Conversation itself is a new thing for P. and me, as our friendship for so long consisted of P.’s monologues on the phone. His outgoing answering machine messages used to be like sermons: "Miracles do happen. The point of power is in the present moment. God is in you, through you, around you." Sometimes they went on for quite a while, and then ended with, "P. and R., in recovery. Leave a message." I taped a message he left on my answering machine in 1999. Here it is:
"Linda, this is P.! You know, that old-fashioned turkey who lives downtown. Linda, I still live downtown with R., and, I don’t know how it is that we’re still together. We’ve been together for ten years, and, and I genuinely love you, too. I’m petrified still, for all my years of recovery, I’m still petrified of intimacy. I have to admit I haven’t worked it all through. But I do know the most powerful way out of anything is to remember your last one—your last romance, your last financial debacle, your last love affair, and that will activate on a cell level a way out of the current dilemma. And I know you’re a very gifted person, but you have some mighty challenges in this current edition called human life.
“Please forgive me for being such a pompous old windbag. I’m halfway to sixty. I’m fifty-five. And I got feet of clay, Linda. But I do show up. I show up and I show up and I still go to those awful meetings, and I just heal and forgive a lot. Because, you know, it’s about really healing my own life. Linda, if I go on at all, I’ll sound like I’m just full of hot air, but I really know the way out of anything you’re going through in this life, whether it’s childhood stuff, current stuff, grant stuff, employment stuff—whatever it is, the point of power is in the present.
“If you would forgive me for saying this, a book that has helped me incredibly much over the years is a man by the name of Emmett Fox. Even though I’m a fruit, most of my favorite writers are women—I am a feminist—Emmett Fox is one of my favorite writers and he’s perhaps even more powerful than Mrs. Eddy in a certain way, I mean in his way to cut through stuff. And his book, Power Through Constructive Thinking, by Emmett Fox, I think he’s one of the greatest metaphysical thinkers that ever lived—it’s just an opinion—and that particular book you might try to get ahold of sometime and I think that, and program stuff, will help you get through any situation that comes up, on the better side of it all.
“Okay, Linda, if you ever want me to shut up and listen, just tell me, ‘P., shut up, I wanna talk.’ And I understand because I’m old enough, I don’t really get offended by that stuff. I’m not that thin-skinned. The only issue that I really have to work is this intimacy stuff. I’m really still working on that, with friendships or my significant friend. Linda, I do love you and the very best to you today and I’m going to say goodbye now. Forgive me for running at the mouth so much."
When we actually talked on the phone, he would give a long speech about Christian Science or Mary Baker Eddy or Nikola Tesla or opera—Maria Callas or a current favorite tenor. In another mood, he might talk about fame, money and people’s looks.
He talked a tremendous amount about spirituality, and he talked about sex and gender a lot, saying, "I know we’ve all been men, women, everything. We’ve all been each other’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers. I may be here in a man’s body this time; maybe you were, last time. Oh, I know men do a lot of terrible things. A lot of men are bastards. All I can say is I am not a rapist. Thoughts are different from actions. I have tried to do my best. I ask people, ‘Do you want a hug?’ I don’t just grab." Then he would say, "Linda, if you want to talk, just tell me to shut up. Say, ‘P., shut up, you old fart. I want to talk.’"