On Thursdays, Jacob and Mark met for lunch at about 11:30, before the hordes came in from all the local office buildings. Jacob had to tell Mark about his dream, he knew that. It was a weird thing for Jacob, being afraid to tell Mark about something like a dream, because Mark and Jacob knew each other’s most devastating secrets, held in trust between the two of them. Jacob and Mark had grown into being close friends, like brothers in battle. Anxiety lingered over Jacob when he went to meet Mark for lunch, feeling nervous like he had something to be afraid of.
They met at a busy sandwich shop, because it was noisy and that meant they could speak privately and openly. Jacob got there early, almost always earlier than Mark. This day, he waited even longer than usual.
Mark (at about 11:45) finally got there, finding Jacob’s table in a corner, where he dropped off his briefcase before they snaked their way through the maze of tables, finding their way to the counter to order.
“Hey man,” Mark said, looking distracted. “Sorry I’m late.”
Mark didn’t look much like a pastor (whatever that means), but, then again, he never did, and he didn’t want to. Blue jeans, t-shirts, running shoes and one-size-fits-all caps composed his wardrobe. His short, brown hair snuck out in tufts from the bottom of his hat. A normal-looking normal-joe, and that’s how he liked it. And that, partly, had inclined Jacob toward Mark (and Baseli) at the beginning.
But anyone who had listened to Mark preach, or had spoken with him beyond the small-talk-niceties that make up most of our conversations knew better.
In some ways, Jacob was awed by Mark – by his intelligence and his eloquence. He sometimes consoled himself with Mark’s flaws, which he knew intimately. Overall, though, Jacob loved and appreciated Mark, both “professionally” and personally. Jacob knew Mark’s burdens as a pastor and as a human, and he tried to help Mark bear up under them.
That’s why they met for their Thursday-lunch.
They ordered, and small-talked until their food was ready, returning, then, to their table in a corner.
Jacob loved Thursday lunch with Mark, but he felt nervous today, in a silly way, a way that reminded him of the first time he had asked Anna to go out with him. A stupid dream, he was thinking, like some battle-shocked hippie veteran, and I can’t just get over it. Anna would ask him, he knew she would; she would ask if he had told Mark. The conversation, every tiny second of it, moved invariably toward the fact that he had to tell Mark about his dream. Still, Jacob kept postponing it.
Their conversations centered on similar subjects every week: how has your personal time with Jesus been? Have you looked at porn? Have you looked at women besides your wife? Have you treated your wife righteously this week? For love to be worth anything, it has to jack you up sometimes, so they balanced, or tried to, sternness and compassion with each other.
Jacob found Mark to be distant, giving the usual and easy answers.
“A couple times.”
Mark usually opened himself without much provocation. Today, though, he was closed tight. Jacob didn’t take much notice, because he was focused more on his own confession. He built himself up toward that moment, but he couldn’t believe how ridiculously he drew it up in his mind. Worry mounts upon itself in a self-feeding frenzy, Jacob knew that. He had to tell Mark, and just freaking get it over with.
Mark, however, started talking first.
“Jacob,” he looked down, unusual for him, “I need to tell you something.”
“Sure man. I’ve felt like you were holding something out.”
“I,” Mark stammered, “um, I’ve been lying to you about something.”