Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Long time gone


VII

The strangely variable weather that marks early spring in San Francisco had set in, with some days as balmy as summer, and others sodden with a creeping mist that penetrated your bones.  The days came and went quietly after Bruno, and an increasing peace, more predictable than the weather, settled over me with the passage of time. 

Being single brought a level of comfort I had not anticipated.   Still, I got derailed by the unexpected, somehow clinging to the belief that life, when lived “normally,” was free of ups and downs, filled with pleasant relationships free of disagreeable surprises or contention.  I held onto the belief that most people were happy all the time, and that this was because they had their needs met, by their parents, or their friends, or their own beauty.  The rooftop dream, especially the part about peace, had helped considerably with this disillusionment, but I still often floundered.  I found I did not return to the Bible as often as I had at first thought I would. 

I had taken to spending more and more time alone when I was not at school or working, and was often in the rooftop garden now, recalling parts of the dream that had not sunk in at first, photographing the street below, sketching, or basking topless in the sun whenever it came out, if no one was watching.  I wondered what the part about the bodies lined up in rows had meant, and what this had to do with cymbals and love.

Barb and I had found each other again, and we had linked up for lunch a few times.  She and Yonas were expecting their first baby, and the glow that had already surrounded her was somehow magnified with the pregnancy. 

One day in February we met to share a plate of pasta al pesto, green beans, and osso buco at US Restaurant.  US was a little triangular-shaped family Italian place on the corner of Columbus, Green, and Stockton, where the Cipolini ladies, who all looked exactly alike, wore matching, crisply ironed powder blue dresses with white collars and cuffs, and memorized your order, no matter how long. 

One of them had just brought our bread and we were munching on it, dipping it into the oil and vinegar they showed us how to pour out onto a little plate from the two sided carafe.  Barb took a deep breath and sighed, reveling in the salty pleasure of the bite she had just taken before she swung into a story about Roger.  She said he had joined the Peoples Temple when he got out of jail and had moved out to their agricultural project in Guyana just a few weeks before.  Roger had looked her up a couple of weeks before he left and begged her to leave Yonas, to go with him to paradise, as he called it.  Poor Roger.  Barb leaving Yonas – that wouldn’t happen even if hell froze over.

“The Peoples Temple – isn’t that Jacki’s church?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.

“Yes, and after Roger called me, I went to the library and researched microfilm about them from the Examiner because – well, you know Roger – and I was worried about him.  One of the reporters uncovered some pretty bad stuff about three years ago – fake healings, welfare scams, pretending to resurrect people that weren’t really dead.  The Temple was even firebombed a few years ago by people unhappy with how they do business.  But then when I tried to call him back I couldn’t reach him.  I thought that was odd. 


“Finally he called me again right before he left the country, but he wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say.  He just said stuff about the capitalist machine and how the paper printed nothing but propaganda and lies.  And it’s true, I had found as much good news about Peoples Temple as there was bad, maybe more.  Did you know that Willie Brown and the new mayor really support them?  So I guess it’s just as likely that they’re OK.  I only hope that for once Roger has found something healthy that he can commit all that pent up energy to.”  She had spilled everything out so fast she had to take a deep breath when she was done.

I laughed, pointing up to the corner of my mouth and motioning to Barb to wipe where her food had dribbled out.  “Roger can hold his own.  He always struck me as pretty tough,” I said, biting into a green bean and sipping my iced tea.  Nevertheless, a small voice at the back of my mind caused the adrenalin to pump a little faster through the large veins of my heart.  Look for Jacki, it said.  Remember the dream?  But where would I begin to look, I thought?  I hadn’t seen her in so long, and the voice was very small anyway.  So I ignored it for the time being, and it passed, like headlights in the fog rounding a corner.

“Roger’s tough in some things, but when it comes to movements and father figures and that kind of thing, he doesn’t have the sense he was born with,” Barb pondered, frowning.  “He’s still looking for a father, you know.”

Roger and Jacki had that in common, I thought.  I hope it doesn’t lead them down the wrong path.

*  *  *
 Excerpt from Jacki’s Diary
August 18, 1976

Like Moscone promised Stokes, Jim is on the official list of nominees to the Housing Authority that’s going before the Board, but the Supervisors started pushing for background checks as soon as they saw he was going to be on there, since Barbagelata had the big flap over the voter fraud.  That put a kink in things briefly, since we know how Jim would do in a background check, but not for very long.  Moscone side-stepped all of it by setting up a nominating committee to make the final selection, and he appointed Stokes and Carleton Goodlett to the committee.  Goodlett’s the editor of the Sun Reporter and gave Jim a Citizen of Merit Award back in ’74, when we were giving away money to journalists to “recognize” them for their integrity so they’d leave us alone in the press.

