He awoke looking at the upper corner of the room where white walls met the white ceiling. He remembering awakening in another room, looking at the paintings of classical scenes on the cornice along the top of the walls.
“Good morning, Mr. McKenneth. How are you doing?”
“Quite well, thank you. Can I get up to walk a bit this morning?”
“Sure thing. I’ll help you in a jiffy.”
After setting down the tray with a metal pitcher of fresh water, the nurse rounded the bed, pulled the walker to the bedside, lowered the railing and stood ready to help McKenneth stand up.
“You want to start with the bathroom?” she asked as she moved the IV bag from its regular mount to the walker. She steadied him as he stood, then they proceeded to the bathroom. After he finished and she helped him stand back up, they shuffled out the room and down the hallway to a visitors’ waiting area with windows to the day outside. McKenneth stood staring at the leafing trees turning pale green at the end of each twig. The nurse stood quietly at his side.
“The room was a bedroom in an old building, possibly the whole had been the town house of a rich merchant, now divided into numerous apartments. He remembered he hadn’t knowm the stories of the scenes on the cornice. “I’ll ask Giovanni,” he said.
“Probably time for us to move on, no?” the nurse asked.
“I haven’t had much exercise yet. I’d like to try to walk to the far end of the hall.”
“Oh, you can do that, I’m sure. Maybe come all the way back here before going to your room.” She walked with him back down the hall and beyond his room to the far end, then back.
“Come,” Giovanni said after they’d eaten pastries and cheeses. “They’re illustrations of mythology,” he said as they entered the bedroom he’d given David for the time of his stay. “Most of them probably come from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but there’s one from the Bible. That’s Acteon with antlers sprouting from his head, being torn to pieces by his own hounds.”
“But what are... Who’s the man in the bushes?”
“That’s Acteon also, finding Diana and the nymphs bathing. You’re confusing our post-Renaissance perspective with theirs. We often look at perspective as only spatial and expect events to be separated into a sequence. The Renaissance and earlier framework often wished to contain in one view events over time. So Acteon, the hunter turning lecher, appears with Acteon the hunted in the same scene.
“That one illustrates the perspective again. That’s Athene angry with Paris for choosing Aphrodite. Beside Aphrodite is Helen, her gift. But see also in the background the result of his choice, Troy burning and the ship of refugees with Aeneas carrying his father. Causes are also there; see the swan and Leda?”
“Do you know them all?” David asked.
“Yes, all of them.”
“Did you just know them when you moved to the apartment.”
“Oh, no, no. The ones I couldn’t guess, I asked Don Eduardo, the man who lived here when I moved in with him.”
“I wonder how many I can guess. I’ll check with you at breakfast tomorrow.”
“Well, in the meantime, we have a full day, so we need to get moving.”
After breakfast, the nurse gave Mr. McKenneth the remote for the tv and radio, made sure he could reach the magazines he had brought with him three days earlier. He turned on the tv, selected the channel that broadcast classical music, and picked up his latest issue of Dialogue.
He had located Giovanni through the travel office at the railroad station in Amsterdam. “Personal Tour Guide—English, Italian, French. One day, three days, one week. Call Giovanni at...” and then a number. The woman at the tourist office dialed the number, began the conversation, interrupted to ask David a question Giovanni had asked her. Then she handed the telephone to David. “He speaks excellent English. He wants to talk directly with you.”
“I can also arrange for a place for you to stay if you wish,” Giovanni said after a few exchanges in the conversation.
“Oh, that would be great. I want to stay at least three nights, maybe more. Is that okay?’
“I’ll take care of it. Actually, you can stay with me if you like. How are you traveling?”
“I’m going by train from Germany to Zurich, then overnight to Florence. After I leave here, I’m planning to stay in Köln and Frankfurt until three weeks from now.”
“I’ll meet you at the train station on the morning of the twenty-first. I’ll have a small sign, “Giovanni Buonarotti Tours.”
“Hello,” the man in a suit, white shirt and tie standing in the doorway said. “Can you have a visitor? I’m Brother Daly from the High Priests group in Pleasant View Second Ward. The bishop asked the High Priests group leader to have someone see how you are.”
“Come in, come in.”
“Tom Daly. It’s good to meet you,” he said extending his hand. “So how have you been? Have you been here long?”
“No, just a few days. I’m doing fine. I even get to take walks down the hall, though I’m kind of shaky. One of the nurses stays with me as I walk.”
“How long you gonna be here?”
“Three days, maybe I’ll extend to week.”
“We’ll come back to anyplace you wish to explore more,” Giovanni promised. After walking rapidly three hours, they took a break and went back to Giovanni’s for midday meal and a nap. At three, they left Giovanni’s and continued the survey until six. David tried to establish priorities, but he ended up wanting to come back to see everything. That evening after a supper in the pensione restaurant downstairs, Giovanni set out what he estimated would be the best tour for the next day. The Academia and San Marcos would be in the morning and perhaps afternoon as well. They would buy bread and cheeses and some wine or beer for lunch and eat in one of the shady areas in Piazza San Marcos. David retreated to his bedroom exhausted after they made their plans.
