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At first, Robert and the narrator don't talk. The TV is still on, and the narrator is made uneasy by the way Robert trains his ear toward the set.
Then Robert seems on the verge of falling asleep and the narrator is made uneasy by the way his eyes open and close.
The documentary continues. Now it's focusing on an annual pageant in Spain. Part of the pageant is a procession with "men wearing cowls" (cowls are hoods), being tortured by "men dressed in skeleton costumes and men dressed as devils" (3.2).
(The narrator is describing Semana Santa or Holy Week, in Spain (though Semana Santa isn't only celebrated in Spain).
The narrator tries to describe the scenes for Robert.
Now the documentary moves to cathedrals, and specifically to a Paris cathedral, an Italian cathedral, and a cathedral in Lisbon, Portugal.
The narrator has a sudden thought. He wonders if Robert can understand what a cathedral is, if he can visualize one.
He asks Robert, and Robert tells the narrator what he's heard about the cathedrals from the documentary they've be hearing/watching:
It took hundreds of laborers over a century to build a cathedral. "Generations of the same families worked on a cathedral" (3.9).
Robert is smoking a cigarette and might be falling asleep.
Now he sits up and admits that he can't see a cathedral in his head and he asks the narrator to try to clue him in.
The cathedral documentary finishes and the narrator finds himself at a loss to describe the cathedral.
He tries imagining that his "life depended on it" (3.10) but it doesn't work. He can't get past "big" and "tall" (3.11).
Robert appears to be interested, so the narrator keeps trying, explaining that cathedrals are made of stone and marble.
He tells Robert that cathedrals are so tall because "In the olden days, when they built cathedrals, men wanted to be closer to God" (3.14).
Then he gives up trying to describe a cathedral.
Robert asks him if he believes in God.
The narrator says he doesn't believe in anything.
Robert says he understands.
The woman is asleep on the couch.
After the narrator repeats that he's given up trying to describe a cathedral, Robert gets a bright idea. He tells the narrator to go get "a pen and some heavy paper" (3.24).
Racing, the narrator finds pens and a paper grocery bag and brings them back to Robert.
Robert and the narrator sit on the carpet together with the paper in front of them.
The pen is already in the narrator's hand, and Robert puts his hand over the narrator's and tells him to start drawing a cathedral.
So he does.
He starts with a simple square then he starts adding the details that cathedrals have, like "arched windows" and "flying buttresses" (supports).
The narrator goes for a long time and then finally stops.
Robert feels the drawing and he says, "Doing fine."
They start again.
The woman wakes up, confused, and wants to know what they're doing.
Her husband keeps drawing, and Robert tells her they're drawing a cathedral together.
Robert tells the narrator to close his eyes. He does it, and keeps drawing.
The experience is extraordinary.
When they finish, Robert tells him to open his eyes and look, but he doesn't.
He knows he's at home, but doesn't feel like he's "inside anything" (3.49).
"It's really something" (3.50) is the final line of the story.
Head on over to "What's Up With the Ending?" if you want to read more about the ending of the story.