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Rated: 18+ · Other · Philosophy · #1515490
When your real life is about to begin... Part 3 of the Drinks with Divinity Trilogy.
My twenty-first birthday, smack dab in the middle of my senior year of college, was anything but what I had expected. I'd wanted some sort of Romanesque Bacchanal, full of debauchery, drunkenness, and frenzied partying. Instead, I got karaoke. Not that there's anything wrong with a little bit of off-tune, drunken (I did at least get my drink on) sing-a-long fun, but it certainly hadn't been what I'd expected my twenty-first to be. For one, it was decidedly...uncool. Well, no, that's not right. It was awesome. I didn't pay for a single drink all night (except for my first, which I'd gotten at P.F. Chang's earlier that night and had basically been a gumball-flavored martini-looking thing) and got a standing ovation for my rendition of Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde by Travis Tritt. I felt a little bit like Mary Catherine Gallagher at the end of Superstar when everyone finally realized that she wasn't a complete spaz...well, at least accepted that, despite her spazitute, she had a definite sense of the awesome. She, of course, rode off with the boy...and ended up making out with a tree, again, but the analogy wasn't intended to be a complete one. I also never went to Catholic school and, perhaps more importantly, was not even Christian.

Six years earlier, I'd managed to get invited to a tea party. Now, that might not seem like a special event to anyone- girls have tea parties all the time, particularly involving stuffed animals and disgruntled little brothers- except that, unlike many tea parties, this one had a very select invitee list. Namely, me. And the host of this distinguished event? God. Adonai, Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, *insert real name here*. Whatever you wanted to call him, this was the guy. And he was particularly fond of a strong Earl Gray, sweet and cooled just slightly with a shot of cool milk. Seems weird, doesn't it? That God would be so fond of the world He created, instead of doing that whole, aloof, "here, talk to my son" stuff that Christians have a habit of applying to Him. I mean, sure, I had a talk with Jesus a couple of years later (this time over coffee) because the Father was busy (who knew sibling rivalry would turn the world into a Jew v. Muslim rumble, minus the pirouettes, knife dancing, and singing about America), but I'm getting ahead of myself. I, a fifteen-year-old sophomore in High school, garnered an invitation to the best club in town: Heaven. And I didn't even have to die to do it.

For those of you still lost, I did ask God if there would ever be a time that He could guide me. I really needed it then, because I was completely lost. Christianity, the religion I'd been raised in, seemed like an incomplete story to me. It wasn't wrong, per se, but it just didn't feel like it gave the complete story. I wanted to believe in God- I did believe in Him- but I'd been led to believe that the only way to God was the narrow path of crackers and wine (er...body and blood), Church on Sundays, and the extraordinarily bigoted notion (in my opinion) that the other people in the world who didn't believe the same way somehow needed to be Saved from themselves and their beliefs. Somehow, the faiths of Buddhism, Islam, the neo-Pagan paths, and even Judaism (the religion, mind you, of Christ) were wrong, when most of them espoused the same virtues in different words. Surely, I thought, and still think to this day, surely these, too, must be paths to God. For, surely (I was into the word surely then), as God is infinite, there is nothing that is outside His scope. Even religion. The idea of a finite path to the infinite seemed to me a narrow, concrete view of God, an imposition of the limitations of humanity. There couldn't be a certain way to love God, could there? As we were all different, couldn't we understand God differently and reach Him in a manner more befitting our individuality?

Through me, Jesus said. But did Jesus mean through Jesus or through the God within Jesus, the God within us all? The Holy Ghost, that bit of the eternal within all of our souls. And so I, at fifteen, laid these questions at the feet (well, at the table- God has a beautiful tea table) of the Father, who introduced me to a lady named Athena. God told me that the Word is as infinite as He, as Words can never, truly have a singular meaning. There are implications, but there are so many interpretations of a single Word that every person could infer something different and still be correct. All Words were the Word of God, He told me. It was only humanity that insisted on a single interpretation to soothe the fear in their souls. And so I learned to be a Pagan from the Goddess of Wisdom, under the watchful eye of the Father. At first, I took a literal path, as close to what one would call Wicca as I could possibly get without being initiated, which I never undertook to do because it would limit my soul to a single religion. Something I had sworn to myself never to do again. But then, over the years, I realized that, to limit myself to a strict interpretation of faith, I was limiting my faith completely, undermining the very promise I had made to myself.