With Brother Daly gone, McKenneth picked up the magazine and moved it to the table beside his bed, and leaned back and closed his eyes.
“Brethren, you know from the temple ceremony and from the counsel of the Brethren that it’s not good for man to be alone. I want every member of this High Council to be exemplary. Those of you who are single have six months to get married. I’ll release anyone still unmarried at that time.”
President Johnson chuckled. He’d been president of Sagimore Stake for two months, but he’d already made several important improvements. For one thing, he’d put the two Mountain View State College student wards on strict orders to send all the single, non-students’ memberships back to the wards where they belonged. Now he’d get Brother McKenneth, that renown bachelor on the English faculty, married. He chuckled again at his success, already accomplished in his mind.
In San Marcos they visited the library. The tables all had tall slanted reading stands built into them, so the folio books were fully supported as they lay open but almost upright. Each of the desks had one of the selected rare folio on the reading stand, chained to the desk. Some stood open; others were closed. One of the monks was wandering slowly about the room. Giovanni asked him a question to which the monk responded. Giovanni said they could open closed books or turn the pages carefully if they wore a white cotton glove the monk offered each of them.
White cotton gloves. Library people always handed them to him when he went to research original, hand-written texts in the numerous libraries where David went throughoout his career teaching English literature. In Oxford, he went daily for two months to the Bodleian to read Medieval manuscripts in Latin, English and Anglo Saxon and to take notes on Chaucer, Gower, and manuscripts from the reign of Alfred. “Towery city...cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark-charmèd...” The words from Hopkins’ paeon to Oxford echoed through his mind as he walked the narrow streets.
“David, come look at this.” He moved to the book stand in front of Giovanni. The folio was open to the beginning of a new section with an ornate illumination covering the first third of the page containing not only the first letter but some subsequent letters. Within the large letter were designs and images of various mythological, biblical, and historical personages.
“See these two,” he said. “Their nimbi are not separate but one. They are Saints Serge and Bacchus. They aren’t always painted with one compound nimbus, but there are always some hints that they were sainted together. They were Roman soldiers who were also Christian. When they were commanded by the Roman emperor to worship pagan gods and they refused, they were stripped of their Roman army garb and dressed in women’s clothes and paraded through the streets. Both were tortured, Bacchus dying from the beatings. Serge bemoaned his isolation, fearing that they were forever separated, wondering whether this separation and his suffering were worthwhile. Bacchus came in a vision that night, explaining that his glory and reward for Christian faithfulness would be union with Serge. Restored in faith and hopeful of the promised union, Serge refused to break, bore the tortures and was finally executed three days later. Sometimes they are portrayed with their nimbi separate but touching, sometimes on horses whose noses touch.
“Though they were punished by being dressed in women’s clothes as dictated in some of the later Roman laws banning homosexual relations among soldiers, the crime decreed was failing to worship the Roman gods, was for being Christian.”
“You said at least one of the scenes is from the Bible,” David said the third morning. “I think it is of David and Jonathan.”
“You’re right,” Giovanni smiled.
“Tell me what the one next to it is,” David asked, feeling certain that the subject would be related to David and Jonathan, Serge and Bacchus. In the scene were armies about to face each other in battle. In the tents of one army, the men lay entwined in each other’s arms. In the battle, which David realized now was the next day, the army stood surrounded by enemies, but faced them with determination; none were shown surrendering.
“The scene with the armies fighting?” Giovanni asked. And going on without an answer from David, explained. “That is the Sacred Band of Thebes. Each man in that group was with his lover, his beloved. The theory was that they would be braver if they were fighting side by side with their lovers; they would not want to cause their lovers shame by being less brave than anyone else. The Sacred Band of Thebes fought as a unit for about fifty years, I think, without defeat. Only the Macedonians under Phillip were able to defeat them. Though many others in the Theban army fled for their lives, the Sacred Band died on the battle field together.”
At stake conference for the Sagimore Stake conference on 5 August, President Johnson arose after the invocation and announced that Brother Jepperson, the Stake Clerk, would conduct the sustaining of officers. Brother Jepperson walked to the podium and read the following.
“It is proposed that Brother David McKenneth be released as a member of the Sagimore Stake High Council with a vote of thanks. All in favor please manifest by the raise of the right hand. It is proposed that Brother Jeffery Bullock be sustained as a member of the Sagimore Stake High Council. All in favor please manifest. Thank you.”
Brother McKenneth sat quiet. He hoped no one was looking at him, but he was sure some were. He knew he couldn’t appear casual, non-chalant, so he didn’t look at anyone. He felt constricted around his chest as if he were bound by a leather corset.
