR FORGIVENESS?”
“Perhaps. You have considered the casting change today, have you not?”
I am silent. Of course I had considered the change from Gellar to Gordon-Levitt. I had tried to tell myself it only had to do with Gellar’s not being available. Not at all plausible.
The silence lasts several minutes, during which the woman in the chair changes three more times. I think some of the images are repeating, but I’m not positive. She continues to follow the conversation with a look of moderate interest.
Finally, he speaks. “You see now that it is not simply a matter of one of us seeking forgiveness from the other, or of one of us forgiving the other.”
“Then how is it a matter of forgiveness?”
He smiles, and it looks a little bit like a grimace at the same time. “We have to figure that out somehow between us.”
There is a loud pop from the fireplace, and a rustling as the logs shift and settle.
Extremely long silence.
“So this meeting, which I assumed to be primarily a continuation of your reincorporation into the selfsystem, has really been about me.”
The smile is gone now. “My ‘reincorporation,’ as you call it, is about us, isn’t it?”
Long pause. I finally nod. “So it’s not that one of us needs to forgive the other, but forgiveness somehow must be between us.”
He nods, sits back in his chair and closes his eyes. “You let me know when you are ready.”