“In Vence,” said Herzog, “my parents left me under a crucifix. And I asked them, my parents, ‘What happened to him?’ I meant the man on the cross, the Christ figure. I was then ten years of age and had no idea what a crucifix was. We lived in Paris. After the liberation I was not yet fourteen. The prefect told me who I was. That I was a Jew. That my parents, my family, had been delivered to the Germans and murdered by them. And I felt—what can I say—a recognition.”
“But you couldn’t leave the Church?”
“Oh,” Herzog said with a little shrug, “I didn’t care much about the Church. The Church was men, people. Some good, some not.” He looked at the floor.
“Because I was waiting,” said Herzog. “Waiting where I had been left. At the foot of the cross. Out of spite or devotion, I don’t know.” He laughed and put a hand on Lucas’s shoulder. “Pascal says we understand nothing until we understand the principle from which it proceeds. Don’t you agree? So I understand very little.”
“We’re supposed to believe that Christ has gone on to reign in glory,” Lucas said.
“No,” said Herzog. “Jesus Christ suffers from now until the end. On the cross. He goes on suffering. Until the death of the last human being.”
“And that,” Lucas said, “brings you here?”
“Yes,” said Herzog. “To attend. To keep on waiting.”
From the steps of the church, the evening smelled of car exhaust and jasmine.
For the first time Herzog smiled.
“Don’t regret it, sir. Perhaps you know Malraux’s Anti-memoires? His priest tells us that people are much more unhappy than one might think.” He offered Lucas his hand. “And that there is no such thing as a grownup.”
—Robert Stone, Damascus Gate