This is the first time I've published my fan fiction. I'd appreciate any constructive criticism or grammatical suggestions. Telling me I'm going to Hell isn't very helpful. Not only do I live in the South, I also have plenty of relatives to tell me this already.
I included some references to Judaism and Jewish practices in this because it's an important but often ignored context. I also "borrowed" some ideas from other stories and movies (for example, Brokeback Mountain, of course :-)).
I wrote this under the principle that one does not suddenly decide to commit suicide. Although the act can occur suddenly after a stress-inducing event, the actual decision is often reached long before. I realize there are exceptions to this, but I thought it would be interesting to view Judas as having a history of suicidal ideation and other problems.
I dedicate this to the amazing actor Jérôme Pradon and to the other writers of Fan Fiction in general.
I've made a few changes recently, and I'll probably continue to make more as my understanding of the characters deepens and matures (at least in theory :-)). Since I've decided to rate this "M" instead of "T", I'm going to make it worth it. It's not pornographic or anything, though. Sorry to disappoint. :-)
I "borrowed" a few ideas and images from the play Road Movie by Godfrey Hamilton and the book Kiss of the Spiderwoman by Manuel Puig. They are both painfully beautiful works that I would recommend to anyone. I also got inspiration from The Thief's Journal by Jean Genet (which I'm still reading). It's a wonderful and interesting piece of literature, but some people would find it a bit…um, "strong," to say the least. I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone I know, but I really like it.
I was staring at him again. He was talking to Peter and John, smiling patiently at their repetitive inquiries. I knew I needed to turn away before someone noticed me, but for some reason, I was compelled to look at him. His eyes twinkled with life, love, and light. I felt better watching him from here in the shadows, where I belonged, where I was comfortable.
Suddenly he looked at me, his eyes seeming to pierce through the darkness. I turned away, but I knew he'd seen me looking again. I wanted to hide from him, from his knowledge of me, but I couldn't. He concluded his talk with Peter and John and strolled over to me. I watched the setting sun caress his hair.
He hugged me warmly. I was trying to act as if I had been doing nothing unusual. He looked me in the eye and smiled.
"You must be cold. Come with me," he said. I followed him to the fire around which the others gathered.
My mother died giving birth to me. All she left behind was a vague emptiness instead of a memory. I often wondered about her, if I thought or looked like her. My father never got over her death, but he was a good, pious man. I respected and loved him, though we weren't very close. He spent most of his time on his studies and his work.
I had a normal childhood. Like all boys, I learned to read and write; I listened to and learned from the stories of the rabbis. I saw my father's eyes fill with joy when I became a bar mitzvah.
However, I always felt slightly different, slightly "off" from the other boys. I tried very hard to fit in, and to all appearances, I was an ordinary, happy child, but I instinctively viewed myself as an outsider. Every similarity I held with my peers was forced, and every difference was natural. I was terrified that I would be "found out." I felt unable to fully interact with my peers; it was as if an invisible partition existed between us. I got used to being lonely, even when surrounded by people.
When I was about thirteen, I became aware of my attraction to men. I had been staring at them for years, but I never in a sexual way until then. Sometimes I would draw their attractive, strong bodies in the sand, only to wipe the images away with my hand in embarrassment.
I soon realized how dangerous my feelings were. One day, two men were found together doing "immoral" acts. Shortly after, I saw them stoned to death by the village for loving each other, their broken, distorted bodies lying naked in the sun, left to be eaten by vultures. I became paranoid that I would give myself away. I quickly became frustrated and enraged that I had to survive by deceit and dishonesty, and I grew more tempestuous and arrogant. I began to think beyond the cultural and religious expectations of my people. I no longer believed in the inerrancy of the elders; in fact, I found they were often wrong, and I let them know it. My behavior made me very unpopular. I was avoided and ridiculed like a leper.
When I was sixteen, my father decided that the two of us should go to Jerusalem for Passover and worship in the Temple. Our journey went to plan until we were about a day's travel away from the city, when we were separated from our group. We were without a guide; we were vulnerable. After a few hours, a cloud of dust rose into view in the east; we thought it was another traveling party, so we flagged them down. It was too late when we realized they were highwaymen.