I can't say that I didn't get scared, or feel doubt. To never feel doubt with regard to faith is a frightening thing, because then you never question, never exercise the Free Will God gave to us all, to shun His gifts to humanity. Need I remind you that Satan (I did have to throw the name into this piece somewhere, though I will get to my conversation with the Tempter later) sent Heaven spiraling into chaos for that very gift of Free Will that God gave to us, well, freely? And, just when my doubts grew to a fevered pitch, I called out to the Father again, "God, please, your student needs you! I am afraid that I am not on the right path." I told God, asking for His guidance, that I was being tormented by people who didn't understand my faith, called Devil Worshiper, shunned by the bigoted. Finally, I told him, I think I should go back to Christianity. Better a half-truth that people accept than a whole truth that they fear.

I woke up the next morning to find Jesus sitting in my room, toasting bagels, drinking coffee, and reading the sports section of the local newspaper. And, that morning, between his appearances on potato chips and my eight-hour shift at Starbucks, Jesus reminded me of just why I believed what I did. "You see, beautiful," he said, leaning on the table in what was easily the most nonchalant manner I had ever seen, "God himself, remember this, God Himself, has told you to your face that Christianity is not your path. I'm Jesus Christ, the personage himself. The man behind the faith, the person for whom wars were fought. But that doesn't necessarily mean that Christianity would be my first choice for top religion in the world. The people it appealed to...they were the downtrodden. So many of them couldn't even accept that I hadn't come to save them from the Romans. It must have, in some way, provided them with a raison d'etre, a means by which they could gain the power they'd never had. Instead of remaining the humble, the meek, the downtrodden- the people who inherit a spot in the Kingdom of Heaven- they have become the defining power, the Roman Empire of these times. The very people I had hoped they wouldn't become.

"And that is the human condition. The very reason God sent me in the first place. People need tangible proof...no, not proof, they need a tangible message. Something that makes sense to them, that they can hold on to. A path, a righteous path, the only path. The problem is is that, while I did say you must go through my Father to get to Heaven and through me to my Father, I had never meant it as a finite thing. One path to the infinite, to the Divine, must be infinite itself. Because, no matter where you wind up, you end up at the infinite entity that is my Father. And to go through me, you must also go through the Divine. Why on earth would you go through the human part of me to get to my Father, the part of me that is Divine? No. The humanity, the part of me that I share with you- and I mean me, not God or the Holy Spirit- was the very reason I was sent to you, because it was something that you could grasp and could understand. If not for my humanity, I would basically have been my Father coming down to you instead of my own entity. But it was the Divinity in me that I meant for man to climb through, to reach the Divine my Father. Make sense?"

"No," I'd said. "Not really." Christ had then told me basically what I've already said- my path was not like the paths of Christians. That God gave us Free Will and it was up to us to interpret the Word. And, depending on one's interpretation of the Word, one's faith could be any number of different things. All true, all part of God. My interpretation was just different and unique. It celebrated the part of me that was Divine- the part of every man that is Divine- but also cast off the shackles of a rigid interpretation of faith, focusing on my soul and what my soul felt was right. Because my soul was a part of God, my faith was also a part of God. All the naysayers, the insulters, the closed-minded...their faith was also a part of the Word, albeit a very narrow interpretation. And whether by hatred, fear, or even love and concern, their rigid interpretation limited their view and acceptance of the Divine. I shouldn't limit myself to their thoughts, to their beliefs, but follow my soul, the part of me that was Divine, and listen to what God had told me. And God and my soul had told me that my faith was right.

