He was divorced, or a widower; no one asked. He saw her the first time at Powell’s. He liked to walk there after his seminar; often his brightest kept up with his firm pace. That day, one – underfunded, too pushy and imaginative – was into Schmitt; asked how the distinction between “enemies” (with whom peace is possible) and “the foe” (with whom it isn’t) applied to Takers. Another student the professor preferred – good family, already an internship at Scaife – laughed. “Remember, takers are also consumers and, some of them, employees. They have their uses.” The professor nodded: “One must think tactically.” Neither followed him into Powell’s; they had little time for old books.
And she was there. Blonde, under twenty, good stock, with an uninterpretable look; there with a plain friend but quiet. They were browsing shelves he never did. Later, outside – the weather was one of Chicago’s annual two nice days – he felt disoriented, resentful of age. It would be easy enough to track her down. He drank at the usual place. It grew dark; he went home. Never liked to be out late. After years here, remained conscious of the degenerate and useless, endlessly greedy and crazy surrounding campus; they could invade at any time. As he walked he imagined the State finally fulfilling its one purpose: armed, visored men, perhaps using buildings he knew as a base, fanning out ... Twice that winter he saw her: eating a salad, affixing a poster. At which, though it was just some arts thing, he frowned.
Then it was spring, and the virus (of which on the whole he approved). Out late, after the last live department meeting, he crossed her path on a deserted street. She was masked but he recognized the hair, the walk, the frightened eyes. At which I intervene. “You know, if you were different,” I say sadly, “this could have been interesting. Like Dante with his nymphet, Petrarch with Laura, Elytis and Maria Nephele, Pagliarani and Carla – ” “But I’m not,” he hissed, surprisingly willing to go along with madness. “Not my field. And anyway – she is the foe.”
In jail, Pastor Bonhoeffer wonders what sense of the “supernatural,” if any, obtains among his fellows. Most, he finds, believe that a bomb (American by day, British by night) either “has one’s number” or doesn’t; if not, you’re fine. Superstitions remain from childhood. For the rest, they put their faith in the solidity of a German roof and the reluctance of state and Party to let foreigners harm them. Often, in his letters, Bonhoeffer advocates respect rather than preaching; concern, listening. Which, he implies, do not preclude participation in the overthrow of a tyrant. I, an atheist, go along with him on this.
Isaias missed us. A trailerpark splintered in North Carolina, two dead. We eyed the leaning tree in back. If it falls it will hit the Mcmansion of that neighbor; the one on the other side, who shares the tree, won’t cooperate … Two days rain, little wind. Then: three million without power to the north, more homeless, docks floating, already incapable hospitals hit, a car someone was in, under a tree, in Brooklyn … We were skipped. There will be 20-30 storms this year, more next. That convention of standing reporters on beaches and empty streets; the wind tugs at their slickers; they shout, grin, an hour later they’re still out there – Why? To demonstrate? Allow us to participate, atone? Purge pity and fear?
In one of the iterations of Batman, Bruce Wayne is preoccupied. Probably with the mystical Himalayan evil that has set its sights, inscrutably, on one city. He has just come in from outside. As he passes toward the Batcave (from which, properly accoutered, he will promptly, no doubt, leave), Alfred addresses the Wayne persona. There are appeals from an orphanage, an arts commission, environmentalists, an urban preservation group and other charities. To each the hurried answer is “Send them a check.”