Wait ‘n’ Groom

Waiting room.

About twice as long as it is wide, with seats on the outside walls and in the center.  The seats are interspersed with tables on which there are magazines, pamphlets, a Bible (“Placed by the Gideons”), and a sample children’s book of Bible Stories.  The magazines include Sports Illustrated, Field and Stream, People, Modern Maturity, Golf Digest, and a travel magazine from the state in which you imagine the room being located.

There’s a television in one corner of the room, tuned to Fox News.  Its volume is set just high enough that ignoring it takes too much effort.

WaitsBruce (played today by Tom Waits) is sitting in the center of the room, on a piece of wood and vinyl furniture that might fit an extremely broad definition of ‘sofa.’  He is leafing through a pamphlet about adult-onset diabetes.  His Bible (not to be confused with Gideon’s) lies (closed) on the seat to his left.  (Or does it lay on his left?  Can the Bible lie?)

I (Stewart) am sitting against the wall, across from Bruce and a couple of seats to his right, in a single chair that is plastic but tries to look as though it is not.

He glances up and catches me gazing at him.  “What?”

I shake my head.  “Waits.  Waiting.  I suppose your hair and stubble are supposed to indicate a need for grooming.”

He purses his lips and shakes his head, looking back down at his reading.  “I don’t make up these titles.”

“Nor I.  Yet we do make them up.”

He nods without looking up again.  “I suppose so.”

Silence.  I absolutely refuse to give in to the temptation to pick up the children’s Bible story book and start looking through it.  I wait.

He waits.

After several minutes, he speaks up again.  “You know what we’re waitin’ for?”

“I could make a guess.  But no, I do not know.”

His mouth draws taught across the bottom of his face, like a straight line.

marthaI keep looking at him, studying the way in which he will not meet my gaze.  “It’s possible that we are supposed to be talking in the meantime.”

He nods again.  “Yup.  Possible.”

More silence.

He finally closes the pamphlet and tosses it onto the table.  “Or, it could be that we’re just supposed to wait.”

“Waiting, as in waiting tables.  Waiting on someone is serving them, it’s active.  But this waiting seems so passive.  Why the same word?”

“Dunno.  But there’s also ‘waiting on the Lord.’  ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.’”  He looks at me, making real eye-contact.  “Is that passive, or is it active?”

I shrug.  “Dunno.  Maybe both?  Neither?”

He glances over at the TV.  “Both seems closer than neither.”

“And I suppose ‘groom’ can mean “prepare,” as in grooming someone to fill a position.”

He nods.

“So we prepare.”

He settles back and closes his eyes.  “And wait.”

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