Just to make sure, Willie Brown is introducing legislation to change the process for appointments to the housing authority, which would result in the power to appoint being taken away from the local Board of Supervisors and turned over to the mayor.  That should guarantee the supervisors don’t dig in their heels.
   
We’ve got Roger Fagin working on some of the building projects in Guyana, since Freitas and Tim got permission for him to leave the country in February.  It didn’t take long after our slate got elected for things to start happening.  The acreage is huge now, so thank God we’re getting close to a real lease with the Guyanese.  There’s a lot at stake.

Roger is so good looking, Jim has a hard time concentrating whenever he’s around.  I know Roger’s not into that, but eventually he may not have a choice, especially now that he’s stuck in the jungle.  Charlie has all the passports locked in the safe.  Roger’s a good worker, and smart, but he’s a little bit nuts, kind of like Jim.  That’s probably why Jim likes him.  But he’s too emotional to put in charge of much, and Jim knows it.  Some days I think Jim is too emotional to put in charge of much.  But then that’s why he has me.  With us getting close to 100 people moved in out there, he’d better hope he doesn’t lose me.

September 9, 1976

Jim’s testimonial dinner was last week.  Willie Brown emceed it, and introduced Jim as a combination of Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Albert Einstein, and Chairman Mao.  You can’t buy publicity like that.  Willie’s going to come share the pulpit with Jim in a few weeks, and on top of that I think we’re getting the governor for our Martin Luther King Day service.

Rosalynn Carter came to open the new Democratic headquarters this week, too, campaigning for Jimmy for President, and if you had taken our people out of the hall, it would have been empty.  So Jim will deliver San Francisco for Carter, too, because Carter is weak in California.  Still, if anybody can turn that around, we can.  Now if we can just get Jim to behave himself when we have company.  He says the most outrageous things and likes to bite the hand that feeds him.  You never know for sure what he’s going to do next.  So what’s new?

But things are going so well right now, the best ever financially.  We have lots of Temple members working inside the welfare department since Moscone was sworn in, so they funnel us lots of clients for our foster care and senior citizens homes, which are big money makers.  The amount we take in from public funds, combined with property transfers, offerings, and the core membership that tithes 25%, it’s more than we ever thought we could bring in.  We are literally rolling in it, but almost as much goes out the door in expenses as comes in.  Still, when everyone pools everything they have, nobody starves, nobody lives on the street, and nobody goes without health care.  It’s just so much damn trouble to keep it banked where the government can’t get it.

Sometimes I want to pack up everything and run away and hide, and never be found again.  But I don’t have the guts.  All the brains, but none of the guts.  God help me.

October 20, 1976

The Board of Supervisors voted to appoint Jim to the Housing Authority this week, so he’ll start at the end of the year.  When they got wind of the momentum Brown’s legislation was gaining, they folded like a deck of cards.

Also good news, we finally negotiated the official lease with the Guyanese for the land we’re building the agricultural project on.  The lease is retroactive to 1974, when we first started moving earth out there.  It’s a good thing, too, with all the acreage we’ve been developing, because we sure couldn’t afford to lose all we’ve put in – 27,000 acres.

So now that that’s done, we can be more aggressive about getting people moved into Guyana.  It would be a good place to bring some of the boys from the emotionally disturbed home.  They’d be a lot easier to handle out there where we can have more leeway with discipline, even than we do now, and we wouldn’t have to worry about them running off like that group that headed out for Canada a few years ago.

Jim is right that we’re scrutinized constantly here in the States.  There’s a reporter waiting to find something on us under every rock, so it’s a constant battle.  Sometimes I wonder just where we do fit in, and where I fit in, really.  Maybe living in paradise, even if it is in the middle of nowhere, wouldn’t be so bad.

As it is, I can never tell how I’m going to feel from one day to the next.