Christ disappeared then, leaving me with only his laughter, a Coke in one hand, and a notion that both the Yankees and the Steelers were Satan's teams (and Satan was always a winner in this world, where God left us up to our own devices). And, until the year I turned twenty-one, after my drink-induced karaoke fling and almost four years of college, I never had a run-in with the Divine again. Until, one night at a pub I particularly favored, I ran into Satan.

Waxy O'Connor pub, called Waxy's by anyone familiar enough to nickname a restaurant, was full to the brim, but that wasn't really surprising; there was a big football match on the giant plasma television in the corner (Manchester United and Arsenal), and it was a weekend, the time when everyone would shed their exhaustion and pent up frustrations over a pint with friends. A group of Arsenal fans, dedicated and unwavering in their support, sat closest to the screen, screaming and raving, their voices rising as if some invisible hand turned a volume dial above their heads. Each of the waitresses, all of them Irish for authenticity's sake, rushed around the small building, the heads of the tallest narrowly missing the low beams as they supplied glass after glass of ambrosia to the patrons. For some, the ale washed away their petty grievances, tears diluted others, and the anger particular to disgruntled sports fans sharpened the taste for the remaining men and women.

I loved Waxy's when it was like this. It was loud and crowded and you likely had to drink standing up, using the table of complete strangers as a giant coaster. The pub was a full restaurant, but few people were eating this evening, mingling as they were with boyfriends, girlfriends, ex friends, lovers, even a few coworkers and, occasionally, meeting someone completely new. Surprisingly enough, if you got a table in the corner, it was extraordinarily private. No one could hear what you were saying over the din of everyone's conversations, contributing as it was to the overall mass of noise hanging on your peripheral hearing. It was a bubble of white noise, a cocoon to hide within; the best place to have the most important conversations.

One particular table, hidden behind a half wall that protected it from the main room, was usually open. There was no view of the screen and you couldn't just wave your hands and have a new Guinness magically placed in front of you, as if by the magic of the Beer Fairy. I was never a heavy drinker, even when I was underage and the allure of drinking illegally gave alcohol divine-like qualities, and I wasn't a particular fan of either team on the screen that night, so I really had no problems hiding in that corner. I was waiting on a friend that night and, as usual, I had gotten there on time and she would, no doubt, be late, so I ordered a Boddington's and sat back, slowly sipping the ice cold ale.

I should have known something would happen that night. Normally, someone asked to join me almost immediately, or to at least use my table as a storage place for bags and drinks (pubs, I think, would do Marx proud). That night, nothing. I'd even had to walk to the bar to get my drink, something that never happened, especially when Alec, the cute waiter from Galway, was working. Everyone's gaze slithered away from my table, from my person and, after almost an hour, my friend still hadn't arrived, or even called. I was frustrated, understandably, and I sat fuming in the corner, twisting and twirling the frosted glass with my fingers. I'd already downed one pint, anger and boredom mingling dangerously at the surface of my mind, and the second one was half empty. If my friend didn't arrive soon, I'd have to call a taxi to go home.

"Mind if I join you?" The voice was silk, the tonality a few notes played with extraordinary skill. I shrugged, then remembered my manners and looked up at the man standing next to my table. Never in my life had I been able to use the word poetical to describe a man, but he was beauty personified. Dressed head-to-toe in black, I wondered if he were some sort of Johnny Cash wannabe, and he even looked like the singer, all darkness and brooding, poetic intensity. Inwardly, I laughed. He was everything my best friend looked for in a man, who, though Colombian, idealized Eastern European beauty in potential mates. I would let him join me, but if he was looking to get anything but conversation, he'd have to wait for her to arrive.

"Go right ahead." I moved my purse off the table and pulled my glass closer to my side- the table was small, for only two people- smiling at the man as he sat down. "You waiting for someone, too?"

