Between Cyrene (March)

For my son Simon. May you carry well the things you must. 

The void chuckled as she coiled and fluxed. Endless in the chaos she spun and braided all of her split ends whilst tugging on the infinite expanse. She was void and without form – dancing in the dark. Medusa’s stare and Pandora’s silly box split open whilst everything was gutted and sutured, and exhumed, and forgotten, or invented, or lost. 

Real chaos, man. The kind of which now only glimpses are granted or earned. Padded rooms and gutter sharks. Molotovs and malpractice. Somme and Baghdad. Car wrecks and cancer. School shooters and snuff films. Incels and infidels. 

She cocked back her head with a snapping neck and showed off all of her rotting teeth. Ten thousand little black nubs jutting and stabbing. A breath of unending death and decay leaked and laid on the entire nothing-scape.

She swore and spoke endlessly.

——-

The surf breathed saline abruptly against the cookie crumble coastline. Everything was bleached by a sun indifferent to its own consistency. It just shows up every morning and bleeds, and bleaches, and burns, and blisters.

People native to this land have black skin that protects them from the obnoxious rays. The people not made with the skin as described have taken to wrapping themselves in fabrics as their defense from heavenly bully. Places where the fabric fails are left red and stung.

Wind and sand danced over everything and kicked where they pleased. Brush, like a garnish, stuck out at either side of the highway. The road stretched forever like a promise, or a vow, with nothing but itself for miles. On one side was a breathing ocean and the other held hills and cliffs claimed by no one. 

It swore to wend endlessly.

——-

  The crowd chuckled, breathed, and sweated saline under a middle-aged Jerusalem sun. Their words shook with a venom that was as but a glimpse of something we all know somehow and from a long time ago. Chanting with rotting teeth and molotov tongues. It rolled as an organ might digest something and its entirety felt pornographic. Real chaos, man’s best friend. 

Fluxing with hate and a burning lust for blood, the group of humans lined each side of the dirt road like a garnish. A road of which was as a promise. One that swore to end something endlessly. 

Down its esophagus, between the two lungs of onlookers, a dying man was carrying a wooden cross. An arm of the cedar laid across his ground beef back and exposed spine. Blood was clotting and flowing like a Jackson Pollock nightmare while wind danced and kicked dust into his open wounds. Each step was shorter than the one before it and blood was filling his lungs. 

“King of the Jews!” She cocked back her head with a snapping neck and showed off all of her rotting teeth. The whole, cellular, crowd laughed. 

——-

A steady Hand drug a brush across the blank canvas and the outline of man took shape. The face was strong and his eyes were wide. The Hand set down the brush and dipped His entire palm into the well of ink; He used His bare hands to shade the details of his face. In the time spent from setting down the brush and dipping into the ink, God found it good to name this man Simon; and so He did, for only He could. 

  He pressed His forehead into the side of the jaw, leaving an imprint that made Simon’s face look a touch gaunt. Not in a way unpleasing; which is to say, it was good. The canvas fell back and the shape took depth while a dust was pulled and breathed into. The hands were kneaded and formed. Then the Artist shrunk Himself down to an atomic level and began to mold amino acids braid chromosomes. He whispered into places unseen and sealed them to be found later. Crumbs left from a body that was to be broken up like bread. Which is to say, a map was drawn within Simon.

He noted the taste of saffron and thought that it was good for Simon to detest it. Why? He gave Simon a deep desire to raise children, sons particularly, of which he sealed in one of those secret places. Why? God then decided to make Simon tall and to make his build muscular. Why? He decided to make his eyes the color of tilled Earth; which is to say, a deep brown. Why? Simon was then given a voice and it was determined what that voice would sound like. Why? In the final act of His creation of Simon, God colored the pigment of his skin to be black for He wanted to make him beautiful; and so He did, for only He could. Why?

I am. 

When the Living God, Balm of Gilead, Jehova Jira, Beginning and End, Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit, Almighty pulled back to look at this man He had created, He saw that it was good. He saw that He loved every aspect of him down to the cell walls which no one but Himself would see to the curly hair of which he knew the numbers of. 

In the community that is not easily understood, the three in one conversed.

“This shall be Simon. The one who shall carry the cross, should he choose.”

“Should Our plan be fulfilled. Should You choose.”

“Should there be no other way.”

A heavy heart looked down upon His creation, before the Earth had been formed or the garden planted. While the void still danced nude in her formless vomit. Then, from an eye of which Simon was the apple of, a single tear fell and landed on his shoulder – making the ink run. This left a stain and turned the skin into a puddle of pinkish brown. 

This is very good. 

——-

Simon was rubbing his shoulder as he kicked down the long highway home. The Mediterranean sun was biting at everything and his black skin was covered by fabric. His black face was hidden to protect from both that biting sun and the kicking wind. A breathing surf was eating away at the cookie crumble coastline. 

