Snot melts from her left nostril, pooling with the tears streaming down her face. She dare not lick her lip though she instinctively feels the need. Desperation wells up inside of her tossing its ugly head, beating its fists against her rib cage. All the while she stands there immobile. Her body rebels against her screaming mind, “Run away!!” But she cannot go. She stays, looking up into a face she scarcely recognizes as his. Could he even be the same man whom she had loved? His was a face she had sought for love, comfort, direction and peace, now he is barely a shadow of who he once had been.
Guards shout at her to step away. “Move, you whore!” One shoves at her, but she keeps her ground. She pierces him with her eyes so that he dare not try again. She stares into their dirty, haggard faces, seething, trying to tamp down the hatred inside of her for these people. They, who have invaded her homeland, stolen from her and tarnished her soul, now trying to wrench her last moments with him. Her gaze is enough that they step aside avoiding the assault of her stare, leaving her grounded in the mud. She will not move. She will stand.
And stand she does. Tears continue to flow, but she moves not her face from his lest she miss. She watches each agonizing breath as he hangs to what little life there is left in his body. His face once so kind is now distorted and misshapen. She finds him revolting but is unable to look away. She yearns to meet his eyes, but they remain swollen shut. Just one glimpse from him is all she needs for the strength necessary in the days to come. Just one glimpse for her to know it wasn’t all just a terrible nightmare. Just one.
Darkness threatens her view of his face. Rain thickens the air tempting to release its fury over the waning crowd of onlookers. Flashes of lightning dance in the distance just off the mountaintops. It’s as if the sky mirrors her inner turmoil.
She stares unmoving into the pulp of his flesh trying to remember his softness, the softness that always lingered there even in turmoil. She remembers his tears that day. And her anger. He had not come. When her brother lay there dying in her arms, she had sent word to him, begging him to come. But he had not come.
She had sent word again the next day full of dread that her first letter had been lost, stomach turning that he might have simply ignored her. While she waited, helplessly she cared for her dying brother, writhing in his anguish, fighting death to the end. Her beloved brother, whose eyes mirrored her own, struggled to hang on to what little life was left. “Don’t worry, sister,” he had gasped, “He will come.” With that, he had wheezed, convulsed and with a final shutter left her alone in the room. Gritting her teeth, she slammed her fists into the cavernous chest of his emaciated body, beating into him the pulsating beat of her anger, hoping that its heat would make him live again. It had not. She had not cried then, nor did she cry now.
Still standing in the muck as the skies darken above her, the winds threaten to displace her. Her hair whips around her face reminding her of the tears she had finally shed that day.
Four days had passed, and her brother’s body lay cold in the tomb she had purchased for him. She, with her own, hard-earned, dirty money had purchased it. After it was done, she had sat staring into an ash filled hearth with crowds of people around her, crowds who three years ago would have had nothing to do with her. They would not have dared to step foot inside her house. Smiling bitterly, she continued to stare.
A loud cry had interrupted her tumultuous thoughts. “He has come!” Her sister’s flushed, paunchy face was filled with joy as she labored for breath.
Too late, she cursed mentally. “What do I care now?” her eyes bore a hole through the brick, and she fought the emotions warring within her.
Her sister stood beside her, “He is asking for you.”
Her heart flipped and without warning, her legs carried her through the door knowing the way without prompting. Skirts flying all around, her mind whirled with the stares of people nearby blurring them in the dust. Seeing him in the distance, she pulsed forward, skirts flapping around her ankles.
She had fallen in the dirt without grace and clasped his dusty, road beaten sandals. “If you had been here, my brother would NOT have died!” She had stared at his feet, frightened of what he might see in her face. Frightened that he would sense the sheer desperation wrapped in anger at him, all directed at him for not being there when she had needed him. She pinched her eyes shut, willing the tears to stay behind her lids. She would not cry.
A thunder clap above echoes the distant memory of her anger in that past moment. She senses that the heavens feel her pain even now as he had then. “Please, God. Please,” she prays, hoping for a morsel of mercy. The guards continue to push and taunt at the crowds, but not one of the men enters her line of vision. Numbness replaces the hate and anger. She stands.
Her mind carries her back to that moment in the dirt at the tomb of her brother. His sandaled feet clasped in her hands, rage emanated from within her. These same feet that she would later wash with her tears and hair, now gripped beneath her curling fingers squeezing them as to maintain her grip on the world. Shutting her eyes tighter, she had silently willed him to speak. Face bent forward fighting the heat inside her, she felt his calloused hand on the crown of her head, tenderly but firmly. His touch spoke volumes more than his words. The dam had burst. Hot tears sprung forth from her eyes, and she had finally wailed in anguish. The pain of her loss, anger of his absence, despair of hopelessness had sprouted from her shaking her from the inside out. That loss so significant at the time, proves nothing compared to this day. A bitter smile plays across her lips at the irony of it all.
Suddenly, he moves. Just a fragment. But he moved. She watches as he fights the swelling to open his eyes. His kinds eyes are still there, hidden beneath the folds of flesh and suffering. She remembers them on that day. Though buried in bruises and lacerations, her mind reels to a moment when they were once covered in softness. It reminds her that once she had finally met his eyes, despite her anguish, they were also filled with tears. Her mind pulls her back to that moment- the moment she realized he did love her beyond what she may have ever imagined. In the loss of her brother, in her despair, she had found comfort in his eyes. For in his eyes, she had seen the same emotions she felt, though their cause was quite different. As she had looked in his eyes, there was hurt, but not of loss. Her lack of faith had hurt him. Her lack of trust had wounded his soul. Her pain of loss had yielded his infinite compassion. He had wept with her and for her. That was the miracle that day. The miracle of realizing the expanse of his love.
Now those eyes struggle against the weight upon them. Slowly, painfully, she watches as he fights to open them. Rather than finding her face, he seeks the sky. Grimacing as he tilts his head upward, his eyes find the clouds above. She watches, fighting the urge to grasp him, pull him to her, and make the moment go away. Her heart bursts in her chest as she watches helplessly, unable to offer him anything in his moment of suffering. Yet she stands.
The clouds let loose a thunderous roar. Her feet, caked in mud, reverberate beneath her, but she does not move her face away from his to look. The crowds scream as the ground begins to shake, yet she stands. Over the chaos, she can barely hear him.
“My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?” His voice, strong as it once had been, is now stricken with defeat and agony. His loneliness pierces her heart. His desperate cry slaps her across the face. Yet she remains standing.
She watches as a tear slides down the cavernous wounds in his face, dripping from his chin. His head slowly sinks downward toward his chest. His eyes, for just a moment, meet hers before closing. Before eternity was changed.