The Name

    

     John Lawrence leaned back in his plush office chair and sat his glass on the desk. The ice cubes tinkled as the tangy taste of the lemonade lingered on his tongue. Turning back toward the windows of his corner office he looked out over the city of New York. New York had been his home for a total of almost one hundred and ten years now, though not all in a row. This time his life here had lasted for just over thirty one years, somewhat longer than he was accustomed to. He had made many friends, and these friendships had anchored him. But it was these very friends that proved it was time to move on. Several of them had commented recently on how young he looked. It was the comments that made him realize that it was time. Time to move on, time to bury his feelings, time to make new friends.

     He loved New York, that was why for the last three hundred years he had found himself here four times. Maybe in another sixty years or so he could come back, but in the meantime he would find a new city to love. A new city in which to assume a new name and make new friends.

     Money at this point was not an issue, he had accumulated enough wealth in the last two thousand years to last him forever. He would start a new business under a new name to maintain his cash flow . But as a person he would simply live on.

     People often fantasize or wonder what it would be like to live forever , John knew. John also knew that if the human race had knowledge of a person walking among them who would live forever that he would never have any peace or sanctuary. Some people might merely treat him as a curiosity, others would surely worship him as a god. While others yet would seek to dissect him, in order have his secret at any cost. And some, no doubt, would see him as a abomination that must be destroyed.

     John had learned this peculiar aspect of human existence almost two thousand years ago. First there was the event, the moment he went from being a normal human to someone who would live forever. At first he did not even realize that the event had changed him. But as the years passed he had slowly come to the realization that he was not getting older like the people around him. People were beginning to notice.

     John had gathered a lot of attention after the event, but eventually he had managed to return to rather normal life and for the next few years continued to make his living in the vineyards. Life in those years was pretty normal, except for the occasional traveler who would visit his small village looking to meet him. His life as a farmer was better than most, but a farmer clearly couldnít live forever. So one day he decided to leave the people and place he loved and go to a far land. A land where one knew him. A land where he could start his life again.

     This now had been the story of Johnís life for almost two thousand years. He would find a new location, sometimes a village, sometimes in the country, sometimes a large city. There he would make new friends, and new acquaintances. He would establish himself, all the while knowing that it was all temporary. A few times he had even fell in love and married. But allowing himself the luxury of love always resulted in magnifying the pain of leaving.

     Once he had loved so deeply that he had told his wife the truth. They traveled together for many years. For a while as husband and wife, but when ageing had taken it's toll and her beauty had fled, they lied. They moved to a new city and told their new friends that they were mother and son. Then a new city, and this time they were grandmother and grandson. Eventually she, of course, died. In the subsequent pain he had promised himself that he would never go through that again. Oh he had loved again, but never again did he reveal his secret.

     In the beginning when it came time to leave he simply moved away. A few times over the centuries he had actually stayed in contact with friends he had made by correspondence. Always being careful to let his letters suggest that he was growing old along with them. Eventually the letters would stop and he would know that he was alone again. In the late renaissance era he had once nearly avoided being met by old friend who had come looking to visit him in his old age. One can only imagine what reaction his aged friend would have had upon seeing that John had not aged a day in all those years. After this he no longer maintained contact, he simply left. Sometimes in recent decades he had even resorted to faking his own death.

     New computer technologies and record keeping in the last hundred years or so was making the establishment of a new identity in a new city more difficult, but he was resourceful. He would live on.

     The rent had been paid on the office. His money had once again been shuffled around the world into numerous banks under numbered corporate accounts. The electric bill had been paid. He always liked to leave with his debts paid. Tomorrow his car would be found in the east river. His disappearance would be chalked up to just another unfortunate accident. His body, presumably washed out to sea like so many others.

     John reached for his glass and took one final sip of the lemonade, somehow it always reminded him of home. During the short walk and elevator ride toward his car he begun to think of names. What name would he use this time? He had been known by hundreds of names through the centuries. Most recently as Donald Mackay in Australia. Before that he was known as Harry Weldon Kees of San Francisco, and before that Andrew Whitfield of New York. The names raced over in his head there had been so many. Ambrose Bierce, Louis Le Prince, John Lansing, George Bass, Thomas Lynch, Henry Hudson, John Cabot, Ugolino Vivaldi.

     The names ran on back through the centuries. Across two millennia John was known by so many names that even he was not sure that he could remember all of them. But there was one name he would never forget. One name, if the world lasted for another million years, would be impossible to forget. Although through the centuries he had occasionally reused a name, this name he reserved. This was the name he had been given when he was eight days old all those thousands of years ago.

     Often John longed for those long away days in another age. Some day this age would end, some day he could once again be known by his real name, Lazarus of Bethany. Oh how he longed for that day.

     As he slipped the key into the ignition switch he remembered the last words his friend Jesus had whispered into his ear that day long ago: "It is appointed unto men once to die."


©2011 Dave Cole
    
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