Posted by: theodorecosmosophia | January 23, 2012

The Crucifixion: Sneak Preview

I wrote the following passage, the beginning of The Crucifixion, in 1998 in Beira, Mozambique. This, my first journey to Africa, had been my own rite of passage. (You can find more on this trip in “Africa” from Handprints on the Womb).  After working for many months in an adult literacy program for women in rural Zimbabwe, I crossed the border into Mozambique, looking for adventure, looking for myself. I found a place that had been ravaged by decades of civil war, the poorest country on the planet. Beautiful old colonial homes had been abandoned and occupied by squatters. Fruit trees grew on the roofs of once-luxurious hotels. Land-mine victims hopped about on one leg. There was no infrastructure. The streets had no names.

I spent my time there on the beach, camping next to a little beach bar. On my last night there, a small storm came in from the sea, filling my little tent with water. I had no choice but to find shelter in the bathroom next to the bar. There, in the dim light in the bathroom of a bar in the poorest nation on earth, I began to write. This is what I wrote.

The Dream

            And afterward,

            I will pour out my spirit

            on all people.

            Your sons and daughters will prophesy,

            your old men will dream dreams,

            your young men will see visions.

            Joel 2:28

…it happened the same, over and over again.

In the beginning, he always looks down at his feet, moving to the steady rhythm which he recognizes as his own, slow pace. But he is less looking down than he is avoiding looking up.  His eyes reveal so much: the blank, horrific gaze of a man who has crossed the threshold from seeing the world as God made it, as a child sees it, only in its beauty, to the hopeless, empty cognizance of a world irrevocably soiled.  So seldom do human beings rediscover that beauty once the ugliness has been revealed.  He looks down because he has chosen to see no more.

            He walks on.

            Over dirt and rock, he walks; over broken glass, cracking under his feet, plastic bags and candy wrappers, blowing in the wind.  Over sidewalks, barren, the man walks.  There are no dandelions reaching out between the cracks. 

            He walks past crowds, shouting at him, cursing at him.  Even the first time, when it all seemed so strange, those curses felt familiar.  He is certain that he knows no one in the crowd, but he knows the curses.  He is close to home.  He keeps on.

            He hates this part the most.  The walking.  The hoping.  Tortured with the possibility of a different outcome, he walks.  But he never truly believes it will end differently.  The man knows how it will end.

            But he cannot help but hope—hope that this time he will stop, or turn around, or even join the crowd and turn those curses to praise.

            Someday, perhaps, it will change, but not today.  Today he keeps on, his pace never changing, his eyes seldom lifting even to look where he is going, and then only briefly, only forward.  He does not want to see where he is going.

            He does not need to see where he is going.  He already knows. 

            And finally, he stops to pick up the small metal instrument.  He feels his hands close around its handle.  Only then does he see before him the huge, wooden cross and the faceless figure—neither male nor female, young nor old—tied securely, legs straight down on the vertical plank, arms stretched as far as they can go on the horizontal, palms open, pleading, or maybe waiting for an embrace.  He can never tell.  Truthfully, he no longer knows the difference.  It always surprises him that his victim never struggles.  He can feel the hoping in his victim.  Give up, he wants to say.  Hope hurts too much.

            Almost as much as for the dreams to stop, he wants just once to see who it is, to look into the eyes of the one he tortures, of his own torturer.  But to see those eyes is his greatest fear; and when that fear begins to enter his own consciousness he begins to smell the fear of his counterpart.

            It is then, as always, that he begins to drive nails into flesh.  And it is always the screams of his victim which awake him.  Or are those his own screams?

            Either way, he will sleep no more.

            The crucifixion has begun.

The Crucifixion will be available for purchase through Homebound Press on April 6.

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Responses

  1. Powerful writing, Ted! Your images are so vivid, that I can feel the pain, the despair.

  2. Thanks so much, Linda!


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