*  *  *
Wisconsin Street and Madera

“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving,
and that’s your own self.” – Aldous Huxley

I
In August of 1976, Barb’s baby was born, Amira Renee Berhanu, a beautiful six pound eleven ounce girl with a perfect little mouth, wisps of chocolate hair, and an iron grip that spoke to the strength of the family she was born into.  Barb had just finished her first year of law school, Yonas his second of engineering school, and they decided Barb would take a leave of absence so she could give the baby a good start.
Long days of peace followed for Barb, for the first time in her life.  She had always been a workaholic, which was how she had worked three jobs and graduated from Berkeley magna cum laude at the same time.  But since both sets of parents came through with financial support, this was her chance to just be Barb, and to be Amira’s mom. 
Soon she began to have vivid dreams, and her mind would wander back over these dreams as she went about her day.  She began to find it hard to focus on reading, and started journaling to unleash the images that haunted her from her subconscious travels the night before.  She dreamed of everything from ancient Ethiopia, to being Yonas’s mother giving birth to him, to being a famous worship singer on the road through the deep South.
Around Christmastime, she began to have disturbing dreams about Roger.  At first she wasn’t sure what to make of them, because they were strange and grim.  In one of them, he was standing in the jungle holding a rifle.  Rain was slashing down all around him, and he was yelling something that she could barely hear.  Then, suddenly, gunfire rang out, and he dropped to the ground, shot through the head, a pool of hot red blood melting into the jungle floor, his eyes lifeless.
In another one, he was standing in front of a cheering crowd, being paddled with a wooden plank countless times on his buttocks until he cried out in pain.  In still another, he was wrestling another man in front of the same crowd, and when he defeated that man, another came up to take the first man’s place, until Roger was exhausted and defeated.  These dreams caused her considerable worry, because she was sure she had read about something like that actually happening in Peoples Temple, on the microfilm of the newspaper articles she had read at the library. 
She had no idea of how to check up on Roger to see if he was OK since he had left for Guyana, but she knew that from what he had told her, there could not possibly be enough people out there to account for the crowd she had seen in her dreams.  And nothing she had dreamed came even close to describing the peaceful agrarian lifestyle he had described, or the loving community, when he was begging her to leave Yonas for him.  She thought it must be the newness of motherhood combined with the isolation of her new lifestyle that caused her imagination to play tricks on her.
Still, one evening after Yonas got home from a long day of school and work, she told him what had been happening in her dreams over the last several nights.  Instead of being upset or jealous, Yonas was deeply concerned, just as he had been when Roger had called begging her to leave for Guyana and leave him behind.  Yonas was absolutely secure in their relationship, and he had good reason to be.
He grabbed both of her hands where they sat side by side on the sofa and pulled her to him, Amira sleeping peacefully in her crib, and they prayed for all they were worth, with him leading.  When they were done, Barb’s face was relaxed, free of the worry Yonas had seen when he first came home.
“You know, Yonas,” she said, “Roger has always been so, you know, in his head, and just doesn’t see or hear what’s actually going on around him, spiritually or otherwise.  But I feel strongly now that he’s finally going to get it: that it isn’t about him or some guru or about any answer he can dream up in his own head.  He’ll see that it’s not Sun Myung Moon, or Haile Selassie, or Jim Jones, or any other guy.  He’ll see it’s God Himself.” 
She slept that night like she hadn’t in a long time.
II
Bob came home in spring of that year, my senior year at the Institute.  Seeing him again was like taking a deep drink of cool water, refilling my cells with the connection and soul recognition I had been missing.  We were still soul mates after all this time, fraternal twins separated at birth, and I could see that he drew the same kind of heart transfusion from me that I did from him.  Even though he was tanner, leaner, more beautifully groomed, and better spoken than when I had last seen him – and he still smelled so remarkably good in a whole new way – his eyes were the same, deep green and wide, flecked with blue, like tiny world globes or underwater spheres, drawing you in to swim in his free-wheeling mindstorms with him, cynical and na├»ve at the same time.  With him, I was not lonely, because love had a face.
He had returned from Paris with a partner, one who had been over there to study music at the Sorbonne.   Russ was a pianist and came with a grand piano, and possessed a grounded practicality that reeled Bob in from deep space when he got out there too far.  His rich mane of hair was thick and curly like Bob’s, except for being a shiny ash brown, framing mahogany eyes and a square, tan face with not a freckle in sight.  Where Bob was wiry, he was solid; where Bob moved like a coiled spring, reminiscent of Tigger, Russ prowled like a lion close to the ground, more rugby player than elf.
They were a perfect foil for each other and shadowed each other everywhere, similarly dressed in their matching button down preppie garb, designed to enhance the arrestingly firm muscles that rippled underneath on both of them.  They devoted considerable time to making themselves handsome, but not so much so as to make it their first priority - that was each other, and the Castro Street community they had come home to embrace as their own.  And while they were doggedly loyal to one another and, at least for now, were planning a lifetime together, they spent their fair share of time in the bars and the street scene of Castro, with no fear, no reason not to dive full bore into the gay sexual celebration unfolding at their feet.  This was no Polk Street, after all, no deadly night crawlers to trick you into an evening that ended with your life draining out through a knife slit in your throat.  Castro was community, family, a place one could live and love and play in relative safety.
Bob took a job at the telephone company, a legacy for him since his mother was management, and Russ, a transplant from another state, went into insurance sales for his day gig.  Russ’s higher calling, however, remained his music, and he continued to train daily to maintain his chops, occasionally landing a weekend gig at one local establishment or another.  He played hauntingly on the grand piano, the only noticeable furniture in their spacious living room, improvising ethereal, romantic, almost eerie compositions that evoked mist over an Irish bog, or a night flight in your jammies through a velvet star studded sky.
They lived around the corner from our high school pal Bob Rizzo and his lover, who had a little apartment on Elizabeth Street.  Rizzo, my other best boy from school and somewhat soul mate, though not quite the same as the main Bob, was now an ad designer at Bank of America, having completed a degree in design at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.  Rizzo knew who he was much earlier than my Bob did. 
Rizzo and I had been football mascots in high school together, him the Ram and me the sheep, both of our heads obscured by gigantic papier mache masks that plunged us into an anonymity that typifies the high school experience.  Had there been male cheerleaders at our school back then, Rizzo would have been one, because it was all he craved, to wear one of those letterman sweaters, and to shout the boys in their massive shoulder pads and tight pants on to victory.
Rizzo used to drive my mother to her Masters classes in Humanities at San Francisco State on his way to Arts and Crafts every morning, since she didn’t know how to drive a car.  She would come back telling stories of how Rizzo would weave from lane to lane with the radio cranked up high, and heaven help her if Curtis Mayfield or Archie Bell and the Drells from Houston, Texas (tighten up, baby), came on, because he would gesticulate wildly with his free right hand, steer with only his left, and sing in a clear, heart stopping falsetto with his eyes closed till the last strains faded away.  Some days, she said, she wondered how they made it there alive.
But once in late spring that year, my Dad had to get up and take Mom to school every day for a whole week, fracturing his sleep schedule since he only lectured at State for night classes that year.  It seemed Rizzo had come down with a really bad flu – fever, rash, headache, swollen glands.  For a day or two he really thought he had something, but then it cleared right up and he was better than ever, and that was the end of that.  He never thought any more about it, until about three years later.


