The raincoat dripped. His forehead dripped. Every last atom of body and soul; soaked to the marrow.
‘Hey! Where’s my fare, you English cheapskaaaaate!’ roared a voice in the distance.
A car door slammed, and a cascade of horns descended upon the City of Unbearable Frickin’ Insomnia, as Saul Friedman never tired of calling it.
But this man was no Saul Friedman.
For, rather than muttering and fidgeting his way through the town, bumping markets stalls, deadening his elbow on irrationally planted lampposts, and coming within an inch of colliding a child or ten into an unanticipated hospital vacation, the man who was coming to visit Saul Friedman inched with cat-like tread throughout the city.
No matter what obstacles present themselves to his cautious eyes, this most feline of urban dwellers evaded them all.
Nothing could thwart him.
From speeding street-cars, to vindictive cops who had nothing better to do than enforce the purely arbitrary and pettifogging ‘don’t walk’ regulations, there was nothing that would encumber the sumptuous arrow-flight of this gorgeous man.
The office at last.
The gloves slipped off.
Long, slender pianist’s fingers pirouetted towards the sparkling intercom buttons.
The task was done.
A buzz, a click. Into the elevator.
Through the corridor.
To the door.
Three taps precisely.
Clean, clinical, cleanly-clink-precise!
And a nervous guffaw greets our brave young Darcy.
‘Ha, Adi, fuckin’ Adi, yer grand old foot-dragging bastard, ya! Comin’ right atcha, son!’ Saul Friedman threw open the door, threw a fist-bump which was, sad to say (or not?) was very nearly a left hook.
The stranger deftly stepped back.
‘Well, who in the hell even is this guy?’ muttered Saul, twitching his eyebrows in disgust at the rather uncongenially clean and slick figure standing before him.
‘Good evening, Senator Friedman,’ purred the visitor.
Lucy cast Saul a gentle but firm glance of warning, as Saul’s rather peculiar behaviour towards Captain Catty-Glance was hardly without precedent in recent times.
‘Good evening yerself,’ muttered Saul.
‘Indeed it is, indeed it is,’ was the reply.
‘May I ask the reason…’ whispered Lucy, disconcerted at the sleek and glossy appearance of the peculiar clean-shaven, bare-pated, softly spoken Englishman before her.
A spiffing flick of the those long, curly locks of his.
‘A gentleman never bestows a reason upon an idle questioner.’
The stranger’s voice dripped with a whiff of exquisite cinnamon and honey that was really quite overpowering to the uncultivated ear.
‘Yer gonna tell us yer business or what?’ murmured Saul.
‘Hmgh! I got someone else coming in a short while. So this shit o’ yers better be good, a’right?’
The curious gentleman beamed with such a gleaming façade of generosity of spirit that one might almost be forgiven for crediting him with the utmost sincerity and gentleness.
‘Yer not one of them goddamn media assholes again, are yer?’ Saul spat.
‘Just frickin’ sick o’ this crap. I told yer all, I am not runnin’ fer office. There are better people than me fer that one.’
And oh, those broad white teeth!
‘Ah, dear me! Well, wouldn’t you care to reconsider? For, as inadequately acquainted as I may justly consider myself thus far to be, considering the current political establishment in our gracious sister nation, I would humbly beg leave to submit that even if (let me concede but this!) if there do indeed be some who are more qualified than you, these “some” may nonetheless at least (if I may dare presume to take this liberty!) be very far from “many.”
‘Ah, now is that by any chance a hypothesis worth entertaining? Or am I perchance genuinely, genuinely wide of the mark?’
‘Well, yer the expert. Seems pretty clear yer’ve already made up yer mind,’ grunted Saul, slamming the door in disgust. Saul sat down in silence at his desk.
‘He won’t come, y’know,’ he murmured.
Lucy gazed with compassion upon her hero; a compassion not entirely untinged with admiration for the sheer skill and mastery this grumpy, rather Oedipal old fusspot had shown in expelling that poor little Grub boy, the disingenously sinister shade that just some few minutes before had haunted the already rather desolate office.
