I do. I mean. I sometimes feel like I have no idea what I’m saying or doing. It’s a little like someone else has stepped in, you know? Like I’ve been set to the side and some alien has stepped in and taken over the controls. Taken the con, and I’ve been relegated to observer status. A guard by my side.
Or maybe not so much coerced as operated on. As though sections of my brain have been removed, unbeknownst to me. I wake up. I do not know exactly what I’m doing here, wherever here is. I’m doing something or saying something to someone, but I have no sense of context. No appreciation of what has really been happening in this movie up to now. I’m playing a part, but I don’t remember having been coached or helped to understand the motivation. The character. The backstory.
From the way the other actors are responding—shrugs of the shoulders, questioning expressions on their faces, lower lips pushed outward, heads shaking—I’m getting the impression I’m supposed to make it all up as I go and hope everything will turn out okay. Like they’re doing.
Then as we go along, I do begin to pick up some information about what the rest of them believe went on before. Before I came to myself. No, that isn’t right. Before I came to consciousness. Before I found myself here.
Like the other night. Sitting with a man. I’ll call him Joe. Alzheimer’s. Last time I saw Joe was a few months ago. In a chair then. Able to walk about. Able to complete very short sentences. But now he’s in a hospital bed. Not a lot of conversation to him.
He starts a sentence but then trails off, like he had the idea, but then it slipped away. Like someone is removing bits of his mind. Bits of him. As we’re speaking. As we’re watching The Andy Griffith Show. I ask him questions, but he can’t answer, see, because he can’t think his way past the first word or two of a sentence.
I wonder what movie he thinks he’s in. I wonder what part he thinks he’s playing. What character he’s playing.
It’s clear to me, even though it may not be clear to him. He’s the man who is dying of Alzheimer’s. That movie. That same movie. A movie they’re making over and over and over these days. Like Hollywood. Same idea.
But what I really want to speak about is pastors and me. It’s like I have a problem. I’m not sure what it is. I hear them saying things, and a missile goes off somewhere. Or a bomb. I don’t know why. It’s like I’m in a war zone or something. Me against them. Or them against me, maybe. I’m not sure.
This isn’t all the time. No. Not even most of the time. It comes and goes.
Some of my best friends are pastors.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s a personal problem. Maybe I had some sort of a traumatic event in my childhood that makes me come apart around pastors. Maybe some pedophile priest had his way with me on many occasions when I was a boy and the trauma was so great that I can’t remember them. Or him. Maybe I have it in for pastors as a result.
Or maybe I expect anybody who tries to be God’s particular and special representative on earth to be perfect. Or to be a cake eater. Or to have an enormous hubris. Or something.
Maybe I don’t trust anybody who would claim to be God’s particular and special representative on earth. Or maybe I secretly want to be one of them and think I could do a better job. Or maybe I think somewhere down in the dripping and murky caverns of my soul that they are doing the job I should be doing. That they’ve all taken my job away from me. And I resent it.
Or maybe they all remind me of my father. He and I never did get along. At least when I hit puberty. Something chemical, I think. Yelling and hitting and that sort of thing. Lot’s of anger between us in my teenage years. Better now. We haven’t tried to hit one another for years. Decades. But still we keep our distance.
Who knows. Maybe I hear things or see things that aren’t there. Maybe I make stuff up so that I can have an excuse to get bent out of shape. Maybe I get a thrill out of getting angry. Maybe it floats my duckie. I don’t know.
I don’t know. Anything’s possible.
It does seem like an impossible job.
I’d never do it. No way. Ridiculous. Your job’s never done. Always could have done better. All the needy people. The broken people. And God looking over your shoulder all the time, telling you where you screwed up. Other people doing the same thing. People like me. And the communion of saints looking on. Looking over your shoulder. Too.
But there’s something heroic and courageous and noble in it. Something in these people I really do like. Some of them. Throwing themselves out there into the abyss of us. A willingness every day to bare their necks to us, who are carrying so many knives. Or me, anyways.