My Bob, Russ’s Bob, would not catch that flu until the early eighties, but by then he would have a sinking sensation of what it could mean.  We would never see the last of that flu, which would come to rear its ugly head in first one way, and then another, along the long and winding road that led us through the next twenty years; and would also open his heart wide and make him the healer Barb had told him he would be, a soul healer who would be a blessing to many.
IV
With Bob home and everyone living somewhere in the city, we became like family again, Bob and Russ and Graham, and Barb and Yonas and I, and my neighbor Mandy.  The third floor at Hyde and Union became our chief gathering place when we were all together, and also became the underground gallery for the class of ’77 at the Institute.  Mandy and I had our work everywhere, even in the hallway, during the countdown to graduation, all of our photographs and drawings and lithographic prints pinned to the walls and spread out on the tabletops and chairs.  All kinds of people would come over and bring their work, the whole pile from the past four years, and lay it out, picking over it to winnow it down to its purest core, and letting what was left be the springboard for where each person would head over the next few weeks, taking feedback from whoever was there to give it.
Some nights just we, the family unit, would pair off or disappear in threes or fours.  Sometimes the topic of conversation would be Roger or Jacki, since they shared a common experience for the first time, albeit a weird one, having known almost all of us all this time, and still possibly never having met.  And sometimes Bob and Russ and Graham would just hang out together, Graham feeling out what it might be like to pursue what he had always wondered about, where it came to his sexuality.
I had already been admitted to San Francisco State for the teaching credential program, and Mandy was going back to New York, this time to pursue her MFA.  So as the year rolled on, we rode it to its ultimate destination, knowing where we were headed and why, and most of us even knowing with whom.  But missing from us was Jacki, and none of us had really gone out of our way to stay in touch with her.  On her own, she had simply dropped out of sight, and her secrets with her.  Rarely, I would dream parts of the dream again and wake up sweating, driven to find her, but the warmth of my bed always lulled me back down, and by morning I would have forgotten.
So in May of that year, 1977, Mandy and I finally took the long walk up the quad, to the edge of the deck overlooking the city from North Beach to the Bay, with the late spring wind blasting frigid against us, and claimed our degrees.  There was Elliot the printmaker and his Olde English sheep dog Emily, who looked exactly alike down to the bangs, walking the walk together wearing big bow ties; and Steve Greenberg, who was headed for his father’s drapery business after all even with a scholarship to stay on for his MFA, wearing his hand painted electric green high-top Converse and embroidered tails (he had always had a talent for textiles).  There was Sam who loved to spring up and strip off his clothes when the nude model didn’t show, and Chester the camera jock in his sprayed on jeans and leather, and his black Frye boots; and a long-legged big eyed girl who always wore a smock dress and Mary Janes, done up just like the china dolls she drew in all of her signature pieces.  We were missing only two out of the fifty six who started that last year with us, one who had disappeared forever from her Broadway apartment above a strip club late one night, and one who had jumped into the alley from the roof of his five-story Chinatown apartment building. 
Almost no parents were there, really very little audience at all except our professors and the rest of the students who were not graduating yet, since most of us were renegades who had struck out on our own in spite of admonitions to major in business administration or pre-med or engineering, having paid our own way or been emancipated and scholarshipped.  But Mandy’s parents flew out, and Bob and Russ and Graham, Barb and Yonas and Amira were there.  And all of us were missing Jacki, me most of all because I had her to thank that I had made the decision to embark on this phase of my life in the first place.   
V
Toward the end of summer, Bob was hungry for dinner at US Restaurant, and called up me and Barb to meet him there about 9:00 after the dinner rush one night.  We grabbed the table in the back center window, back by the little rabbit hutch bathroom and the fire door, wedged up under the triangle space at the heart of the restaurant  We could say most anything there and go unnoticed, unless there was a line for the bathroom.
It had been a long time since the three of us had been together like that, and sitting together called up memories of Sather Tower and Roger and Jacki, and Barb praying in Amharic.
“Can Barb say grace in Lithuanian tonight?  I’m in the mood for a change,” Bob quipped drily.
“Don’t be a smarty-pants, white boy – is that a lightning bolt I see behind you?”  Barb sassed back, wagging her finger at him, as one of the blue-uniformed sisters came up to take our order.  We decided on two plates instead of three, since they were so big, and got the boiled beef with Spanish sauce, pesto, and mixed vegetables, and the fried calamari, pasta with marinara, and tomato salad to split.