I was knocked out in the resulting struggle; when I awoke some hours later, I found my father's mangled corpse next to me. It's impossible to describe the feelings of desperation, grief, and fear that ran through me at that instant. I vomited by the roadside, sickened by the smell and sight of the rotting and contorted figure I had loved.
Not wanting to have his body further desecrated by the elements, I quickly dug a grave with my hands and buried him, saying the Kaddish over the mound. Once my work was completed, I became overwhelmed with sorrow. I fell to my knees and wept until sunrise.
When my tears finally ceased, I realized that I was weak from injury, hunger, and thirst. I limped from the gravesite to Jerusalem with only my ragged clothes and my naivety.
Eight years later, I had changed. Knowing how to farm isn't very helpful in the city. I became a beggar and a pickpocket, living off the pity and carelessness of others. I developed proficiency with a crude knife for self-protection and threats. I lived from day to day, not knowing what I was going to eat for dinner or where I was going to sleep that night. No one cared for me, and I cared for no one. I saw the scum of humanity up close. I heard many a baby's cries suddenly silenced with a hard slap; I heard the groans of the sick laying in their own feces, urine and blood. I saw brothers fight to the death for a morsel of bread and fathers sell their children into slavery to pay their debts. The sounds of rape and murder lulled me to sleep. I became hardened and cold like them, one of the forgotten and deplored, the wretched of society.
At times, darkness would come over my mind. I would longingly stare into the waters of the river or make nooses out of scraps of rope. Ultimately, I was too afraid; my body clung to life even when my mind was repelled by it.
To deaden the pain of my existence, I drank. Cheap wine freed me from the desperation of my situation and the deterioration of my mind. I could finally give in to the cravings I suppressed when sober. A dark alley next to the Temple was where many others and I found sexual gratification; it was the only place where our anonymity was assured.
Every morning after these encounters, I would feel complete self-disgust at my perverted weakness. I'd try to discipline myself, to punish myself by punching stonewalls until my hands were swollen or by cutting my chest and legs with broken glass. Then I'd pick at the scabs to worsen the scarring. I knew that it was wrong to hurt myself and that it went against God's laws, but I also knew I had to punish myself. Only when the ground became muddy with my blood would I feel my sins were forgiven. I'd swear to myself never to go back to that alley again, but the next night I'd be back, my eyes downcast in shame.
After a few years, I realized I had to go back home. Part of me never wanted to see my village again, never wanted to look back on any part of my life. However, I couldn't stay in Jerusalem anymore. The Romans were cracking down on the homeless population. Everyday, I saw fellow beggars and thieves taken away to be crucified at Golgotha.
It took a while, but I managed to scrounge and steal enough money to make it back home. When I got there, no one recognized me. I had to tell them detailed information about my father and myself to convince them. When they finally accepted my identity, they were happy that I had survived. They celebrated my "resurrection," but I was unable to share their joy. My heart had frozen against kindness. When I refused to worship with them, they became afraid of me. They believed my empty and ruthless gaze, my lack of faith and warmth, my periods of despair, was an indication of demonic possession. I believed them; I felt cursed by God myself. When a strange disease suddenly spread through the village, I was immediately deemed the cause. I left before they could throw me out.
I became a wanderer. To survive, I did the jobs no one wanted to do, like sheparding and cleaning up dog dung. It didn't matter to me; I had no hope or ambition for the future. I merely existed from moment to moment in my misery, using alcohol, as always, to get me through.
After about three years of this way of life, if one could call it that, I was passing through the small village of Nazareth when I noticed a handsome young man working on a table. He wasn't the most beautiful man I'd ever seen, but for some reason he captivated me like no one else had before. He was shirtless. The sunlight kissed his hair and shoulders and sparkled in the sweat dripping down his face and torso. I watched intently as he shaped the wood with calm and steady hands. After a few minutes, he looked up and caught me staring at him. He laid down his chisel and hammer and walked towards me. I was too scared to move. Would he confront me? I automatically gripped my knife in my robes, though I didn't want to hurt him.
"Hello, friend. I noticed you looked rather hungry. Would you like something to eat?"
"No, no, I'm fine. Just passing through," I mumbled gruffly, self-conscious of my wretched appearance.
"Where are you traveling?"
Why was he being so kind? "Nowhere. I go where I can get work."