“You’re David,” the man said. He was dressed in what was called washed cotton pants and a t-shirt. He had short cut blond hair, smiled pleasantly, and had the look, at least to David, of being the sweetest, most innocent freshman to come to the University.
Within a day, perhaps three days, David knew this man and knew he knew David—more deeply than any other beings. Thomas he was; a freshman, yes, but also a returned missionary from Argentina. They fasted and prayed together, for the things young RMs fast and pray for: guidance in finding the right one. David frequently went with Tom to the drafting room in the architecture school. David read assigned texts in English literature while Thomas drew or built his architecture class models. Wednesdays they went together to the Institute discussions at lunch lead by different community leaders who were members of the Church.
One particular Saturday they double dated, taking a picnic and swimming suits to the lake. Tom took Beverley; David didn’t remember who he asked; it hadn’t made any difference. Sunday, Tom told David that Beverley had said she hoped someday she could become as close to Tom as David was. Just remembering that, McKenneth smiled as he lay in the hospital bed. “She knew,” he said.
“Hey, Didyma, the twins,” Bill Wells, a grad student in the ward, called out as Tom and David walked into the Church foyer before Priesthood meeting one Sunday. “Do your two sleep together?”
“No, David goes to his room to sleep about ten. I stay up til 1:30 some nights at the architecture building,” Tom answered naively. David couldn’t even breathe; Bill blushed at his inauspicious words and stammered something. But “Didyma” stuck.
So began that fulfillment of Psalm 133, chanted over the ages by monks, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” David didn’t know about the chant until years later, he knew the joy then.
Over that academic year, David helped Thomas through a courtship that wasn’t working out and into another that did. Soon they were triplets, not twins. Thomas married Jan that summer, and then they were two and David was one. David moved.
The second night David spent at Giovanni’s home, they went to a pensione nearby for their evening dinner, then walked around the neighborhood enjoying the cooler air. After a short walk, they emerged from a narrow street onto the Piazza della Signoria. The dark buildings against the light from moon and stars created a chiaroscuro view.
“Ah,” David said. “It’s stunning.”
“It is beautiful,” Giovanni agreed. They stood looking at the scene. David glanced at Giovanni who was looking at him. “You’re also beautiful.”
“I... you... I find you very attractive. I’m fascinated by you; I enjoy being with you. But, I .... I can’t.... My Church absolutely forbids me to act on what I feel for you. Please forgive me; it has nothing to do with you. I cannot.”
St. Bernard traveling from a daughter monastery back to Clairvaux made a stop one night at a count’s castle. Welcomed, warmed, and fed by his host, St Bernard was then shown his quarters for the night. The population of the castle retired to sleep. In the darkness of the night, St. Bernhard heard the creak of the hinges on the door into the room where he was to sleep.
“Help! Thief,” he called out loudly. The door opened again and the person slipped back outside. After several minutes of silence, St. Bernhard heard the door open again. “Help! Thief!” he cried out again, and the intruder slipped back outside. Much later, the door again opened and St. Bernhard, still alert, cried out again, “Help Thief!”
The next morning his traveling companion from Clairvaux asked him how he had slept, intimating that he had heard St. Bernhard call out. “The thief was not after worldly gems but Celestial, my son. Moreover, one must not offend or embarrass one’s host.”
The count and several of his retainers ate with St. Bernhard and his companion and then wished them Godspeed on their journey. The countess remained in bed asleep.
A few years after their year together in graduate school, Thomas traveled to Zion to see his grandmother and to spend some reunion times with David, who by this time had a position at Mountain View State College. They walked the campus together enjoying the architectural beauty of both the old and the new buildings, the landscape, the mountains to the east, and the blazing sunset over the distant western mountains.
“Brother, should you never marry, I want you to a ministering angel with me. I want you to have as much joy as I have and as we have right now,” Thomas said in the midst of their other conversations.
'I want us to be sealed together, united for eternity,’ the thought surged through David’s mind. 'My God, could it not be so?’
Years later, as St. Bernhard lay dying, the brothers in the monastery, as always at the time of death, kept vigil beside his bed. Both before and after Extreme Unction, someone remained beside him, lifting him, holding his hand, offering him drink. After he passed, the brothers bathed him, prepared the body for burial, and commenced the prayers for his soul.
One morning, McKenneth did not wish to walk, but stayed in bed. The nurse tried to encourage him to walk. Again the second day, she encouraged him to walk, at least a little. Suddenly seemingly out of nowhere, he said, “Where there is no temptation, there is no virtue in refusal.” After she left her shift, only the nurse bringing in his evening meal came to his room. McKenneth didn’t bother calling the nurse at all, since by now the staff had inserted a catheter to drain his bladder and he didn’t feel any need for a bowel movement. The morning of the third day, he greeted the nurse with a smile, but he still didn’t wish to walk When she left his room after picking up his lunch tray, untouched, she knew he was leaving. When she returned the next morning, the staff were changing the bed linen and cleaning up the room for the next patient.