"People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent." — Bob Dylan
He told me as we were driving along the shoreline on the way to look at a big old house and the sky was grey, "Life can be viewed as tragic or comic," and I didn't believe him then. It sounded cold-hearted and dismissive. I didn't believe him because from the depths of my grief – a very real grief – I could see nothing comic in the situation and could not imagine any day when I would. That day would never come. Never.
This, I suppose, is what all of the broken-hearted with hearts heavy as frozen winter stones say. We say we will never recover and we mean it. We say we will not let this happen to us again, and I trust we won't. Whatever it was that caused us so much hurt, Christ, I hope we have learned enough to not let it happen again, unless it was truly the wrong doing, or – one hates this word but it sometimes does apply – "fault" of the other person. In this case, the case I speak of here, there was fault so I lay it squarely at his feet, not my own and given that, what is there for me to learn?
As Dylan said, people do what they want, and then repent. In this case, he did what he wanted, then told me, which is funny because Bob changed his name, too, but he's thankfully now proud of his Jewish roots as he should be; otherwise it's a diss on the rest of us. Just as this person had told me that, nah, no more, he had decided that being Jewish wasn't really what he wanted anymore. It was to be a "WASP like you [me]" that he really wanted, which is funny because I'm of mixed blood anyway; neither here nor there. I could walk in either door, and anyway, I've never been a big believer in organized religion, although I like ritual so I've practiced as an Officiant for years because I love mouthing the words to the evening vespers and I like taking confession, even making it, I like the Episcopal Church – I like it because it isn't like other churches. But i digress too much. I suppose all religions have their things to recommend and not recommend, so I can't say much on the matter as I remain ignorant of other religions for the most part.
But "he" wanted to be "like me" – whatever that means – and again, I'll quote Dylan: "I define nothing. Not beauty, not patriotism. I take each thing as it is, without prior rules about what it should be." I wear a bracelet on my wrist that twists the old words "What would J.C. do?" to say engraved in gold and by Shreve's, "What would B.D. do?" I consult it often. And no, the answer is not, "He would just sit down and write a song." You'd be amazed at how helpful this is. It's my own magic eight ball, only smarter. I'd put my faith in Dylan's words more than most. Sorry to anyone I've offended here. I don't mean to. Truly.
So he wanted to be a WASP, like me. That's funny. With my green eyes, blonde hair, freckles, dead-white skin (peau laiteause, as my friend in Paris says). The "sort of hair you constantly have to flick out of your eyes," he said. It all seemed so funny to me; I never took it too seriously, and when he said he needed to go to church for real and have me be not a friend so much but an officiant in the moment and a true spiritual advisor, I naturally fell back into the role and sat in the twilight of the church on Fifth and read from the prayer book and ran through the service privately and although I would not do this for anyone, and never have, I held and helped as he cried out demons through the service. That is my job as an officiant. I read the confession of sin in which one can make either a spoken confession or a silent confession. He chose to make a silent confession. All fine with me, I thought.
Did I know that I was part of that silent confession? No. I did not. Had I known, I would never have been the officiant. I would have been, as I am today and will remain forever, truly disgusted and used. Right, he does what is convenient, then is penitent, then leaves the cool, even cold, twilight of the half-lit church and does what is convenient all over again. Of course, it wasn't the only time he would go back to that church. No matter that he is Jewish, that like me, we are two half-Jews. He decides now that, despite the fact that there is not an Episcopal lead in his family, that this on Fifth is his place now. The God I took him to has taken him away from me. I say then, the hell with that God. I brought him to You and You took him from me. That is Him. That is God. Or perhaps that is human fallibility. I haven't made up my mind.
When I last went back to that church, alone this time, I sat there on my birthday, sobbing over the loss of something that perhaps I never really had; in the final account, words mean little, even though I deal in them every day, they are my currency and I mean them, so many people simply shoot without thinking. They will say and do anything to get what they want… what is "convenient in the moment." So he said what he said for his own ends then. But when push came to shove, this person was no good friend of mine. I have been kicked to the curb, pushed down, discarded, and no matter if someone else has put the kibosh on it and said "nien, nyet, rien, pas", one makes one's own decisions in life and although I can understand tricky and difficult situations, I think it's not unfair at all to ask for some common decency from a best friend. But hey, screw me.
So is that tragic or comic? Me sitting in a church on Fifth in New York City on my birthday, rocking back and forth for three hours straight, making not cries, but sobs that sounded like a wounded animal as I sat in a pew before a stone cold altar and thought about how much I hated God in that moment (because I did) and reading the Song of Songs in the Bible, which I could tell was not popular in the church for the pages remained clean and unthumbed.
I read the story twice over and thought this must be the most beautiful story in here, so why isn't it spoken of more? I read the line, "For I am the Rose of Sharon…" and thought, how odd that I had used that line before, but no doubt it had stuck there from a previous time. But all of the symbolism was there and it made me sad. "His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me." It seemed right after so many years. And since I had no closure (I hate that word) I wanted to see my (ex) friend one last final time to try to understand what had happened. Rather, I knew what had happened, but I had questions and valid ones at that and wanted only to discuss those and to say goodbye properly as one would. We owed each other that; he owed me that. At least that. But no, such was the mandate that had come down from on high.
Instead, on that blazing day in September, I left the church on Fifth after the sexton handed me a big wad of tissue for my sobs – and after a young rector almost approached me to "help" until I flashed him a look and he caught my eye and backed off for that look told him, as Graham Greene once wrote, "I hate your God. I hate him as if he existed." So I left, I "rose now and I "went about the city, the streets and in the broad avenues" I sought him "whom my soul loveth," the words still thick in my head from the Song, and the bell rang high over Manhattan and I smiled through my still pink and damp face thinking of the last time I was there. It was a wry smile and not one of happiness but of irony… but that's another story.
I suppose the point is this, to come full-circle: that what he told me that day, not the him of this story, but another him who was right about life being tragic or comic, is true. Life can be one or the other and some things are just truly tragic and there is no comedy in that – auto accidents, suicides, natural disasters, terrorism, there is nothing comic in any of these things. But in some matters, in time, you learn to see something comic about the whole thing. I am not quite there, but as the days go on, the less my best friend contacts me, the more he remains static and in place and lets this once-close friendship slide, the more I am forced to withdraw back behind my RayBans and into my corner and the iron-gate comes down again, never to open.
I caught myself the other day listening to, of all things, "I Will Survive" by Cake, which is funny because it's meaningful but a parody of the original — but it still has all of the same wallop and I thought for the first time, "Oh, fuck you" instead of "Oh, God, I miss you and I'll die…" Oh, blah blah blah… shut up. How boring of me. Then I thought of how he walked. Then I thought of all the times he acted like a coward, like he is now, and I started to see a flip side and I thought of what Gandhi said — who else would quote Dylan and Gandhi in the same article — yet somehow they seem to make sense together,) and i'll end here because Gandhi says it all with this: "Cowards can never be moral. A coward is incapable of exhibiting love: it is the prerogative of the brave."Powered by Sidelines