"Maybe I could help you find a job around here. Why don't you come in and get something to eat and some rest? My family always welcomes travelers." He wiped the sweat from his brow and smiled. "Oh, by the way, I'm Jesus." He held out his hand. I took it as I repressed a shiver.
Jesus and his family accepted me into their home. They were all very kind to me, more so than my own relatives were. I felt like a charity case, so I helped out as much as I could. Carpentry wasn't a skill in high demand, though Jesus and his brothers were all trained in the craft. They usually worked more menial work, like fixing stone walls and fences or working in the fields. I earned my keep by doing these jobs as well. Money was tight in the household, but they were very good and generous people, giving what little they had to individuals like me.
Jesus and I became particularly close. Actually, I've always gotten along better with younger men. He was very much sheltered and optimistic, a stark contrast to my worldly distrust. In a way, I was jealous of his blind idealism. I wished I could believe in the good in people like he did.
I attempted to obscure my past from him; I didn't want him to see my pain. Yet despite my resolution, I found myself becoming daily more candid with him. He listened attentively as I recalled the days of Jerusalem and my home village, only interrupting me to ask astute questions or to provide sympathetic comfort.
I learned about him as well. It turned out Jesus' father had died a couple of years ago when their house suddenly collapsed on him and two other family members. Jesus now lived with his mother and unmarried siblings in a smaller home, scraping by on what they could get. Though poor, he never seemed too concerned about money. He believed God would provide. He was especially devout and wise in religion. Although I still refused to worship in the local synagogue, we heatedly discussed the written and oral Torahs, finding in each other a suitable sparing partner in intellect.
Being friends with Jesus began to heal my wounded soul. Being near him enveloped my spirit in remedial warmth. I no longer felt the self-destructive compulsions to drink excessively and cut my flesh. Jesus intoxicated me more than the best wine in the world; his kind words granted me more of a reprieve than the worst self-inflicted wounds.
However, I still lusted for him. During the day, I somehow managed to control my emotions and thoughts for the most part, but at night, my dreams had full reign. I'd wake up in a cold sweat, feeling guilty for thinking of him in such a way. I'd remind myself that he was my friend; nothing more would ever come of it. But every night the dreams would return and fill my mind with caresses and love.
I had been there two months when a drought hit Nazareth. Food was scarce; competition for work was high. Tension and stress were palpable. Everyone was having a hard time.
I began to feel my mind slip back into the shadows. I became surly and aloof. I was angry for no reason. Everything everyone did annoyed me. I'd snap back insults at words that were meant to be kind. Before long, I began to have periods of intense terror at night. I had trouble sleeping and eating. Jesus tried to console me, but I pushed him away, pretending he was the cause of my evident irritation. We drifted apart. Little by little, simple things became difficult; even thinking left me exhausted. No one would hire me; I was described as lazy. Everyday I fell farther and farther into the abyss.
As I lay awake on my pallet one night, I realized I had to leave. Jesus' family was still very kind to me, but I could see I was a burden. I was taking up space and food without offering anything in return. I knew the despair would get worse before it got better.
I sat up in bed and listened to the subtle sounds of the nighttime. Everyone was asleep. I didn't want to say good-bye, and I didn't think I was able to. I felt like I was moving as fast as a turtle and as clumsily as an ox, but no one heard me leave the house. The quarter moon barely gave enough light to see, but I knew the terrain well enough to find my way. Eventually I located the small stream on which the village relied, now only a trickle because of the drought. I had planned to follow it to the next village, but when I reached its edge, I collapsed in fatigue. I felt like I'd walked a hundred miles. I couldn't move. I began to weep. I knew I needed to keep moving; at any moment, I could be attacked by wild animals or muggers. However, I forgot how to walk. I knew I'd done it plenty before, but I couldn't make my muscles contract. I cried over my invalidity and my foolishness.
I knew I'd die from exposure if nothing else, but I eventually realized I didn't mind that end. Perhaps nature would finally accomplish what I hadn't been able. This gave me a sense of comfort. For the first time in days, I slept. I thought I would never have to wake up again.
Unfortunately, I did awaken, and I felt worse than ever. Pure terror was my only real sensation. I vaguely realized it was early morning. I clenched my body into a painful fetal position in an involuntary effort to shield myself from the world. I'd run out of tears, but I continued to convulse in painful breaths. "God, please let me die," was all I could think.
