Love and Death In Charlottesville

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Photographs of Old Cville by Paul Whitehead

True Stories by Jamie Dyer

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A Pilgrim Meets Bob

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To many of us, the mere existence of the seen, tangible world implies the existence of an unseen, intangible one. Five of our senses are of no use in the latter world and are made only for the seen, material realm. Our sixth sense of heart/mind is a native of the unseen world and is most likely our original sense.

Those with a prejudice that prevents considering the seen and unseen as two halves of a larger whole might disagree but this story isn't for them, though I hope they get something from it too.

We share the seen and unseen realms with entities who are also seen and unseen. Some of these beings are longer lived than we are and we've been encountering them through the ages. They're given different names in different places and eras but they all generally possess the same qualities. Their days are one of our lives, their lifetimes are one of our eons but they're still subject to the laws of birth and death. Some days are better than others, no matter who the being or how the long their day is.

There's one being in particular that frequently registers on the human radar. I'll call him Bob (most definitely a him) though he carries many names. We meet Bob every day whether we know it or not. Milton, Dante, the Gospels, the Torah, the Quran, the Sutras, yours truly and countless stories and scriptures have chronicled our interactions with him. He's a seducer, destroyer and judge according to some traditions. He's the Lord of Death and impermanence. He's the Demiurge, the Big Cheese Tempter, you get the idea. He only works through us by our consent and can't lead us to do anything not already in our hearts but he always gets blamed anyway. We're actually the problem.

I met Bob in Downtown Charlottesville at a bar called the Atomic Burrito. I was there to hear a friend's band. I didn't know he was Bob at first, if you get my drift. We never know it's Bob. He was just a drunk, crazy dude I didn't know who was about to get his ass kicked by the whole bar for being drunk and crazy and I suggested he leave with me instead of getting a beatdown. It was also a friend's bar and I didn't want to see it get wrecked or have the cops show up. Bob looked at me crazy drunkenly, agreed to leave with me and we walked out the front door and took a left. It was about 12:30 in the morning.

We walked the side street toward the Mall and Bob was babbling incoherently. I couldn't tell if he was more wasted or more crazy. He was very unhappy about something or other and everything else. By now, we were at the abandoned bank near the central fountain. I stopped and Bob stopped with me. I asked him, "What do you need?"

He ceased babbling and looked puzzled for a second. He swayed a bit, looked defeated and answered, "I need a friend."

Being me, I threw my arms around him, hugged him and said, "That's easy. I'll be your friend."

While embracing my new drunk crazy friend, Bob grabbed the back of my head, pulled my ear close to his mouth and very coherently loud-whispered in a subtle hiss:

"My name is ______. If you ever say my name, I'll kill you. Promise me you won't say my name."

I pulled back, looked at him and replied, "I don't care what your name is. I'll be your friend."

I promised him nothing save for friendship but I won't tell you the name he told me. His threats are empty as he can't kill me and we all die anyway. I won't reveal the name as it invokes him and he hates being invoked. I'm just trying to help a friend out. The name he told me is an ancient one known to casual scholars and metalheads.

In the middle of the night on the Downtown Mall I find myself talking to someone that claims to be The Advesary of Yore. I did note that he was no longer drunk, he wasn't swaying and his eyes were focused. He was also coherent and articulate. As an aside, I was neither drinking nor using any kind of alterants. My memory is crystal clear through the decade that's passed before writing this story down.

Bob told me his sad tale. He'd landed in Charlottesville because he couldn't cut it in the bigger cities anymore. People had so perfected evil that he was useless in the world's larger urban centers. London, New York, Beijing, Moscow, LA, DC, Tokyo, in none of them could my new friend find a way to ply his trade. People had their own thing going and no one ever wanted to talk to him much less make a deal. He ended up being one of the countless homeless on the streets, holding signs and begging for food, money, love, anything. So Satan took to roaming the countryside, drinking, raising hell, getting into random bar fights and trying his luck with suckers like me in smaller cities and towns. He knew he couldn't do much with me because I was too dumb to want anything he might offer but he was lonely and wanted a conversation.

"I'm sick of this shit. Gimme a cigarette."

I gave him a smoke. He lit it and we walked towards the east end of the Mall.

"I've been on this job for too long. I need a break. Do you know what I do all day? I have to witness every lowdown human act and keep track of every injustice and unkindness you bastards are known for. I keep track of it all and then when you die, you come back in the form of whatever it is you spent the last existence making. And it goes on forever or until you figure out how to get it right. It's an automated process but I still have to see it all. I'm just made that way. Buy me a beer?"

I told my new friend that I didn't drink and he respected it. He asked for another smoke.

"I miss the days when I could tempt kings and princes. Now I'm stuck talking to paupers like you. You don't look bright enough to open a door much less want what I could offer so I won't bother. I really need a vacation from this place but where the hell am I gonna go?"

"Maybe the island of Patmos?", I suggested. Bob laughed. "Been there", he said. "What I really want is to get right with God. I need to stop all of this nonsense and change my ways. Can you help me out? Maybe you can, y'know, pray for me?", he asked.

"I think you're lying", I replied.

"You're right. I am. See? I can't do squat here these days because of idiots like you."

Now I noticed that my new friend was starting to stagger again. His words were slurring and his eyes were becoming unfocused. The Lord of Hell had apparently become bored with me and split. Wasted Crazy Dude was back. He was pretty hammered but I could glean that he wanted to go home and told me his address. I got him a cab and made sure he had the fare.

When you befriend Satan, you need to befriend his mule too. It's only right.

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