Also under fabric was his right shoulder that he always kept hidden. When he was a boy a condition known today as Vitiligo had appeared on his shoulder and turned the entirety of it white. It was something he was embarrassed of and humiliated by. That’s not why he was rubbing it, though. In fact, he wasn’t sure why he was rubbing it. It was sore, yes, but it didn’t burn. 

Don’t think about it.

What in the hell had just happened? Who was that man? Why did they do that to him? Where did the sun go? Why did the Earth shake? Who was that thing watching from the crowd? The one who looked beautiful and eternal. Why did he know my name? Why did they both know my name? Why do I still feel sick? 

Simon then stopped on this road back to Cyrene and felt as if he might pass out. Behind him was only the mule he packed for the journey. Looking around the emptiness, Simon felt alone. 

Don’t think about it.

He couldn’t help it. The man, Jesus was his name, had fallen down and dropped his cross. He was almost dead, a grace which Simon hoped would arrive swifty for the man as he watched everything carry out to its conclusion. A grace that never got around to showing up.

Why did they make me carry that goddamned thing? Why didn’t I leave a day earlier? 

Why? 

——-

The crowd thought it was funny when the man fell down a fifth time, dropping his cross again. He looked weak and reduced to something that was pathetic. Dust had clung to everything wet, blood and sweat, and he looked like he was made of mud. The irony of this made Satan laugh from the crowd. It was a smokey laugh – a casino laugh. Covered in the very thing that was killing him. Spun dust, kicking itself up onto the artist.

Sand and type B blood made a cake of which death was preparing to eat. 

“Pick it up!” A Roman soldier commanded.

“He can’t carry it!” Another one said with a chuckle that hid his horror. This soldier wasn’t cruel nor brave. “He’s going to die before we get there!”

“Pick it up!” The crowd mocked. 

“Son of God!” An old man said with rotten teeth. “My ass!”

“He can’t carr-”

“Then get you carry it, goddamn it!” The higher ranked Roman goon said from behind. 

“I’m not carrying that! It’s filthy!” Said the ranked coward who wasn’t cruel. 

At this moment, time seemed to stop. Jesus was lying on his back and the crowd surrounded him as vultures to a kill might. The soldiers were pushing their way to the bleeder and Satan was close behind. Simon was on his way in from Cyrene and had taken a route to Jerusalem that intersected with this death march to Golgotha. Before the man knew it, he had been pushed to the front of the crowd and was looking down at Jesus Christ. 

Their brown eyes met and something made Simon’s shoulder burn. No, that’s not right. It didn’t burn. It did, however, feel like something touched it. At that moment, when time stopped, Simon understood something that had been sealed in a secret place. Which is to say, Simon understood who the man was in front of him.

The one who had been reduced to a crumb. A breadcrumb. A clue.

“Simon.” Jesus said as a friend might say to another upon embracing in an airport after a long time spent away. Blood in his lungs made him cough and for a brief moment, fraction of a fraction, a small smile crept onto Jesus’s face. Perhaps it was grimace made toward his failing body. Perhaps it was a comfort to see his creation on this side of time. 

Simon stood completely still with the human chaos behind him. His eyes were wide and terrified. 

What?

“Simon.” Said another voice from the other side of the vulture-esque cage surrounding the man, cross, and fury. Simon pulled his eyes slightly and saw Satan staring at him.

“I am not carrying it! Don’t look at me!” said another butcher in a soldier’s uniform coming from behind Satan to address the problem of the condemned’s predicament. 

“Simon, don’t you touch that cross. You don’t belong here. You can’t carry that. You don’t deserve to be here. That nasty shoulder has no business here. Your diseased skin is a plague.  Don’t you even look-”

“You!” Said the higher up – the only one who knew how to make decisions. He ran over to Simon and grabbed behind his neck and pulled him into the mix. Simon tripped over the cross and landed next to Jesus in the dust. 

The electric crowd orgasmed with laughter. 

For another moment, time slowed. Simon was eye to eye with Jesus now and looking up at Satan. His face was beautiful and his eyes were dead. Words were exploding from his velvet mouth, tossing saliva as molotov cocktails. His arms were flailing and for a moment the void smiled at Simon.

Jesus reached a hand to Simon’s chest and touched him faintly. Like a whisper or a feather that’s falling. Simon looked down at him and stared into pupils that were dilated, sucking away the void around them. 

“Please.” Jesus breathed. 

——-

  The Trio stood as one on the edge of disorder, looking straight into the void. Everything that was, is, or could be stood still and eternal. Nothing against everything, chaos and order, death and life, new and old, while the void chattered and blistered. 