Then I heard voices. It sounded like Jesus and his brother James. They were arguing about something—about me?
"He wouldn't leave like that. Something's wrong. I feel it," said Jesus.
"You'd better be right. Last time you 'felt' something we got lost for three days!" James replied.
"That was years ago; get over it already…hey, there he is!"
I sensed them hurrying closer. I wanted to tell them to go away, to let me die, but my tongue was a useless bag of sand in my mouth.
"Judas! What's wrong? What happened to you?" asked Jesus when he'd reached me. When I didn't respond or even look at him, he quickly turned to his brother. "We need to get him back to the house. Help me carry him."
They pretty much dragged me back to town. I lost consciousness a couple of times, probably out of dehydration. They placed me on my pallet and forced me to drink some water. Their mother and sister came in and took over so that they could return to work. The gentle women fed me, but I vomited everything back up. I felt guilty for wasting food and ashamed at my lack of self-control. I cried violently as they cleaned me up.
I was frightened of being alone. I moaned when no one was in sight, so at least one of them stayed with me, holding my hand and attempting to comfort me all day.
That evening after work, Jesus took over. I was feeling slightly better. I could talk, and it seemed ridiculous that I hadn't been able to only a few hours before. He asked me what had happened. I decided to tell him what I really thought.
"I'm possessed by a demon," I revealed, my eyes on the ground, "It usually sleeps without bothering me, but if it wakes up, it takes over. I feel it clawing my brain even now."
"When did it start?"
I sighed wearily. "I think when I was still in Jerusalem. I guess I was around twenty or so. I don't remember too well." I drew my knees to my chest.
"You said it was just resting now?"
"Yes. I don't know when it'll wake up again." I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion and could no longer speak without crying. Jesus comforted me and put me to bed. He slept on the pallet next to me in case I needed him during the night.
I must have fallen asleep, for I woke up later to the sound of erratic movements beside me. I looked over to see an unconscious Jesus having convulsions. Alarmed, I got up as quickly as I could, which was about as swiftly as a sloth, and I called for his mother. I grabbed him to me in a feeble attempt to keep him from hurting himself. His mother came in and helped me hold him down. After a few horribly long minutes, the seizure slowly stopped. He slept quietly as if nothing had happened.
"What's wrong with him?" I whispered to his mother, visibly shaking from the experience.
"We don't know," she replied sleepily, "He's been having them since he was twelve. We've tried everything, even Roman medicine, but nothing's worked."
I watched him breathe steadily in the pale starlight as she went to calm the others.
The next morning, his mother wanted him to stay home and rest. He spent his time with me, though I was bad company. I was completely trapped in myself. The night before was only a faint memory. It felt like molten lead had been poured into my body. Even my fingers and toes were too heavy to lift. I was tortured by the past, by every lost opportunity, by every happy moment that was no more. I cried until my face was chapped from the tears. All the while, Jesus held my hand and spoke softly about his beliefs, about the beauty he saw in everyday life. He was describing colors to the blind, but his presence and voice comforted me.
The following morning was the worst yet. I was in a delirium from a fever I had acquired from my evening by the stream. I lay helplessly, jerking randomly from mental and physical agony. I screamed my tears out and fought those who tried to care for me, mistaking their kindness for contempt. Strange delusions flew before my face. I saw my father. When I tried to embrace him, he turned into a rotting corpse that clung to my body. I saw the back of my mother, but when she turned around, all I saw was a skull with worms writhing in the black orifices. I was slowly dying from the terror. In my bewildered mind, I heard Jesus talking to his mother.
"I don't really control it, you know. I can only do it if God wants me to and if the person believes. I'm not sure in either case."
"Do you see how much that poor man is suffering?"
"Of course I do. But what if I fail?"
"You have to try. Please, just try."
I heard him enter the room. He knelt beside me and placed his hand on my forehead. His touch was gentle and tentative, but I was as frightened by it as I was of everything else. I didn't know what he was doing, and I tried to twist away, but he kept his hand firm. It sounded like he was praying.
I'm not sure how long he stayed there; time is strange in that state of mind. However, slowly but surely, I felt my thoughts calm. My terror and fever left me. I could still feel the demon, but it was sleeping now. I looked up at Jesus with a healthy mind and body. He smiled down on me.