‘He’ll come, for sure,’ in a voice so low and gentle, it was almost a whisper.
‘Let me let you in on a little secret, Luce. The wait for the Messiah is the Messiah himself. He’s always coming, he’s always at the door, but we’re all too frickin’ taken up with our own petty concerns. Yeah, and y’know, we’ll never see him, just never see him for who he truly is.’
Lucy smiled. ‘Well, for sure! But I guess that’s the burden of being God, right?’
Saul grunted irascibly, but not without a hint of amusement and tender affection for the rather green and sheltered intern who stood before him.
‘Ah, Lucy, Lucy, Lucy, Luce, this girl just got it all ass-backwards, aintcha!
‘Ah, dear God!
‘Oh, you got the fuckin’ powercut to yer head!
‘Huh? You outa yer freakin’ mind, Luce?
‘The Messiah ain’t a God. I mean, let’s be honest. He’s not even anyone special.
‘Not one bit special, this guy. Not one bit frickin’ special at all, Lucy!’
Lucy frowned, not sure whether to take this as a sign of the apparently serious deterioriation in Saul’s mental health; or just as one of his quirks, or something.
But was there a difference, really? How could she be expected to know?
The man she loved seemed to be ebbing away, bit by bit, like a strong fortress of sand that was gradually crumbling into a dull, blank, empty space on a deserted shoreline, where the last feeble heartbeat of the human race, one day, would finally cease to halt.
But oh, those quirks!
‘My autistic genius,’ she used to call him in her dreams.
But Asperger’s Syndrome was probably a pretty minor concern, in the grand scheme of things.
Or was it even a concern at all?
Or was it a strength?
But then again, after all…
Why even bother?
As a young semi-pious Catholic woman from rural Georgia who had somehow manged to get lucky here with her first ‘serious’ job, Lucy often felt awash in the big city.
There were so many things she didn’t understand.
But then again, in his own curious way, the same was true of Saul.
And if such was true of Saul, how much more so Lucy herself?
All of a sudden a thought struck Lucy with extraordinary vividness. She was so consumed with exciting and trepidation, she almost jumped a foot in the air.
‘So, the Messiah isn’t God, or a god, or anyone or anything like that. And he isn’t even anyone special…
‘But who, then? Who is he, really? Or…
(Lucy’s Catholic conscience smote her breast with an unbearable fury as soon as she uttered the latter two scandalously daring words of that sentence).
Saul sat up, polished his glasses with his ragged sleeve, and looked Lucy straight in the eye. This was almost unheard of; but when Saul fixed his eyes on you, and wouldn’t let go for all the world, you knew he was in deadly earnest.
‘The Messiah, Lucy…’ he hoarsely whispered.
Lucy’s eyes fell in shame, although deep down, she knew she had nothing to be ashamed about.
Saul’s eyes gleamed with a radiance almost devilishly dizzying in its furious intensity: but Saul himself, it seemed, was a devil of light, and nothing other.
‘The Messiah, Lucy…
‘He’s one of us.
‘He’s not any of those guys…
‘Them guys, way up there. Nope.
‘No, Lucy, now listen you here, Lucy!
‘He’s in every one of us.
‘He’s not any one man or woman or person, taken on their own. And more…
‘He is every one of us.
‘Yes, Lucy, the Messiah is one of us. He’s the supreme individual.
‘And he is good to us, and he is generous.
‘He only asks us one thing to us, and he only asks one of us.
‘Lucy, the Messiah…’
Saul’s voice was tightened and shrunk to an almost unbearable gravity of gruffness.
‘The Messiah has only one message for us.
‘What sayest thou, my friend, my enemy, and all my greatly beloved and bewitch-eeeeeed ones…
‘To the individual?’
Lucy turned away from Saul.
She put her hands to her eyes and shivered uncontrollably.
She cried, and cried, and cried. The tears did not stop.
The tears did not stop.
How could they?
How could they?
Not after all this.