The garden in the cool of the day, “Where are you?”

The void chuckled as the Trio stood at the edge of a pain so bright it bruises heels and crushes heads. Pride that builds as towers and falls as lighting. That swallows fetuses and chokes promise. Lust for the spinning braids of a void that plucks, penetrates, and punctures. A mouth that eats and eats. 

The Trio stood before floods and fires. The Trio stood before kings and slaves. The Trio stood before bastards and orphans. The Trio stood before disease and war. The Trio stood before the void spinning and snapping. 

They stood at the genesis of it all, man. The bloodline’s birth, the purity of spirit and bone. A clean slate, endless possibilities. Cities on hills or bellies of beasts. Two trees, then one.

A seed plunged into the Earth and man dug it up before the roots took and ate the pulp of its innocence. The fruit felt like opium and calmed the conscience of the masses. No one looked up and no one cared. Storm clouds and rough seas ate until they puked. Man held hands with his destruction and God was a legend. The Earth was creaturely and phallic, wrything upon itself as it dripped into hell. 

Satan walked the Earth and men placed themselves in his chains. They slithered on their bellies toward the Beautiful One and suckled from his putrid teat. Mothers ate their babies and fathers raped their sons. Amongst the lot, every living thing, nothing worth saving could be found.

Men dressed themselves to look like God and stood upon the highest peaks so that they could grab at His belly. They sold miracles and exploited the weak. Neon lights burned and blinked as money was offered to the millions of tiny gods thought up by perverted minds. Prayers were neutered and hope was pimped out.  

Finally a great pit was opened and everything that was created, thought of, mentioned, or touched was swallowed. The void was let loose onto mankind and it was entirely erased. 

It was right and good for God to do this, for He had seen nothing worth saving in the things He made. Out of the expanse and overflow of His Love, He had created instruments of pain that mocked His broken heart. Would this be worth it? What shall be chosen?

What is the cost of free will? The void moaned for God to look upon this hellscape the way a whore might with one eye on the clock. Faking whatever it needed to, whatever it had to. She arched her back and spread her legs, and a fruit that looked good to eat was shown. The Trio stood unmoved and understanding.   

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.

The Trio spoke amongst themselves. Plotted and conspired – three as one. Leaning against them, the void was eavesdropping. Then came another vision from her guts. One pulled up by a rescuing hand – by a father’s hand. She spat it up in rhythmic coughs similar to a childbirth’s contractions. Pain, effort, hope, wrath, and love pulled at the possibilities until the only one was found. 

This time, a seed plunged into the dirt and roots exploded from underneath. In time a little green shoot, shot up and toward God. Leaves and branches followed. The tree grew into a giant and was chopped down by a sweaty man who had been made to be strong. He had been made to swing things like fists, or hammers, or axes. That man took the raw lumber to another man who planed the wood into beams. That man, who had been made to love perfectly cut wood, smooth tables, and hard work, took the beams to another man who made the beams into a cross. Then that man took the cross to another man. That man, this woman, that man. Then a perfect man carried it until he couldn’t. Then a man with a tear-stained shoulder was given a choice.  

The Trio lived every possibility and saw everything. The void stared back and went on forever. They spoke and confirmed each other. Then, they allowed for one sustained silence while they considered it all. This was concluded by a united voice saying, “It is finished.”

Now this was when the world, universe as we might know it, was without form. Darkness concealed everything and God hovered over the depths of the undefined waters. It was then, with full scope of what it meant, that He spoke into the void. With a loving heart to be known, a righteous rage, and everlasting resolve, He spoke.

“Let there be light.”

The sound rang until it found all four corners of the emptiness and brought them together. There were no giggles nor chattering from the void, instead a bitter scream as she drew her eyes up and walked toward the God of everything. Her tail was tucked between her legs and the bitch’s paws pittered and pattered toward the Master who had called her. She pressed her snout into His hand and sat obedient. God grabbed the dog by her nostrils and pulled back until only the bottom jaw remained. 

“What shall I be?” The void gurgled from her throat. As she asked, light and darkness seperated and stood equally balanced and perfect before a perfect God. Order, created out of nothing and by the words of the Almighty. 

He saw that this was good.    

——-

His dead body hung up on the cross for awhile before they returned to take it down. The sun had hid its face for a few moments and the ground had shook with rage. That fleshy crowd of open mouths had been scared away and only a few remained at the cross’s foot. Soldiers, family, Satan, Simon, and some others. 

Simon had carried the cross behind Jesus and felt the cedar press into his shoulder. It wasn’t easy, nor was it light. The beams creaked against the pressure of death’s curse. Sweat bled from his forehead and his stomach twisted into bows. Each step was a discipline and a great silence fell on over him. What felt like all of humanity followed him to the place of the skull, hurling words that he couldn’t hear. He just kept his eyes forward watching the man from Nazareth keep a promise He made when the world was still without form.

