The Present: By Marguerite, Filipino soccer mom, from the barrio, Padre’s parish secretary, after Blaise returned to the Philippines, after unleashing the virus.
Blaise is by himself on our island in the Philippines, recovered his strength and gradually settling in, fixing things for people, mostly mechanical things and nothing electronic beyond the transistor.
*By Marguerite, Parish Secretary, Continued
Blaise, bless him, has not told the entire truth. He is probably blind to it or has blinded himself to it.
His petite Filipino jewel-like wife Maria left him when he disappeared into the bottle. He had once more become haunted by dreams obsessive dreams of signals of what must be, the Beautiful Thing he had loved forever, like the Grail, the pure gold bees circling the monstrance, the source of pure blood and honey.
He tried to still be caring the good dad and husband, but she could read his heart, but instead of helping him when he was in despair she left him, that primal instinct for self-preservation and survival, she left him and took the kids and told him she wasn’t in love with him anymore though she still loved him, but he knew what that meant. And he didn’t feel guilty that she left because he knew he had become withdrawn and unaffectionate. But he also felt betrayed, though he knew it was foolish thinking anyone could save him especially anyone as lovely and loving as her. He had stolen 20 years of her youth.
He is haunted by the one little woman the dark girl the dream girl, he sees her in his sleep, but he is now distrustful of women in general. He first thought it was just American women, then American white women, then American white Protestant women, but now its scope expanded universally. He thinks about the curse of Eve and the perverseness of Lilith.
He distrusts the myth of romantic love, the every woman a princess worth a quest because the movies say so. And he thinks of women “empowered” wearing ridiculous business suits like caricatures of men – looking grotesque as caricatures of business men and absurd as women – trying to be as tough as men, drink as hard as men, curse like men, abuse subordinates worse than men – as if a caricature of men was female power. And god forbid a Pachamama in St. Peter’s because the Queen of Heaven Virgin Mary just isn't good enough.
So that is where he's at right now alone on the island amongst the Filipinos speaking an idiosyncratic strain of Filipino and sometimes thinking about attending our small Catholic Church, St Miguel’s. He does work around the church because he is a kind of loyal sheepdog to Padre. He tidies up around the altar, the only man in the altar society, scraping the beeswax off the candleholders, straightening the hymnals – there are no bibles in the pews – and sometimes moving heavy objects for Padre, who is a slight man. The Padre asks “when are you going to come back to church, Blaise you are always welcome. “Blaise answers “when I believe in something.” Said cynically but without complete conviction. His pride won’t let him say anything else. He does believe in something he just doesn’t know how to describe it beyond his vision of the golden monstrance and the bees, in the sky like the Grail.
He fixed the air conditioner for the Padre the belts for Padre’s car so Padre could get between remote enclaves of believers. Oh, and Blaise killed 12 terrorists who kidnapped Padre and were going to kill him after they realized he didn’t have any money and they couldn’t shake down the parishioners for any money because they had no money and he wasn’t a CIA agent just an old but spry Padre who still believed that people are good and who ministered to the poor and did not try to indoctrinate them into any particular points of view except the Catholic faith and the sacraments and the bundled minor sins murmured through the screen of the confessional, and the elevated host and the ringing of the bell.
That’s what the Padre did. He drove out across dirt roads between vast stretches of screaming green trees in his little old car that Blaise kept repairing so that Padre could visit the sick and Extreme Unction and hold the hands of the frail and dying, their skin that stretched thin and tight like parchment over the veins and bones and tendons of their hands, looking up at the ceiling because they didn’t have the strength to shift their eyes to look at Padre but they could hear his voice, and the Padre understood and he held their hands when they were looking at the ceiling thinking not even thinking just feeling that all their life shrunk down into one moment and point of light and the gate and whatever was at the other side and the warmth of Padre’s hand and his reassuring words and prayers that spanned the centuries spoken softly in Latin and then their language, and the last fluttering of their eyes and the small last exhale and the light of their eyes extinguished. That’s what the Padre did. And Blaise helped Padre.
Padre and Blaise made an odd pair, Padre being short and old but wiry and Blaise following him like a big cartoon bear – it looked especially comical in silhouette. Padre was an old man with glasses, and he was always brushing back his silver hair in need of a haircut. And he was always walking around in his Roman collar and black short sleeved shirt and long pants and white tennis shoes. He used to try to keep the white tennis shoes clean but they always got dirty and after a while he didn’t care, and Blaise always brought him a new pair back from town when his old pair was falling apart and held together by duct tape.
And Blaise tried to teach the local boys’ soccer, but he didn’t know a thing about soccer, so the boys taught him soccer which they called football, which took Blaise some getting used to because he loved football but not that football - he had been a lineman in high school and liked hitting people and pushing their weight backwards with all his strength.
Some of the child’s mothers seems to be attracted to Blaise , the single mothers the pretty senorita’s doting over their young children now growing lanky, and Blaise could feel their eyes and sometimes it interested him but he felt he did not deserve it and he distrusted women and he knew the fairy tale would fly apart again and he would disappear into the bottle and he did not feel like he should ever subject anyone else to that.
He began to understand the Padre’s choice to swear off women all those years ago because the old men know what the young men should know but the young men barring supernatural faith are led by little heads, to the point of compulsion, and sometimes their only choice is what to stick it into, so marriage is probably the least dangerous of options, especially marriage open to children, because something good might finally come of it that persists through time, something valuable that outlasts the man, a legacy, because only demons whisper that life is a curse.
Stephanie, Assistant to an Assistant Editor, Harper Collins
Remind me to come back to this. If Blaise is speaking it is out. If this is Marguerite speaking it is very meaningful. I will run it past an average woman, maybe my Pilates instructor.