"How did you do that?" I asked as I lifted myself up, trembling from the sudden return to sanity and reality.
"I didn't. God did."
"You both should have done it sooner," I retorted.
Jesus laughed good-naturedly. "I've only helped physical ailments before; I wasn't sure I could do anything for you. Besides, sometimes I got the feeling that you didn't believe in God anyway. I can only help those who believe."
I had thought that I no longer had faith in God, that I was free of His influence and doctrine. I usually hated being wrong, but in this case, I was thankful.
"I guess I'll let it slide this time." I smirked, unable to feign anger any longer. "Thank you." I hugged him.
In my gratitude, I also kissed him on the cheek. I meant it as a friendly gesture, but the kiss lasted longer than it should have. I pulled back embarrassed. Jesus was blushing a little. There was an uncomfortable silence between us.
"I suppose you're hungry?" he asked at last.
"A little," I admitted.
We went to dinner. When the rest of the family saw me, they embraced and made over me like I was the prodigal son.
Life returned to a form of normalcy. The drought soon ended, and Jesus didn't have another seizure. At times, the darkness threatened me again, but not like before. Jesus hadn't cured me of it completely, but he had taken away a lot of its power. We became closer friends. You could never see one without seeing the other. He was the optimist; I was the cynic. We balanced each other even as we provoked each other.
A few months later, the time came to say Kaddish for my father. I tried to keep it a secret, to act as if nothing was special about that day. I snuck out late that night and said the words into the wind. This year was especially difficult; he had been dead for exactly ten years. I thought about how my memories of him were fading, dying a little everyday. I could barely even remember his face now.
The next day, I could feel the demon stirring, but I suppressed it as much as I could. Before long, all my effort was in vain.
I became obsessed with the thought that everything I knew and loved would become lost to the sands of time. Reality itself was slipping away into oblivion, and I could do nothing about it. And what did it all matter? What was the point? My father had suffered and struggled his entire life just to be murdered in cold blood. My mother had died in agony while trying to give painful existence to me. Why? I wasn't worth it. Life wasn't worth it.
Jesus could see I was having a hard time. He stayed beside me when I started to pull away socially. When alone, I'd sing myself the comforting songs I'd learned years ago as a child, the vibrations of my vocal chords momentarily warming my chilled heart. But I could feel my thoughts becoming darker and darker.
One night, as I tried to sleep, the Idea again entered my mind with a horrid clarity. I couldn't take this life. I knew I'd relapse into madness again and again until my death, suffering all the while in between episodes. Why was I suffering through life only to wait for Death to find me? I was going to find Him first.
I quietly gathered some rope and headed for the forest on the outskirts of town. I didn't want my swinging corpse to be in full view of the village.
I finally found a tree that worked for my purposes. I had seen men hanged. I knew I needed to fall from a high enough position so that the rope would quickly snap my neck instead of slowly suffocating me. I spotted a branch that would do the job. I made the knot I'd made so many times before.
I had just started climbing the tree when a voice rang out, "Stop!"
"Who's there?!" I shouted, my heart pounding in my chest.
A shadow moved as the familiar voice replied, "Jesus."
"Jesus," I repeated to myself with a sigh of annoyance. He must have seen me take the rope. I was angry that he'd followed me. "Go away. This is none of your business."
"Why are you doing this?" he asked as he edged closer to me.
"I…I feel the demon waking again."
"I can help you, remember?"
I smiled bitterly at his self-assurance and shook my head. "No, you can't. It sleeps for a little while, but it always wakes up. Why should I or anyone else have to suffer through it again? It's not worth it. In the end all this pain doesn't even count."
"I think it does."
"I wish I agreed with you." Tears burned in my eyes. "Please, go away. Try to understand: I have to do this before it's too late." I began to climb the tree again, foolishly hoping he'd leave me alone.
He tackled me from behind, and we crashed together to the ground. I was surprised by his strength. I shoved him away and stood up, but he kicked my feet out from under me. I slammed down on my back. He grinned at me. I lost my temper and attacked him. I hated him for trying to stop me, for caring for me. Why didn't he just leave me alone?!
"You're not thinking clearly, Judas!" he exclaimed as we fought.
"What do you know?! You're just as crazy as I am!" I pushed him violently and staggered to my feet again. He promptly followed suit, looking at me as if I'd lost all reason.