He smiled back, a slow serpentine smile that revealed perfectly square, white teeth. A sense of alarm went through me, and I was instantly reminded of Jesus' last words to me. Watch out for Satan. I could practically feel my pupils dilating in fear as the icy wave of adrenaline coursed through my body. "No, gorgeous. I came to see you. Would you like a drink?"

I picked up the Boddington's, still cold, silently thanking whomever had kept me from downing this one, too. "I'm good, thanks. So, what should I call you? Satan? Lucifer? Morning Star?" I remembered how I had felt when I met God and Jesus. I'd been nervous, awed, and incredibly grateful. Today, I was mostly just annoyed. And prepared to defend myself to the ends of the earth against the 'tempter'. If he'd planned on getting my tongue wagging and spit glands working overdrive with the Pride of Norway look, it wasn't going to work. I looked at him, brown eyes even and sober.

"Lucifer is fine." Like God and Jesus, Lucifer was more than capable of acquiring a drink without the aid of waiters and waitresses. I'm not sure what he was drinking, but it was a bright red, garnished with cherries, and decidedly sumptuous. In response, I took a big gulp of my ale, enjoying the bite and the cool tingle it brought to my tongue. If Lucifer thought he could bring me back to Christianity, extend his influence over my life as the tempter, he was wrong. I was beyond him and beyond what he could do.

"You may call me ma'am. Anything else and I will get up and leave." I finished off the ale and watched the glass fill itself again, unsurprised that it was completely full by the time I had placed it back onto the table. It was uncomfortable, sitting at a table in a crowded pub with Satan as people around us cheered and groaned, chatted and laughed and cried. It was no surprise that Lucifer liked to be here; it was humanity, unadulterated and undiluted, a veritable Energizer bunny of power waiting for him to collect and use. Watching the people, I built my personal defenses one brick at a time, a wall of self-assurance and mortar of faith. I was ready to face him. I hoped.

"I wouldn't dream of calling you anything else," Lucifer finally said, brushing aside a lock of his dark hair with such careless ease that I almost envied it. "I'm not here to make you unhappy."

"Au contraire, mon amie, you are very much here to make me unhappy. You want to lead me away from everything I've learned, but you want me to choose to do it, to doom myself. Your only power, Satan, is to convince us to do the wrong thing, to take advantage of and manipulate the Free Will you were never given." I took a sip of the ale and smiled. He'd changed it to Cherry Wheat, my favorite beer and something that Waxy's didn't serve at all. "My favorite beer. You knew, huh?"

Lucifer's eyebrows flicked, his blue eyes flashing with amusement. "Of course I knew. You are human. I know you as I know your brethren, as I knew your ancestors, as I will know your children. Everything you do, I see."

"Do you check your list twice, Santa?" I asked, cutting him off before he continued on too long. I knew from reading and learning that Lucifer was a consummate speaker, a twister of verbs, a Sorcerer of the spoken word. I needed to be on the defensive with him, to defend myself and defend my soul.

"Very funny. One who didn't know better would think you're just chock full of confidence and brimming with self-love." Lucifer smiled again, that snakelike smile that spread slowly across his beautiful face. I realized, then, that my best friend wasn't coming. She must've gotten a call from me saying that we had to cancel. Satan could be anything and anyone, after all. "It's a good little corner over here. Very secluded, for those of us who want to be alone. Who want to be separate from the rest. You're such a frightened little girl."

I tried to shrug it off, but I realized that he was right. I was separate, I was alone. My own best friend seemed to have abandoned me. Suddenly, I felt a sharp separation from the world around me, as if an icy curtain had drawn itself over my body. I looked around and saw a woman glance at me, then laugh. Was she laughing at me? I had worked for years to overcome my social paranoia, my fear that no one liked me, that no one could like me. That I was completely unlovable. Taking a deep breath, I marshaled every feeling of self-acceptance that I had, little tidbits gathered together into a formidable defense. "Of course I'm frightened. I'm a senior in college. If there was ever anything that screamed adulthood, it's graduating college. And now I'm going to move far away from home. Of course I'm scared. Who wouldn't be?"

