Friday, December 31, 2010

Pink Hats 21: The Drive Home

"Have you forgotten, this is like, you know, the 21st century, for Chrysler's sake?" asked Jessie's roommate, a "broad-beamed and buxom babe," as she called herself, from North Carolina. A true "Southern Belle," she was careful of her language; using "Chrysler" in vain was as close as she ever came to profanity.

"I know the date as well as where we are and who I am," Jessie responded, "and I don't need to reenact the sexual revolution in order to feel like a woman. Bob will ask when he's ready."

"And if he doesn't?"

"If he doesn't, then my name is Josephine, his is Napoleon, and you can forget about this being the 21st century. He'll ask. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but he's going to and when he does, I'll say 'yes.'"

"And in the meantime...?"

"In the meantime, I've got an Foundations of Doctoring practical tomorrow and a date to see The Incredibles Saturday afternoon, so shut up and let me listen to your heart."

That was six years ago. We were only talking about going out. I can imagine what she'd say to me now, Jessie mused on the drive home from Concord, ask him about the conversation with your father. Did he approve or didn't he? It was early evening and Bob was dozing in the passenger seat while she took a turn at the wheel. She liked the Escape's audio system and found an alternative rock station on Sirius playing the instrumental version of Linkin Park's The New Divide. The difference between Jessie and her roommate was, Jessie insisted relational freedom was reciprocal. When he's ready, he'll tell me.

"If I had it to do over, I'd be their drummer."

"I thought you were asleep." She glanced at him briefly.

"I was, and dreaming about playing with Linkin Park. We were in concert at Madison Square Garden and instead of a bass drum, I had a giant stethescope that snaked around the stage with the diaphragm for a drum head."

"Sounds like the 'rhythm of medicine,'" she said, smiling at the image. "What do you think it means?"

"I should ask Chuck next week. I suppose it has something to do with being creative about life or putting things together in new ways." He lowered the seat back and stretched his long frame, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and changed the subject. "Your father is quite a guy."

"That's what he said about you, just as we were leaving. He really likes you -- so does everyone else."

"I enjoyed them all tremendously," he said, "they're warm and friendly. It was like spending an afternoon with my cousins out West. I especially liked how your father is unafraid to voice his doubts about what he believes -- it came up in our conversation on the porch. I didn't ask, it didn't seem polite, but how did he ever manage to become a deacon? I'd have assumed one would have to toe the party line for that sort of thing and he strikes me as someone who makes up his own rules."

"He does and he doesn't," she said. "He believes in the core principles -- you'll have to ask him what he means by that -- but everything else is up for grabs, as he puts it. He says faith is a living thing and has to be worked out continuously in the sweat and stress of daily life. If we'd pay closer attention, he says, we'd hear the voice of God in each other, but mostly we're too busy looking for burning bushes to notice."

"I like that," Bob said, thoughtfully. "And you're right, he still loves your mother."

"He told you?"

"In so many words. He said whatever she found lovable about him, it's something he tries to live up to, even now. It was the way he said it, almost reverently. I think 'true love' for him has religious significance. He used the term 'sacramental,' and while I didn't entirely follow him, I have an idea he means it's transcendent, rather like we were talking the other night. He said it changed him and I know it's changing me."

She looked over at him in the darkness of the November new moon and thought, If I live to be 100, Bob Z., I'll never cease to be surprised by you. When she turned back toward the road, he slipped his arm around her shoulders and gently kneaded the muscles at the base of her neck. She sighed and said, "Me, too."

(Creative Commons image by tortipede via Flickr)

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