Golgotha

We all have choices, even when we think there’s none available to us. Usually, it is at that point when we think we have no options that our lives take radical turns.

My little girl was sick. I was flat out of money and my wife was an hysterical nagging mess. I couldn’t blame her, what’s a man when he’s got no money? Of what use is a vegetable of a human being that can’t even save the life of the one he loves.

“You don’t love us!” She cried.

“What am I to do? There are no jobs. The last foreman robbed me off my wages and I broke his nose in anger. Maybe I shouldn’t have but a man can only take so much from a fellow Jew. If Romans treat us like shit, should we do the same to our kin too?”

“Enough sermonising Tobias, If you channelled half the fire in you towards getting funds to treat our Hannah instead of brawling with your colleagues and losing jobs, that would be fine. Instead you just –”

“Enough of this already woman!”

“No! It would be enough when you actually do something useful. Our daughter is dying Tobias, do something!”

I’d had enough. There’s no winning her, especially when she’s right. I needed to do something fast if I didn’t want to lose our daughter to some illness that a few shekels of silver would cure. If her nagging was unbearable at that point, then I couldn’t imagine how it would be if something terrible happened to Hannah. She’s the last flicker of light in our gloomy home and anything other than a recovery would break us in half.

I needed to do something. I had to see Sirach.

We grew up together – brothers of necessity after our home in the city of Dan was sacked, our fathers killed and mothers taken off as slaves. We looked after each other, stealing what we could and surviving any way we could. In time, we grew to be known for pulling off some of the most dangerous heists in the city of Jerusalem. I only did what I could to survive but Sirach however had grander plans to rise and control some portion of the game. I was to help him, offering counsel while he called the shots and found others to get their hands dirty on our behalf. We would have been big time bosses…

But I met Edna, fell in love, and got married.

I hadn’t seen Sirach since I left with Edna. She made me turn my back on who I once was and I’m eternally grateful that I could know some semblance of peace. But like a dog going back to its vomit, I needed to call a brother from my past to help me out. When you have a child born out of love, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do to save her.

*******************************

“So you could show up after all these years. Funny how others seem so appealing when you need help, even after walking away from them because of some whore from Samaria.” Sirach said with a smirk.

I couldn’t escape his scathing tongue, not if I hoped to get his help. He took it on the wrong side when I left to build a family and the passage of time didn’t appear to have softened him one bit.

“I’m sorry Sirach. I don’t expect you to understand but I fell in love and had to make sacrifices. I’m sorry I had to turn my back on the life we had built and the dreams we had but I needed to do what I did.”

“You don’t just turn your back on one family to build another, Tobias. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have found love but you messed up brother. I know you need my help now but here’s my answer before you even tell me what’s going on and what you want from me. No.”

“But Sirach…”

“Get out Tobias, you’re not welcome here.”

I felt defeated. Sirach doesn’t dally. When he says something he means it and even I couldn’t change his mind back then without a lot of prodding. So  what hope did I have when I’d walked out on him years ago, leaving sour grapes behind to ferment and stink up the situation?

I turned and walked towards the exit, imagining the look of anguish on Edna’s face and the hopelessness of Hannah.

“Wait!”

I stopped and turned.

“There’s something I can do to help but you don’t have family privileges anymore so it wouldn’t be for nothing. We just might need your skills in pulling off a job at some Roman’s home in the heart of the city. I know your daughter’s sick but you should also have kept in touch. Do this and you would have enough to take care of her and substantial change to make something of yourself. Go with Baruch here, he’ll fill you in. It’s tonight. I only hope you haven’t gotten rusty but I need not worry; you’re a natural.”

I heaved a sigh of relief but the worry didn’t still leave my face. To save Hannah, I have dip myself into the murky pit I leapt out of years ago.

 ********************************

We got in easy. Sirach’s men learnt from the best and their planning as well as execution was flawless. Baruch’s and the others already had the guards in the problem areas subdued and I was left to unlock the door to the treasury and avoid whatever booby traps lay in our path to the treasure.

I’d never seen so much unique stones in my life. Baruch said just one piece was worth a fortune and we had packed five bags to go with. Light enough to ensure we moved fast, worth enough to have us pretty much made for life and I began to envisage a quick recovery for my Hannah and a comfortable life afterwards.

But that was when everything went to shit.

Unknown to us, the guards that were relieved of duty were still within the premises, having a warm bath and fooling around with the maids. When they were moving out, one of them noticed that the replacements that had been subdued by Baruch and the others were not at their posts. We couldn’t run without putting up a fight. It was bloody, and by the time it was over, Baruch was dead with most of the men, two others escaped with some of the loot.

I was knocked unconscious and by the time I came to, I was chained up in a dungeon with some guy named Joab who told me everything that happened.

Life was pretty much over for me. Robbing a Roman and getting caught is death at the worst and slavery at best, but Baruch killed two guards so I could only hope for the former. I was going to die but it would have been fine because I did what I could to save my daughter.

