Chapter 2: The Dance
The only sin we never forgive each other is difference of opinion.Ralph Waldo Emerson
“So, how have you been?” Kurt asked. “What’s new? How are the wife and kids?”
“Good. Good. Everything’s good,” Gabriel replied while he prepared his coffee and donuts for his ritual dunking. “Beth is great, the kids are growing like weeds. Y’know. Things are good.”
“Well, that’s good,” Kurt replied in kind. Typical generic answer, he thought to himself. This is what Kurt hated: the protective answers, the dancing around while you’re being evaluated as to how much of a threat you are to them. It’s all so unnecessary and ridiculous. “How’s business?”
“It’s going well, thanks,” Gabe answered with that facial gesture of turning the corners of his mouth down and shaking his head slightly with a positive nod. “I can’t complain, although the economy has me worried. But, y’know, we’ll just keep goin’ and see what the Lord sends us.”
Gabe gave Kurt a smile before he bit into a coffee-soaked donut. Kurt couldn’t figure out if it was Gabe’s attempt at putting his confidence in God, or Gabe was in denial about his financial situation but saying the spiritually correct thing, or it was a test to see how Kurt would react to the mention of “the Lord”—or some combination thereof.
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” Kurt chirped before he sipped his coffee.
“So? What about you? What are you doing here?” Gabriel asked.
“I’ve moved back.”
“Really? To the Community?!” was Gabriel’s immediate, if not shocked, response.
Kurt chuckled. “No, no. Back to Orleans. I live near Crystal Lake.”
Gabriel looked quickly down at his coffee with a sense of disappointment. “Oh, no kidding? Well, that’s great,” he said warmly, albeit stiffly. “What brings you back here?”
“Job opportunity. You remember Mike Thomas from Nauset? He and I are going to start a business.” The two men bantered back-and-forth about the details of the new venture amidst sips of coffee and disappearances of donuts.
“Well, Kurt, that’s great.” Gabe couldn’t help but think of his own issues of being self-employed. “I wish you luck.”
“Thanks, Gabe, I appreciate it.”
There were a few moments of silence as both men cradled what was left of their cup o’ Joe—and wondered what to say next. Such conversations, which are normal and occur between millions of people every day, are not commonplace between Community members and those who have left. The friendship, while genuine, felt strained. While both men tried to come across as relaxed, they were anything but.
Gabriel displayed a wry smile and said, “Y’know, I thought for a second there that you had moved back to the Community, but that somehow I missed seeing you.” He chuckled momentarily. “You know how it is; we’re all so busy. We have a million things going on at once.”
“Yeah, I sure do,” Kurt said with his eyebrows up a bit. Before he realized he was thinking out loud, he added, “And I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
For a millisecond, Kurt froze. Omigawd, I can’t believe I just said that, he thought to himself as he tried to look unflustered and reached for his coffee, and hoped that Gabe didn’t notice.
“No, I guess you don’t,” replied Gabe with an almost indiscernible look of disgust. Well, maybe it was discernible. Gabe immediately felt a sense of disappointment that Kurt would attack him like that, and mildly let his displeasure be known on his face. Kurt just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t know how blessed we are. He’s forgotten how God uses us and that our busyness brings blessings to others. He uses the pressure to mold us. The pressure is God’s way of sanctifying us. A thousand thoughts raced through Gabriel’s mind. He almost didn’t have to think them; they just jumped into his head, as they have a thousand times before. And yet . . . Gabe couldn’t help but think how lucky Kurt was.
Kurt looked at his friend. His heart sank a little. He knew the kind of thoughts that were racing through Gabe’s head, trying to justify the ridiculous schedules and insane pressures of Community life. Kurt felt badly that he had made such a blatant error and caused his old friend some heartache. He knew that his comment would be a stumbling block for any Community member. He remembered how he felt when someone who had left said something like that to him, many years ago. He wanted to make the situation better. He wanted to make things right. He shouldn’t have said that.
Kurt was about to blurt out an apology with that familiar feeling of groveling when, suddenly, he stopped himself. He remembered that he had no reason to apologize. His feeling that he needed to apologize vanished as quickly as the steam from his coffee—not because he felt he was better than his friend, not because he felt entitled, not because he wanted to rub his freedom in his friend’s face—but because he recognized that old feeling of unworthiness. He knew that it wasn’t true and that he didn’t need to feel that way. He no longer lived at the Community, so he was no longer required to live by their rules and had no reason to feel guilty about it.
Gabe’s jealousy was his problem . . . and Kurt empathized. He felt overwhelming compassion for his childhood friend. So, rather than apologize (which he knew he shouldn’t do) or attempt to say something witty (which would end up sounding stupid), Kurt didn’t say anything.
There were a few moments of uneasy silence before Gabriel quickly gathered up his crumby napkin and nearly empty cup. “Well, I really should be on my way.”
“Sorry to see you go,” Kurt replied. He meant what he said.
“Well, y’know, I have some estimates to do before I check on the guys.”
Kurt knew this was a cover. Gabriel was just making an excuse to leave quickly and not deal with the uncomfortable feelings rolling around inside him. Kurt reached out his hand. “It’s good to see you again, Gabe.”
“You, too, Kurt,” Gabe replied with an empty smile, as he shook Kurt’s hand. Just as he turned to leave, Kurt said, “Gabe!” Gabriel turned slightly toward his friend.
“I’ll be here again tomorrow.”
Gabe just nodded with a half-smile and continued out the door. Kurt went back to his paper, but only for a moment. He could care less what was going on in the world. He looked out the window and pondered what had just transpired. Kurt wondered if he’d see his old friend the next day.
— next chapter —