"You're thinking about moving to Virginia, right?" Lucifer took a sip of his drink and I followed suit, taking the time to gather my thoughts. I knew where he would be going with this. Jesus had warned me, God had warned me, everyone from Athena to my angelic patron Michael, whose sigil adorned my ankle, had warned me that Satan would try to extend his influence over me. Eventually, I nodded to answer the question. "I'm sure it'll be much better than Florida for a girl like you. You know, I always pictured you as a Washington DC girl, surrounded by the people who wield true power. You could make big changes for the world, do wonderful things."

I smiled. "I'd like to think that I could make changes, too. And I plan on doing it."

Lucifer laughed. The first time he had done so in my presence. It was a full-bodied laugh, building in his chest and shaking his shoulders. I almost felt insulted that he was so disdainful of my feelings. Then again, he could see to the very core of my being. He must have seen how frightened I was that I might lose out because I was so different. My acceptance of my faith, something so different would, coincidentally enough, probably threaten people. If only they knew I clung to my faith because I was so unsure of everything else. "Yes, I'm sure you do. What about jobs, though?"

"I have a feeling you're talking about being Pagan. I have faith that my Paganism won't be a problem or even an issue. Why would I announce to the world that I am Pagan? I have nothing to prove. Not in that sense. It'd be hurtful, yes, to have people turn against me because I am Pagan, but it's happened before. And it'll continue to happen. There's nothing I can do about it. Their problem with me is nothing I can control."

"You could always go back to Christianity. A girl like you. Brilliant, erudite, hard-working, dedicated. And free from blemish, like a different religion or unacceptable beliefs. Faithful, but in the American way. Imagine all the work you could do for the good of humanity! For this earth. A noble sacrifice of faith for the good of the world. Is it not your place to fight for Godliness? To fight the evils of the world? Weigh your faith against the good of the universe. The comforts of a faith for yourself against the sufferings of people around the world. A Godly person would make the obvious choice of sacrifice." Lucifer took a sip of his drink, savoring the taste, and sat back, dark eyes watching the crowd without a hint of emotion. "I'm working against my best interests, here. A person like you making the sacrifice for the good of humanity, it hurts me. But I like you. I could help you."

Every carefully planned and fortified defense shook, bits of plaster crumbling about my head. I looked down at the table, intentionally drowning in the white noise. Lucifer was right. Placing my happiness above the good of my fellow man? I'd lived my life dreaming of doing good things, of making my country what it should have been, a caretaker and a voice for human rights. Who was I to put my faith above the good I could do? I knew being Pagan would turn most of the country against me. If I stayed Christian, it wouldn't be going against what I believed, and God had said every interpretation of the word was, in its way, correct. Maybe it was even what God wanted. To test me this way. Satan could only effect people who were prone to evil. If I went back to Christianity, it was protecting myself, afterall.

I thought of Jesus, then, in the desert. He had seen something in the Devil, some danger, and even he had thought what the Devil offered was tempting. No wonder he had warned me to be wary. What would God do if I turned against him? I doubted that he would be as understanding about the noble sacrifice for the good of humanity. He had told me what He wanted to see from me. He had a plan, obviously. What if I ruined that plan by going back to Christianity? A cold fear washed over me then, and I felt the blood drain from my face. I had considered listening to the Devil himself! What would God do to me if I challenged Him yet again? He'd sent me Jesus once, but God wasn't known for allowing challenges against Him. Eventually, I shook my head, quavering with fear. "No. I could not go back to Christianity. That would be going against everything that I've learned. That would be going against God. And that wouldn't help anyone but you. I am not here to help you. I am here to help me. If I go back, I am forgetting who I am and taking away from myself. I can't go against God. Who knows what it would do to me to go against the Father?"