After a few long comfortable minutes of idle chatter which found its way around to the Berkeley days and Roger and Jacki, Bob took a drag on the straw in his Roy Rogers and produced two magazines from inside the backpack on the empty chair beside him.  “Speaking of that, I brought something to show you two today.  One for you, and one for you, but I want one back.  Wait’ll you see this.”
He laid the identical copies of the August 1 New West magazine on the table in front of us and pointed to the cover.  “Turn to that – ‘Inside Peoples Temple.’  It’s a mind blower.”
We each picked up our copy and found the article.  “Do you want us to look at it now?” I asked.
“Yes, now,” said Barb.  I want to know what’s going on with Roger and Jacki.  Did I mention those dreams I’ve been having about Roger?”  I took notice, recalling my own dreams and wondering if they had anything in common.
“Just read, both of you,” said Bob, and took a piece of bread.  “I want to know what you think.”
So we read, and once we started we couldn’t stop.  The food came, and still we couldn’t stop, eating with one hand and gripping the magazine with the other.  There it all was, including the worst of it: people beaten in front of the congregation, and for things like not paying attention in church; a woman having to fight with the Temple for custody of her own child; faking the healing of the sick, pretending that chicken gizzards were cancer that had been “cast out” by Jim Jones; siphoning off public funds for the foster children and seniors in their care, and then forcing them to live with inadequate food and clothing; manipulating people into committing all their assets and their homes to the Temple, especially the black members, convincing them that without the protection of the Temple, the fascist capitalists would round them up and put them in gas ovens like the Nazis had done to the Jews.
Barb went white, tears welling up.  Her voice was low and quick, a catch in her throat.  “It says here that they lock the door after service starts so people can’t drop by and see what they were doing.”  She stopped, looking down, both anger and fear turning down the corners of her mouth.  “The Mayor and the Assemblyman are in with them.  He’s even on the Housing Authority,” she said darkly, pausing to breathe. 
“It says they’re sending 130 incorrigible youths to Guyana, and Jones is already down there.  What do you suppose they’re going to do to those children, Bob?”  Suddenly she was very composed.  “I’m sorry.  I haven’t been sleeping right.  The dreams I’ve been having - ”   She took a deep breath, calm.  “It says they’re selling off their property in the States.  Where is Jacki in all of this?  Have you tried to call her?”
“Actually, I have tried to call her, but her number has changed and there isn’t a forwarding one.  And she’s not in information.  And I’m not calling that Temple, that’s for sure,” Bob said, picking at his plate.  I kept thinking of the dream and the small voice urging me to look for Jacki.   I wondered if she had still been in the States when I had heard it, when I had decided to ignore it.  And I wondered where she was now.
Barb and I looked at each other, a chill coming over both of us.  Her eyes turned from blue to grey, the shapes imprinted in her irises undulating like water under thin ice.  A flood of guilt at my own selfishness for valuing the simplicity of my own life over my friend’s need washed over me. 
Barb grabbed my hand and reached across the table.  Bob rolled his eyes, but he grabbed on too.  “I knew this would happen.  Looks like I picked the right corner,” he muttered.  I kicked him in the left shin and ground my heel into his shoe.
First she was quiet, and then breathed softly.  Eyes still closed, she said aloud, intoning just as she did when she spoke in Amharic, but this time in plain English, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The waitress passed nearby briefly, but kept going. 
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”[1]  She paused. 
She raised her eyes, blue again, as if she had just woken up.  “That was English,” Bob said flatly.
“Yonas isn’t here,” Barb answered sweetly.  “He wouldn’t speak to us in Amharic if no one understood it.”
“Is that from the Bible?  Are those verses you know?” I asked, watching her eyes closely for shifts in color.
“They’re from Ephesians.  But I’m not sure what chapter.  I’ve read them before, but I’m not a good memorizer.  That was Him.”
We were all quiet for a moment, and went back to our plates. 
“He gave me verses in my dreams not too long ago, too,” I said.  “My grandmother said them.  Be anxious for nothing.  And the peace of God that passeth all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Then a passage about love, and without it you have nothing.  I didn’t look that one up, but now I wish I had.  In that dream, Barb, I saw bodies all lined up on the ground.” 
That was the first time I had said that out loud, even to myself.  Barb just looked at me, stunned.
“Roger gets shot in my dream,” she said flatly.
We stared at one another.
