Abr 6, 2004

I went off this morning to St Thomas's Hospital to have my swollen knee drained. My old friend, Dr Mac of Hurst Green, had called it housemaid's knee. The bright young doctor at St Thomas's said that strictly speaking it was clergyman's knee. Housemaids get their knee trouble from leaning forward, clergymen kneel in an upright position, so that their swelling is lower down. While awaiting my turn to be drained, I was accosted by a friendly drug addict with his young wife, admittedly 'stoned'. He sat down beside me and asked, 'What's your trouble, Lord Langford?' I pulled up my trouser leg and showed him my swollen knee. 'Ah!' he commented sagely. 'Myra Hindley has been kicking you! give her my love; she must be a pleasant girl.'

Old labels die hard. The nurses recognised me as Lord Longford. There was a cry for Mr Pakenham; they assured me that it wasn't me. Of course it turned out to be.

Lord Longford
Diary entry
April 6, 1981

Pastor Louis

It seemed proper to entitle the entry on yesterday's events this way. Now that I'm typing it though, I'm thinking of the world of difference between two other possible headings: 'A Pastor' and 'The Pastor'. "Whatever," I tell myself, just make my way through yesterday as soon as possible. "Everything is under erasure anyway." I'll write about a friend of mine now. 'A friend'.

Okay, somebody I know.

Pastor Louis speaks smooth English. If you heard him without knowing him or that gold cross pinned to his collar, you'd think he's a disc jockey. You wouldn't doubt he's a ladies man. He isn't either though, believe you me.

In fact, away from his flock, he's intimate with books and - oddly for some - cartography. He is also a couple of months from marriage. After my annal purchases from a Booksale in Cubao, I thought of visiting him (he was a jeepney ride away) just to show off. From these, he showed interested in Polemicization: The Contingency of the Commonplace by Arditi and Valentine and The Alphabet and the Goddess by Shlain. He feigned interest in my newest Faust translation because he sensed that was what I most valued in the lot. I told him the volume had Urfaust almost with a shriek.

He calmed me down with his usual strong coffee. Then we began telling each other stories. It's been a while. By far, he's the better storyteller. I remember recording some of our past conversations in old journals.

Pastor Louis has his way with words. Now, though I meant that in the pleasant 'he's eloquent and erudite' sense, I also meant that he had peculiar habits with the spoken idiom. For example, thrice I caught him referring to his favorite Nets ball cap as 'the Fez'. Once also, he called my attention to a foreigner he'd been watching (as we shared the hobby of people-watching, the vulgar voyeurism of quotidian performance). There were five in the crowd so I asked him which one. He said "The one with the fez on." I picked out a freckled American teener with a Kings cap.

Sometime after Undas, I showed him a dirty limerick I wrote. He laughed and said "Parfait!" I did not catch what he meant at the time so I just ignored him and wrote another.

Well yesterday, after scanning my books, he let me see the draft of a sermon he composed. I read it with the allied passages from Ecclesiastes and John. (The Bible available was the King James version. So come O ye, hail-thee, thine-thou art and whatever all that dost.) When I finished reading, he didn't even wait for my comment. He saw I already had a smile on. "Eh, non-believer?" he said. "Parfait, no?"

I remebered the curious word; I caught his drift. I faked ignorance and asked if he wanted a scoop or two, the heat on and all. "No, thou art a fool!" he said; so I asked, "Why can't you say perfect like the rest of us?" He shrugged with his engaging, benevolent smile. "Why should I?"

"Is it befitting for a man of God to play with words?" He countered rather voluminously. He was as given to sermons as I was to lectures.

He took me through Wittgenstein and Ayer and said, "This language games, it's the game of God, see? You must know, it all began with the Word." Then, of course, the smile of the raconteur. I smiled back, vaguely detecting where he was about to take me. He asked, "That science of yours, that favorite, that hermeneutics, you know where it all began?"

"Biblical exegesis. That's an impasse! Heidegger left that to that and went on to hermeneutics. Absolute truth, your 'Truth', how can it come through something as dynamic and arbitrary as human language? If God wanted the 'Truth' communicated, he shouldn't have felled Babel and scattered the tongue, should he? Now if the divine idiom's still with us, it must be somewhere just among the many."

"Yup!"

"You agree?"

"Yes."

"Are you sure you're a pastor, man?"

"Was a man ever his occupation, Dennis? Hmmm. Pastor, eh? Maybe not in this case. Unless you're a lamb. Are you a lamb?"

"Are you kidding?"

"Then I am not your pastor huh? Unless that word's only some metaphor and the important element would be that I am leading you somewhere."

"So are you? Not sure I see where you're taking me, man."

"I don't know either."

"Well that's sound. 'I don't know' is something nice to believe in. Socratic. Nice."

"Think so, Dennis?"

"Believe so!"

"Happy?"

"Don't know, you?"

"Me neither."

"Oh well."

"Perfect, no?"