I could see Lucifer thinking. Finally, he opened his mouth to speak. "Do you think you're good enough to do what you plan to do? What if you can't handle living it on your own?" He took a sip of his drink, bright red and garnished with two apple horns. "What if you fail?"

Taking a sip of my beer, I swallowed slowly and gathered my thoughts. Lucifer had gotten to the heart of the matter. My very fears, my insecurities. Why I wrapped myself in the cloak of my faith, something I could be sure in even if I was never sure of myself. But, in delving this deep into my fears, he had only undermined his cause. I was sure, now, that he wanted me to go against what God had said. But what would God do if I did that? When I finally spoke, it was barely above a whisper, each word slow to hide the quavering. If it hadn't been Lucifer, I would have been sure the words would have gone unheard. "If I fail...and I won't...if I fail, my family will be here to help me and my faith will be there to sustain me. I am plenty good enough to do what I want. And, yes, there are factors in my life that I can't control, but I will do my damnedest to do right what I can control. Yes, one day I will have to take care of myself and I will have to be the adult full-time. But even then, I will have friends, I will have family. And I will have my faith, because that is what sustains me. I will help the world because that's what God wants me to do and I fear what God will do if I don't."

"Damn," Lucifer replied. He drained his drink, sitting back, his body crumpling in on itself. "I had hoped you would prove easier to crack. Honestly, though, I'm not sure the effort is worth the return." His long fingers started on the apple slices, his lips parting slowly, as if attempting one last time to bring me under his control. I smiled and shook my head. "I'm not into your type, Lucifer."

Lucifer chuckled. "Not for you. Like I said, the effort's not worth the return. I've got other people on my list tonight, thank you." Grinning, no hint of disappointment and the certainty of future temptations glinting in his eyes, Lucifer stood and, with the wave of his hand, made the glass disappear. "I'll be seeing you around, beautiful. Being afraid of God is a good thing. It's what He really wants, after all. Faith is so much less interesting."

"I'm sure." Looking out the door, I saw that my best friend had finally arrived. I guess she really was just running late. She looked faintly distressed, though I supposed the thought of facing me after nearly two hours of waiting was pretty daunting. "So," I continued, turning back to the man standing next to my table. "What was the drink called?"

Satan laughed. "Happy Hour with Satan. I named it for you." Then, with a nod, he disappeared, leaving no hint of his presence except a triumphant laugh. I chuckled to myself, a nervous habit- why did he sound so triumphant when I had sent him packing, I had stood up for God and faith, right?- and watched my friend as she searched the bar, waving as she sauntered over to our table. Alec, my waiter from Galway, looked up, surprised to see that I was there and already had two empty glasses in front of me. He sauntered over, his grey eyes nervous and excited at the same time.

"God, I am so sorry I'm late! There was a huge accident on 595 and I was in it before I even realized it was there and I forgot my cell phone so I couldn't call you." Caroline, my friend, popped down in the seat. "Why's the seat warm?"

"Oh, I was talking to some guy while we were waiting for you. Too bad, too, he was just your type. Tall, dark, blue-eyed, skinny, et cetera." I gave her a sympathetic look. "We had a good conversation, but he had to run and meet some other people."

Caroline looked disappointed. "What did you talk about?"

I looked down for a minute, thinking about my conversation with Satan. He'd been tempting, but not tempting enough. Right? His laughter as he disappeared left me confused. What had I done to make him so happy? "Oh, nothing," I replied, despite the lingering sensations of fear crawling insidiously through my extremities. I'd have to deal with it later. I had an inkling Satan wouldn't go away as easily I would have hoped. "Just our beliefs. His drink was the really interesting thing. I wish I knew what he had put into it. It looked good."

"What was it called?" Caroline had never favored pub ales. She only met me at Waxy's because I really loved it. It was a drink that would be right up her alley.

"It was called...Happy Hour With Satan. And, somehow, it really fit what we were talking about."
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