 “Do you think we ought to try to do more than pray?” I questioned. 
“What would we do?” Barb asked.  “I wouldn’t know how to begin to get in touch with either Jacki or Roger out there.  I just wish I had fought harder to talk Roger out of leaving the country to begin with.  All I was thinking about was keeping my distance now that I’m married.  But now I don’t think Yonas would have minded after all.”  I had a sinking feeling that even if we could get in touch with them, they were in too deep by now for us to do anything to bring them back down to earth anyway.  I thought back to how Bob and I had been there by Barb’s side the whole time she was struggling with Roger, unable to change her mind – she finally did that on her own – but standing by until she was safely on solid ground.  Somehow, with Jacki, whatever it was we did or didn’t do just hadn’t been enough.  Maybe nothing would have been.
I took a couple of pieces of calamari with my fingers from Bob’s plate, and handed him back my magazine. 
“Here, Barb can keep hers, since she ought to show it to Yonas, so you can have mine back.”  Looking at his face, I remembered the place now where the large, dark sore he had in my dream had been, and decided to say nothing, this time for his sake instead of for mine.  I looked over at Barb next to me, and she looked back, and we knew, although I don’t know how we knew.
“Dominus vobiscum,” I said, and Bob laughed.
“What, do you speak Latin now?” he joked.  “Et cum spiritu tuo.  I used to be an altar boy.  Remember?”
I smiled.  “Yes, I remember.  Your mom was very proud.”
“She was,” he said.  “But my Dad didn’t live to see it.  He would have liked that I was an altar boy.”
We gathered out front for a few minutes before Barb and Bob got on the 30 Columbus to go home, and before I headed for the long haul up the hill to Hyde.  Barb took Bob’s hand, and made it clear to him that he was going to let us pray for him, whether he liked it or not. 
When she was done, she touched his face where the sore had been in my dream, neither of us having said anything about it, and her eyes glowed bright and clear even in the shadow of the darkened restaurant, its lights off, now closed for the night.
“You are going to make us all very proud, my friend.  I love you very much,” she said to him, and all three of us leaned in for a group hug.
“Awwwh,” he said.  “That’s what I love about you guys.  You always take me places I can’t go with anybody else.”
It was a long walk home, but when I got there, I opened my Bible, sitting there in plain view on the coffee table, where it had stayed after emerging into the light from its hiding place in the closet, and looked up “armor” in the concordance, in Ephesians.  Sure enough, there it was, all of it down to the last word, plucked out from Barb’s heart where it had been hidden, waiting to be handed back to us when we needed it most.  
And I wondered, how had all those moments when we could have done something or said something to bring Roger and Jacki back down to earth, how had those moments slipped through our fingers?  And I wondered whether Barb was wondering the same thing, and whether Jacki was okay and had her wits about her, wherever she was. 
*  *  *
Excerpt from Jacki’s Diary
June 10, 1977
We have a problem.  I’ve been sitting here at this desk writing letters for the membership to copy and sign so we could keep sending sackfuls of them to the magazine that’s about to torpedo us in the press, and now the fact that we’re doing it has become the subject of an article in the Examiner.  Jim is beside himself.  Lieutenant Governor Dymally and Cyril Magnin both came through with letters of support for us, and Maher, the financier, and Frank the Delancey Street guy called the magazine too, trying to stop it.  Right now we have about 50 calls and close to 100 letters going out to them every day, trying to nip it in the bud.  But Bill Barnes, the Examiner reporter, has now made news out of us trying to stop the story.
It’s New West Magazine that’s been out there snooping around, but we have gotten out front and stayed there with testimonials.  Fortunately they don’t have that big a circulation.  But we can’t afford for them to get hold of the likes of Grace Schoenfeld or any of the other defectors that are rattling around out there.  And we sure don’t want them to make any mistake that we are not a force to be reckoned with, either, if they decide to take us on in print.
Jim, of course, always starts to devolve when this kind of thing happens, so babysitting him together with managing this PR campaign is keeping my plate full.  In fact, I’m going to catch a couple of hours of sleep now before I have to get back at it.
June 20, 1977
Now the Examiner has accused us of breaking into New West and trying to rifle through what they’ve got on us.  The irony is, I don’t think we even actually did that.  But so what anyway.  The way things are headed, this can’t wind up anywhere good. 
Jim says that if that story runs, we’re going to start moving people out of the country fast.  If we do that, that’s going to mean passports, shipments, plane tickets, drugs for the difficult ones, you name it.  I hate to think about it.  But it is what it is.  I might as well get ready, because I think that’s what will happen.


