We first met in a diner. I was using a set of Chinese medicine balls as stage-prop in what could be considered a lewd joke. You came back with one better. We spent the first half of the evening trading dirty jokes. I might have blushed once or twice whilst giggling guiltily, had all the capillaries in my face not been damaged by the ugly incident in Calcutta when I went toe-to-toe with that militant faction of Up with People, but that's another story.
I was twenty-one. A young, impressionable, philosophy and theology student who was probably far too impressed with my own intelligence. I kept talking about writing a book. Being published someday was my rockstar fantasy back then.
You were eleven years my senior. Already, you had worked a molybdenum mine outside of Leadville and been involved in the constabulary. You had a vocabulary that made my other philosopher friend seem like a monosyllabic hick. When I told you I was starting to dig on far eastern philosophy, you implored me to check out Sun Tzu.
Some of the others may not have liked you as much as I did. Thinking back, you might be right about that. No subject was taboo to you. At all. You stood your ground in a dialogue and refused to mollycoddle. It could be that made some others, weaker in their constitutions and convictions, uncomfortable. Perhaps it was that shocking, violent honesty that fascinated me. Maybe it was because you were willing to hang out with me until night became another day whilst we drank coffee and discussed the whichnesses and wherefores.
You taught me the concept of the alligator mouth and the hummingbird ass. Something both of us still have a problem with-although, I like to say I have come to a place of acceptance and the rest of the world needs to catch up. During those dark days of my divorce, you offered unflinching advice, much like you did the time I quired you about a restraining order against an x-girlfriend. Some of what you said hurt my feelings, but I desperately needed to hear it anyway. I was perhaps the second person in the whole of creation you told you were going to marry your second x-wife the night you met her.
Over the years and lifetimes we've known each other, I've called you one of my gurus. A guru, after all, aids one in finding enlightenment. Whilst I'll not be pretentious and say enlightenment is something I'm even close to achieving, you have helped me pull away some of the cobwebs of ignorance.
When you told me you were born again, I flippantly wanted to ask what was wrong with the first time. You may have laughed. You might have entreated me to go fuck myself. Either response would've been appropriate. I did tell you I am pretty happy with my beliefs and we'd just have to agree to disagree.
"Robbie Grey, I didn't call you to convert you," you said. "I called because you're my friend and I wanted to talk to you."
Just like that, everything was zen...
And the shit you've been through in the last few years; divorce, bad health, loss of home, hearth, and income, you describe as your living perdition. Meanwhile, I am so very happy in my existence here in paradise. The dichotomy is enough to get me to believe that blasphemous rumor that god has a sick sense of humor. That, the Problem of Evil, is why I cannot even pretend to believe in an anthropomorphic deity that even remotely cares. Yet, to your credit, you've kept your faith.
And I name thee Job...
So, naturally, when you phone me up sounding all but broken beneath the blade, I catch myself worrying. Not that you'll go and do something utterly stupid and rash; I do believe you that you'll not go quietly. I worry that the man I've spent the last nearly twenty years admiring for calling it as it's seen and going where the angels fear tread for a laugh and intellectual curiosity, is considering bearing his jugular.
I understand; it's been a long time in this downward spiral. Kafka, Milton, and Dante would cross their legs and blush. But I've heard your stories, Sir. Those ones from further back. Back from before that night in a diner with a set of Chinese medicine balls and a volley of crass humor. You've gone toe-to-toe with worse infernals than this and they were the ones who limped away with scars.
There was that night during the bardo after my x-wife left and when my divorce became official. I was scribbling manic poetry to a soundtrack of Nine Inch Nails. Words fail in describing the psychic devastation and Shakespearian betrayal of it all. It, to this day, was one time in my life that I was closest to being heartbroken, which is queer, given my heart has no bones. You sat down with me and told me how sick to death you were with my wallowing.
"The fact you have fallen is interesting," you said in a steady, yet harsh voice. "The time you remain down is important."
Job, my guru...mon ami, you have fallen, and ain't that about interesting?
How long will you remain down?