In the presence of my foe[s]

When I open my eyes again, it’s still just Bruce and me, but Tom Waits is back in the role of Bruce.  He has a white handkerchief out now, and is working on composing himself.  “It’s not really about belief with you, is it?”

I think I understand the question, but I’m not sure how to respond right away.  I reach up absently and run my fingers along one of the strings hanging from my Kapp, what the Mennonites call a ‘covering.’  The starched white Kapp replaced the informal kerchief; I’m fairly certain this happened right before this meeting.  Bruce is clearly willing to wait for his answer, so I hesitate for what seems like a long time.

Finally, I speak.  “There are times when I don’t believe.  Or maybe it would be better to say there are times when I’m indifferent to whatever this thing is that you call ‘belief.’  At those times, in those moments…”  I meet Bruce’s gaze, where ghosts of his tears still seem to hang just behind reddened lids.  “…when it happens that I’m indifferent to belief, I am not indifferent to those with whom I walk in Jesus’ way, and they are not indifferent to me.  Of course it would be a mistake to say that this has nothing to do with belief.”

Bruce’s brow is furrowed.  “Sociology.  Logos regarding sociation.  It has been here all along, but there is not one of us who embodies or represents it.  There is no sociologist here, is there?”

“Isn’t that because we are all dilettantes when it comes to the supposedly clear administrative boundaries in academia?”

He nods.  “But part of what you…”  Uncertain pause.  “Part of what you are is the inseparability of belief from communitas.”  He cocks his head to one side.  “How did Peter Berger phrase it?”

I nod myself.  “’…this vexing connection between what we think and who we sup with.’”

He is silent again for a while.

It has not yet become clear why I am currently “It.”

When it occurs to me, it’s more of a sudden shadow and chill than a thought.  “You have…  …some kind of bad news for me, don’t you?”

“I don’t know whether it will be bad, and I doubt that it will really be news, but perhaps it is ‘bad news’ in some sense.”  Our eyes meet again, and the expressiveness of his face coalesces into a gravity with which ongoing eye-contact is very uncomfortable.  “You are an ideal.  You represent the hoped-for, not the actual.  You are not even slightly Amish.”

I actually tremble a bit, unsure how apparent it is to him.  He’s not done, so I wait.

“Or you are some abstract knowledge peppered lightly by tiny bits of personal experience.  In that sense, I am a more accurate representation of a self-facet than you are.”

I feel like I should be very angry, but I’m not.  The gravity of his tone is a truthful gravity.  Still, I tremble some more.

He continues.  “There is a level at which our ethoi are in tension, but the sense in which we are indistinct differs fundamentally from the sense in which all of us are the same selfsystem.”  His look softens ever-so-slightly.  “I cannot continue without you, and I doubt that there is such a thing now as ‘continuing’ for you.  I need you to admit that you have been me all along, Sarah.”

This time, I do not hesitate.  “I have been you all along, Bruce.”

He smiles one of his smiles that seems like a failed attempt to cover pain.  “Come.”

I get up and walk around the table to where he is sitting.  he scoots his chair back and faces me, but remains seated.

I begin to stick out my hand, then look down at it as though it is an unfamiliar thing.  “Do I tag you again first?”

He shakes his head.  “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

I walk to the chair in which he is sitting, turn around, and sit down in it myself.  The sitting is an ecstasy in every sense, a coition, an orgasmic loss of center.  I never actually feel my body connect with the chair, but I feel my communitarian comfort merge with an exquisite burst of pleasure/pain into the desperation of his spiritual isolation.

Bruce, now played by Macy, jerks violently in his chair as if being roused from sleep.  For a moment, he is alone.  For that moment, there is no “I,” no “Me,” no “It,” no “Us.”

Since there is no “narrator,” the post is done for now.

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