Jim’s heading out there to make sure the place is ready to take up to 1,000 if we have to.  He wants to leave after the first of the month.  We just have to pray the article doesn’t come out before that, because then it will hit the fan.  Jim’s sermons are already really showing the effects, and we have more catharsis than I remember having in a while, and boxing matches, bloody ones.  Everyone gets patted down, even the soles of their shoes checked, when they come into the Temple these days.  Not real conducive to visitors.  We have to stay forewarned in case Moscone or Freitas or some of our other friends decide to pay us a visit.  It’s good we lock the door after we start now, with Jim going off like a time bomb in front of the congregation without warning.  Locking the door was my idea.
August 1, 1977
Well, the article ran this morning.  You should see it.  I’m just glad Jim’s been in Guyana since the first part of July, because at least I could hang up after he raged at me for a while.
But this makes it official.  Just like I thought, we’re pulling out.  Jim is going to resign his position on the Housing Authority - which is too bad because he’s chair now, too - and take the whole SF congregation, 1,000 people, to Guyana.  It takes my breath away. 
But the article was damnable.  The things people did to us – ten different defectors spilling their whining guts.  And the Mertles.  They’ll be lucky if they live after what they’ve said.  Today maybe Jim doesn’t look so crazy.  They really are out to get us.
I’m outta here.  I’ve got work to do. 


[1] “The NIV Study Bible,” Zondervan, Ephesians 6:11-18

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