A few paces from the place where it was to conclude, the soldiers took the cross and Simon sat dumbfounded in the dust and watched. They drove the nails with hammers and prepared to lift the pulpy mess to be humiliated more and finally killed. 

It was all he could do – watch. His job had been to carry the cross, not stop it. It was his job to carry and that job was done. The man on the cross’s job was to die, and He was almost done. 

When they lifted Him, there was a groaning. A groaning from the soldiers lifting the cross up, a groaning from the sky, and a groaning from all of humanity. The clouds got wet like tear ducts might and a little bit of rain passed through while the crowd was humming as lights in a trailer park gossiping with the night. Talking shit in the darkness.

A groaning then came from death as it woke up from its coiled sleep. It pressed its belly into the dust and drug its bloated guts toward the smell of blood. Bland and determined, steady and promised. Forked tongue and fangs moist with anticipation. 

As Jesus moved to breathe, splinters of wood got into his open wounds and blood continued to fall from torn tissue. His eyes were swollen shut and his face was a car accident. Broken glass and vessels. He could feel the serpent drawing close; death coming, calling. 

The Place of the Skull in the cool of the day, “Where are you?”

His mother was there watching her child. His body looked like it did when he came from her insides. Caked in afterbirth and soft. She couldn’t shake the horror of seeing both the beginning and now the ending. Friends watched their friend. Enemies watched their enemy. Simon watched his creator. All of them numb. Some of them unable to speak a solitary sound, others unable to stop.

Each breath caused the Bleeder to bare his teeth. Blood poured into his lungs until the twin cups overflowed. His heart tore at the atortas and water hovered around the chaos. Choking on all that, he spoke his final words. 

It is finished.”

Upon the sound, the curse of man crept up the cross’s base. It unhinged odious jaw and hugged the perfect man. Then, pulling its lazy tongue across his broken body, it yanked Him down its endless throat.  

Simon watched as death slithered away from the cross onto its next meal, apathetic about the whole thing entirely. As it pulled its soft parts through the dust something started to flip around inside of it; much like the way a child might in their mother’s belly. Death had hoped it to be a bout of indigestion and continued to slide. Each kick brought an unpleasant taste to the monster’s mouth. But the twist in death’s innards persisted, and it soon began to wonder if it ate something it could not digest. It thought perhaps it swallowed something it couldn’t fully take. 

His dead body hung up on the cross for awhile before they returned to take it down while death was choking on itself. Simon stood up, rubbed his shoulder, and went on with his day’s business.

——-

  Night had offered Simon a break from the sun and he pulled to the side of the road to set up for the night. A fire was flicking and cracking while his mule was asleep beside him. He had just set some fish on the fire when a stranger approached him from behind. He placed a hand on Simon’s shoulder and told him to not be afraid. 

Simon felt calm around this stranger even though he didn’t recognize his face. He invited the stranger to eat with him, and the stranger accepted. There was something familiar about the man, but Simon couldn’t put his finger on it. 

The two ate and spoke as only two men who have just finished a great feat can. They kicked their feet up and felt the deep rest that only follows hard work. 

“Simon…” said the stranger upon finishing his meal.

“Yes?” Said Simon while leaning back looking at the stars through the fire’s smoke. His belly was full and his muscles tired. He was thinking about returning home. He was thinking about his new wife. He missed her words. He missed her body.

Feeling this way and safe in the night’s darkness, Simon had removed the top portions of his clothes leaving his chest and shoulders naked to the moon’s light. It felt good as the night’s breeze rolled over his discolored insecurity. It felt good to be exposed then for Simon. It reminded him of something that had been hidden deep inside of him. A memory of a garden that he had never seen, yet yearned for. A place he felt native to, having never been. A breadcrumb of sorts he’d find periodically in his shame’s seldom, and short, holidays. 

“I’ve been waiting for this meal for some time.” the stranger grinned from across the fire. He was looking at Simon’s shoulder.

“What do you mean?” Simon said dreamily, not really hearing what was said. 

“I’ve been waiting for this meal together ever since I painted that shoulder of yours.”

“What?” Simon sat up quickly while throwing his hand over the pinkish patch. Suddenly Simon felt terrified.

“No need to be afraid Simon. It’s finished.” 

“What? Who… who are you? Wha-”

“No need to hide that shoulder either Simon, I made it to be strong.” The stranger spoke still grinning. Simon was paralzyed – realizing at once who the stranger was. 

Then, Jesus Christ reached out and grabbed another fish and ate it. 

It tasted exactly how He had designed it to; how He hoped it would. 

-TL

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