However, nothing broke me more than when Edna showed up in a week later – puffy eyed from crying – to tell me that Hannah died two days earlier because she didn’t have any money to get her to the physician.

********************* *************

Pain.

Intense, constant throbbing shot up my feet and hands but I couldn’t do a single thing about it. I thought the whips were bad. I thought I would pass out and just die but I didn’t. Death would have been a mercy I didn’t deserve yet after all that had happened.

I looked over to my left. Joab seemed to be oblivious to what I was going through and was busy yelling curses at the Romans and anyone in sight from his new pedestal.

“Calm down Joab, save your strength.”

“For what exactly; to just hang here like some scarecrow in a farm for people to point at and kids to stone? No, I’ll rather go with a bang than a whimper. Let these Romans know they didn’t break this Jew like they have done the others.”

In the few days I spent with him, I realised Joab couldn’t be reasoned with so I let him be. Beyond the physical pain I endured, I could never get the thought of Hannah’s loss out of my mind. It tortured me. I hoped to see her again but how’s that even possible with what I did? As the scriptures said, I would end up in Sheol while my innocent child would be with Yahweh.

Then they brought him. Somehow, from high up he seemed different. He didn’t fight or stare down the Romans when they whipped him. He let them do whatever they wanted – even when they stripped him down and cast lots to share his clothing. In a way, there was some inevitability about him, like he wanted them to do it.

He said nothing.

When they nailed him and raised him to be between us, he just hung his head and breathed slowly, waiting for the end to come. When he said he was thirsty some soldiers fixed a sponge soaked in cheap wine to him on a stalk of hyssop and further mocked him.

“He fed thousands and healed scores. He saved others, let him save himself.”

That was when it hit me. This was the Galilean everyone had told stories about. If only I had sought him out to save Hannah when I heard he was in Jerusalem instead of going to Sirach. But he looked so ordinary beside me that it was hard to believe he had as much power as people ascribed to him.

Seeing a new target he could mock despite being in the same situation, Joab began to direct his insults at the Galilean.

“Aren’t you the Messiah they say you are? Save yourself and us!”

I didn’t know what made me speak but it felt right standing up for someone. Joab was a killer and had no right to say the things he did.

“Don’t you fear God? You received the same sentence as this man but we did what we did. We deserve our place here but this man, I doubt it. He has done no wrong!”

I looked at the Galilean, still silent with his head bent, his eyes focused on a few women below and a young lad he would later address as John.

“Remember me Jesus, when you come as King!”

Jesus raised his head, smiled at me and said, “I promise you that today, you will be in Paradise with me.”

At about midday, the sun stopped shining and a strange darkness enveloped the countryside for a few hours and the earth shook violently. Suddenly, Jesus cried out and died. Some hours later, I closed my eyes and succumbed to the kind of gloom that shrouded the city. I died.

I thought it was over. But when a strange kind of bright light washed over me like the sun does when someone opens the curtain covering your window, I stirred awake. I looked around and realised I wasn’t alone. A multitude of bodies began to float, as I did towards the source of the light that I later knew to be Jesus. His face shining brighter than the day ever did, adorned with that same smile he cast upon me on the cross before we died.

That was when I understood what was going on.

Dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life.

The darkness was no more. I was going to live again; I was going to see my little Hannah.

****************************************

3AM. Lagos, Nigeria.

I’d just had the strangest dream and it was as if I’d seen it before.  Nursing a cup of water while trying to figure out what it was all about, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to write about it and try to recreate what I’d seen before it became clear.

I sat down at my desk, set my glass down and welcomed the shiny grin of my computer coming to life. The first thing my out-of-hibernation computer displayed as I unlocked it stopped me for a bit. But it wasn’t bad at all; if anything, I knew I needed to write and I know exactly what I had to share.

The Gospel according to Luke

I smiled, closed the window, opened up Microsoft Word and began to type.

Golgotha…

THE END

Image credit: (Golgotha by Richard Russ) www.fineartamerica.com

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FOR-NEVER

image

What a time to be late.

I just couldn’t make it no matter how hard I tried. This is beyond me. Irrespective of what I do, I wouldn’t be at my wedding. Her wedding. Our wedding.

What a time to cancel.

By the time  I got to her room she was a crumpled mess, sitting on the floor in her white gown looking like a pack of exposed serviette in drizzling rain.

She looks even more beautiful when she’s in tears, just like she did when I asked her to marry me. Those were tears of joy and she didn’t mind that her mascara was ruined.

Now she’s crying for real, and why wouldn’t she; when the love of her life decided to bail on her on her wedding day. Their wedding day.

What sort of douche would do that? But I didn’t decide; it was made for me and there was really nothing I could do about it. What can I say, fate throws curve balls at you.

I couldn’t be at my wedding. Her wedding. Our wedding. Now she’s going to attend another event I couldn’t miss even if I wanted to. She’ll see me there for the last time and say goodbye.

I’m boxed in on this one and no matter what I do, I cannot miss my own funeral.

