by cheri block
My guide Virgil has been weakened this month, so we could not meet at Elephant Bar to discuss the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso this past week. Looking more like a shade than a robust Italian, he answered the door in his sweatpants and sweatshirt.
For a moment, I felt myself swoon as I had when I saw the She-Wolf, but I regained my strength and we moved together into the kitchen.
The table was set for two.
Virgil began the conversation in a direct way. You have a problem with duality, Dante. You want to talk about the nature of evil, but you also have a political axe to grind.
A perfect pairing, I comment.
Virgil nods. Yes, but the quality of mercy is emotional and humane, whereas the quality of justice is intellectual and abstract. You, Dante, want to talk about justice, but your mercy hangs you up. Now Machiavelli—there was a guy, an Italian, who could make an analytical incision.
I am tired, too, trying to balance mercy and justice, revelation and logic, the Virgin Mary and you, Virgil. Thank God I have something to look forward to in Paradiso, I think.
Virgil reads my mind. Is it time for our lunch?
Virgil has ordered a sandwich called the Italian from Togo’s.
We skip our usual coffee and opt for water.
I look deeply into my guide’s dark brown eyes.
The mystery of irony takes me away from the moment. Irony connects me to the power of the universe.
You want some grapes, Baby? My neighbor across the street, an 84-year old woman, has adopted me. She went to Trader Joe’s yesterday and brought me all this fruit. You why I am still alive, don’t you? It’s my Mediterranean diet.
Virgil, although Beatrice will replace you as my guide in Paradiso, when I see the White Rose there, I will think of you.
Dante, the White Rose will be a symbol of everything you yearn for, Virgil says.