Part 1: A Life In Pieces (click here) Part 2 Another Life In Pieces, part 3 A Life in Anguished Pieces, Part 4 A Life in Mobile Words, Part 5 A Life in Coffee Part 6 A Life in Loneliness, Part 7 A Life In Rags, Part 8, A Life in Confusion, Part 9, A Life In Families Part 10, A Life in Memories, Part 11 A Life in Contemplation and Part 12 A life in church
A LIFE IN LASAGNE
“I saw the vicar today,” said Saphie over dinner.
They were at Rusty's house and he, Saphie and Izzy were there, sharing a dish of lasagne and liberal sprinklings of Parmesan cheese along with a bottle of Rosé wine. The latter was Rusty's choice because it had fallen to him to disappear to the shops and buy it at the last moment. He didn't usually have wine in, he had explained.
Whilst standing in front of the small but select display at the local corner shop he had decided that he knew nothing about the taste of either Saphie or his own sister when it came to wine, so he plumped for going down the middle and buying Rosé as a happy medium between white and red.
“You did?” He raised his eyebrows slightly, wondering what might be coming next.
She nodded. “I'm confused,” she admitted.
“I've never known a vicar do anything more than compound confusion,” remarked Rusty, eyebrows still raised.
“I thought the quiet inside of a church might connect me with myself,” said Saphie. “I rather hoped there might be a funeral service being conducted while I was there. It's only when you find yourself in the presence of death that everything seems to find a proper perspective.”
“Now you're getting macabre!” exclaimed Rusty.
“I know what she means,” put in Izzy, who often took a back seat during conversations between the two slightly older people.
“I wish I did!” he said.
“Think of all the people who have loved each other over all the years,” whispered Saphie, so quietly the other two had to strain to hear her. “Men and women … or maybe women and women or men and men, gender just doesn't matter when you're talking about love … they have felt all the love there can be in their hearts. The have found themselves weeping involuntary tears, not of sadness or despair but of pure love... and sworn great promises and oaths to each other. Those thoughts, those words, that love … they have been almighty edifices, the substance of their hearts and minds and unconquerable … yet they have all been conquered, in the last fractured second, by death...”
“I know,” choked Rusty. “I have loved, you know. Connie was my one true love...”
“I understand that! But I wasn’t being personal, bringing it back to you and Connie or any two particular people who find themselves in bed together. No, I was hoping to paint the bigger picture ... and clearly failing. And by the bigger picture I mean all the lovers down all the years … the musty stones that mark the graves in the churchyard, many of them crumbling and weathered with their inscriptions barely legible, the last dusty remnants of people who felt the deepest of emotions in life … emotions that have been swept away with the detritus of everybody else's life. On, maybe, some ethereal solar wind, invisible and taking them nowhere... hearts that have beaten in the extremes of passion, true, overwhelming, omnipotent … swept away to silence...”
“What's all this got to do with us?” asked Izzy.
“I don't know. Everything and nothing, I suppose.”
“It's a strange subject for the dinner table!” Rusty sounded as old as he looked when he said that. Saphie smiled at him and nodded.
“I'm sorry, I really am,” she confessed. “Anyway, I discovered that even vicars can love, and the one in the church down the road has his secret love!”
“The little lady who does the flowers? Or the prim woman who plays the organ?” asked Rusty, grinning.
She shook her head. “No,” she said, “the Bishop.”
“Oh, in an ecclesiastic sense?” suggested Izzy.
“I've no idea how deeply, or whether it's with prayer or not, but he loves the man. He told me he's gay and the way he feels when he sees his Bishop. You see, I asked him about myself.”
“What about you?” asked Rusty.
“I told you about being in the convent with Izzy and there being no men around?” she asked. “Well, I was only being three-quarters honest because I downgraded the way I felt for Izzy,” she said slowly. “We were a great deal more than close friends, and it was only the damned Mother Superior and her whip-like tongue that parted us when she cast me out into the world! You see, she found us in the same cell and in the same bed in the early hours of the morning, and there are some straight-laced people in the world who might suggest that what we were doing was wrong. But what really got at her, the prim and proper Mother, was when I whispered to Izzy that I loved her she heard and virtually exploded!
“Love, she shouted, How can you love the slovenly wench in her fallen robes and naked flesh when it's Christ who you love? How can you share the same foetid cot with that daughter of sin when you are wed to the Almighty?”
“It was horrible,” shivered Izzy. “We knew we were doing wrong. All our lives we'd been told, had it shouted into our heads … Rusty, our own father shouted loud enough – remember? We knew what we were doing was unacceptable to many, but it was what we needed. And, Saphie, no matter what's been said since, I did love you. I know that I did, if I have any understanding of what love truly is.”
“This is getting awkward,” muttered Rusty. “You're my sister Izzy, but a small bit of me's with our dad. It's not exactly natural.”
“Natural? What is natural?” demanded Izzy. “Natural is what nature made us, each of us, individuals in the world. Is living in fear and loathing with a man you can't stand natural? A lot of women do that, you know, and always have. Women like me who haven't been allowed to be what nature made them. Instead many have been obliged to bear the child of some man they could never love into the world ... and beaten for their pains. Women have been beaten for being themselves!”
“I'm sorry,” sighed Rusty. “I guess I wasn't thinking straight...”
“The thing is,” continued Saphie, “I need to try and work out who I am. I'm old enough to know that – I'll never see sixty again – but I'm not dead yet! And I don't know who I am! That's what took me into the old stone building and an accidental meeting with a vicar.”
“Surely we've all left that love and sex stuff behind us?” said Rusty. “I'm not sure of this, so don't quote me, but I've a suspicion my willy fell off some time last year!”
“Too much information from a brother,” remarked Izzy, grinning.
“Well, I reckon I'm one of two things,” sighed Saphie. “I reckon I'm either a confirmed spinster and happy on her own, or I need another human being to spend my fading years with. That's a hard enough question in itself, but it gets even harder when it seems I'm far from sure whether it's a man or a woman I want if I want anyone at all. That's what took me to church.”
“And a gay vicar who loves a bishop?” asked Rusty.
Saphie nodded. “You're diminishing him by mockery, but so he said,” she said, “and, you know, Rusty, he made so much sense when he talked about it. And I remember those years Izzy and I spent together...”
Rusty looked wounded. “Are you trying to tell me something?” he asked.
She was about to reply in a way that meant neither yes nor no when the doorbell rang.
Rusty groaned. “I'll go,” he said, needing to make an escape from what threatened to be an uncomfortable turn in the conversation.
He put his fork down and stood up and made his way out of the dining room.
“I wonder who that can be?” asked Saphie of nobody in particular. “It's a bit late for anyone to have visitors,” she added.
“Shush,” whispered Izzy. “Let's listen!”
From the direction of the front door came the sound of a woman's voice.
“I'm so sorry for everything,” it said, “I never meant you to be upset, I really didn't. I've come to tell you … I've come to say I'm sorry.”
“Agatha!” exclaimed Rusty's voice. “At this time of night?” he added.
© Peter Rogerson 19.03.14