What a time to die.

#FlashFiction

DEAR YOU…

Remember that wedding in July, the one where Seyi got married to Wande? Maybe it’s crazy but that moment’s forever etched in my mind. Maybe it’s because it’s the first one I’ve ever been deeply involved in – I was one of his groomsmen. Maybe it’s because of what I saw that day when the couple took their vows.

I was seated in front with the other guys when this happened. It was really beautiful watching Seyi and Wande take those vows but I wasn’t really looking at them. I saw you instead, in that resplendent white gown, looking into my eyes with nothing else but pure affection in your eyes as I vowed to love, hold, cherish and protect you for the rest of my life.

I saw our wedding that day.

So what happened? Just two more years down the line and we’re in pieces – with the shards set to cause more damage at any attempt to put them back together again – like two people in a Humpty Dumpty relationship. I was a fool and you were just plain silly at times.

You wanted me to talk more. I do talk, but I’d carved a cave where I stuck my innermost feelings, passions, fears and hopes into. That’s the part of me that you wanted to see the most and you did try. I’ll give you that; you badgered, pleaded and coaxed me to let it out. I’d almost get to that point where I finally let you in but then you tune off and disappear and the hurt of finding you at that crucial point and not meeting you waiting where you said you would made me recede even further.

So I would express myself the best way I could, by imagining how things should be – just as I imagined myself making those vows. We’d have a lot of conversations, half of them in my head but they’d seem so real that I would wonder why you still didn’t get me. To me, you should know why I’m the way I am. Why I act the way I do. Why I only keep real conversations at the simplest, most mundane level. I thought I told you so you should know. But you didn’t know; you couldn’t have known because half of what I told you about how I am was all stuck in my head.

I should have been gentler with you, more patient. I shouldn’t have treated you like you should automatically get me – like some sort of robot that I act like. You’re human, I am too but it beats me why I don’t act like one. Why I’m rarely excited or enthusiastic about anything. Like I’d been here before and seen it all so I’m bored with the world and the people in it. But I’m interested…sometimes; I just don’t know why my emotions on the inside don’t translate to my expressions on the outside…sometimes. You almost get me to the point where these two become one but you’d give up right at the most crucial moment and I’d fall back.

You would reach for me before I fall and I would reach for you just as I fell to grasp your nothing. No hands, no straws. So I got used to falling, deeper into my shell.

I could blame you for this but if there’s anything I’m grateful for, it’s a keen sense of perspective. So I could say you were lazy, not so committed or just playing games with my heart but I’m a difficult person to love as well. I’ve got no problems loving, I like imagining being loved but the thought of it happening in reality, seeing pure love radiate through someone to me scares the living shit out of me. If I’d be nice to myself I’ll just say that I’m not meant to be loved. But I’m not so nice to myself either. Put simply, I’m insufferable as fuck.

So when you told me you cheated, I was broken. I fell apart like the contents of a toppled hourglass but as hard as it was for me, I was hopeful. I felt that the fault was meant to be a shared burden. Maybe it was at this nadir that we could have finally gotten everything back on track. So I wanted to know what the problem was. Was it me? Was I not as attentive, caring or passionate as you would have liked? I probably wasn’t. Was it my inability to be really there for you? It was probably because of me. So I felt that the solution was in the knowing. To you, the weight and shame of the initial confession was more than what you could bear. Still I wanted to know, for my sake and sanity. For our sakes.

And this has always been my problem. You’ll give a little taste and I’d always want more of what you’re reluctant to offer. You still expected me to chase even when it was obvious you (and I) were going nowhere. I on the other hand expected you to keep up with me. Whatever it was, I don’t know.  In the end, we’d run off in different directions without realising the chasm we were creating would be too wide to bridge. And now that we’re done running, we’re too spent to find our way back together.

I’m not a bad person, you know this. But I’m kinda messed up. I hurt people – I don’t agree but they say I do. I wonder how. They’ll read different meanings to my intentions or motivations for leaving people alone. I think people are confused: they want to be with you and they want to be alone as well. I have this problem but my awareness of the fact is already half the solution. People always leave dear. So I wondered why you didn’t even after all this. But it’s not that hard to figure out. I say to myself that I’m done with you every time. Then I see you and just want the shared moment at that time to linger forever.

People always leave and I let them. Why you’re still in this messed up relationship, I don’t know. I don’t love you any less and I even think I’m undeserving of you. But then, it’s never okay knowing just half the story – that’s torture. Completing it is my way back to you and as much as I want to, I can’t jump that far. I’ve got to retrace this bit by bit and this tip of the iceberg that you’ve given me isn’t enough. In fact, I believe it’s sinking our Titanic. And this is why I’m doing what I’ve never done before.

I’m leaving you.

I don’t wanna hurt forever
I don’t wanna keep on feeling
I just wanna say what we both know
I’m letting you let go…

Letting You Let Go – Paper Route

Image Credits: https://twitter.com/bitters101