He closed his eyes. He was so tired. Every day was a struggle. He opened them again. It certainly wouldn't do to fall asleep five minutes after boarding the train. Even now, when nothing mattered anymore, he felt the sense of decorum as a palpable presence. In the war, different rules applied, and decorum was doing whatever it took to stay alive. Lord, when he thought of the things he'd done, of the things he'd eaten! And yet, here in England, there was such a firm effort to make everything normal, to keep the stiff upper lip, to be British above all else.
It was all so confusing. For the first time in his life, he wondered if he and all of the other Britons had it wrong. Not just about the war or tactics. Not just about their choice of allies or governments, or who was in Parliament or out.
He wondered if the whole of society was just based on some bad assumptions. It was clearly a false way of life, humming along saying that everything was fine when it wasn't. British society was threaded through with lies, founded on them, in fact. Little ones between people everyday, big ones once a week and monstrous ones right at the core of it all. Everything in the entire world was a lie, nothing was true. He didn't need to have halls of gold or silver - such elevated metals were too fine to expect. He'd settle for iron or brass. But the whole of society was bubbly, crumbling slag metal. All of it was dross and tinker's tin, not a bit of pure metal anywhere in it.
He had always thought of England as a fine old ship on the rough seas of the world. Copper-bottomed and masted with heart of oak, with lines of Jamaican hemp and sails of Welsh linen, it was the finest ship in the world, better than and besting all others.
Now, sitting with his newspaper unregarded in front of him, he saw that it wasn't just him. It wasn't just Crispin or the war. It was the entirety of British society that was a lie.
How are you? I'm doing well. How is your new job? It's fine, thanks. Do you have enough money? Yes, quite comfortable, thanks. Isn't she pretty? Yes, she's a beautiful child. Are you happy? Yes, quite happy, thank you. Is he a good man? Yes, he comes from a good family. Do you believe in God? I believe in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who forgives our sins and gave us life everlasting.
MacDonald paused in his litany of lies. He asked himself that last one again.
Do you believe in God?
Every day, he spouted lies. With a small shock, he realized that he expected others to lie to him, counted on it, in fact. It was lies and deception that moved and fostered society, what he thought of as society. From the little ones to the big ones, the world and all in it were steeped in lies.
But do you believe in God?
He waited for his own answer. His hands trembled slightly as they held the paper, and he was afraid of what the answer was, what the true answer was. He pushed aside the lies and falsehoods of the world, he listened to nothing and no one, he cared for the feelings and well-being of no one else. All matters of society and decorum were gone from his mind and he felt himself a naked, cold savage on a barren plain, his fingers clawing in the dirt. He was at the bottom of his soul, and it was an ugly place indeed, for there was nothing but truth from horizon to horizon.
Do you believe in God?
And the naked savage, in his terrible, grunting howl of purest truth said, "Yes, I believe in God, who made the world and who lives in all things."
Do you believe in Jesus?
The savage didn't hesitate. "I believe in Jesus, who was my friend, though I never met him."
Do you believe in the Holy Ghost?
"I believe in the Holy Ghost, who is a lazy piece of shit who doesn't do his job of intercession worth a good goddamn."
The last answer surprised and pleased MacDonald. He'd always had his doubts about what the Holy Ghost did; now he knew exactly why he didn't like the guy.