"What are you talking about?"
"I know you have seizures!" I spat.
That surprised him. He relaxed his guard and I used the opportunity to give his jaw a strong right hook. He reeled from me, clutching his cheek. I immediately regretted what I'd done.
"Are you okay?" I asked as I tried to see what the damage was.
His response was a punch to my gut that knocked the wind out of me and made me crumple to the earth. As I tried to catch my breath, Jesus forced me onto my stomach, sat on my back, and pinned my arms behind me. Strangely enough, I'd always thought I could take him in a fight. I struggled frantically, but I could not upheave him. Our haggard breathing permeated the quiet of the woods.
"Give up?" he asked like a triumphant child.
"Get off me!" I gasped.
"No, not until you tell me how you know about the fits."
"Fine! I saw you writhing on the floor one night and did the math," I snarled.
He was silent for a moment, as if in thought. I was still desperately resisting his tight hold, but to no avail.
Suddenly, he leaned down next to my ear and whispered, "Calm down, Judas."
Without my consent, my body immediately began to relax, even as my mind still yearned for battle. I realized how tired I was, and I finally let myself go limp with exhaustion.
"Give up?" he repeated.
I rested my cheek in the cool dirt and sighed in defeat. "I gave up a long time ago."
He released his hold on my arms. "Don't say that."
With effort, I managed to sit up, keeping my eyes lowered as I wiped the sweat and soil from my face. At any moment, I expected a torrent of gloating and jokes. What was he waiting for? I gathered what was left of my dignity and looked at him. I was instantly enraptured by his eyes: they were like flames of silver, blazing with compassion and concern. My anger and suicidal intentions were forgotten.
He smiled encouragingly and squeezed my shoulder as a father would. "We can get you through this. Don't lose hope."
He said these usually meaningless words with such certainty and conviction that I actually believed him. Here was a man five years my junior, but he suddenly seemed older than me, wiser than me…
Was he even real? He looked otherworldly in the eerie moonlight. Maybe I was imagining all this, and I was really passed out in the desert dying of thirst and heat exposure. I had to make sure he was genuine. I caressed his face, relieved to feel solid flesh. He smiled at me. He still didn't seem real enough, though. Perhaps I had finally gone utterly insane and he was my first hallucination. I needed to touch him more completely somehow.
Without thinking, I tried to kiss him. He jerked away before our lips connected.
"What are you doing?" he asked, the shock tangible on his face.
I froze as the truth of what I'd attempted dawned on me. "I'm sorry," I replied. It was all I could think of to say.
He sat there silent and unmoving. My heart began to sting with regret. How could I have done something so stupid? He knew how I felt about him now. Our friendship was ruined. I turned my head away and tried to stop my eyes from watering.
I began to get up. I had to get away from him and his rejection, from my humiliation. He put his hand on my arm to stop me.
"No, no, stay," he said kindly as I sat back down, "You've done nothing wrong. You were only expressing your love for me."
He hugged me warmly. I was grateful to still be in his arms, even if just as a friend.
He suddenly squeezed me harder and added, "Promise you'll never leave me?"
"I promise," I said, smiling at his childlike request.
We ended our embrace and looked at each other. Without a moment's hesitation, he suddenly leaned in and kissed me. Impulse quickly took over my initial astonishment; our kiss deepened and intensified.
I never realized how deadened I'd been before that moment. Familiar and alien feelings coursed through me, electrifying and overwhelming my senses. This was more than just lust or simple affection. This was…
He started kissing me on the neck and shoulder. The exhilaration I felt from his touch brought on the reality of the situation. This was… This was insanity, I realized. This would never work out. What was I doing?
I pulled away from his gentle lips and looked away. "We need to go back before the others realize we're gone." Before he could express his obvious confusion, I jumped up and began to walk back to town. I heard him following me.
"Did I miss something?"
I ignored him and avoided his eyes. I knew if I looked at him, I'd have to kiss him again. He ran ahead of me and blocked my path. He tried to take my hand, but I evaded him.
"What happened? What's wrong?" he asked. I could hear the hurt tone in his voice.
My hands were trembling. I hid them in my pockets. "I'm sorry I misled you, but I can't do this."
"Why? Please, just explain why…What are you so afraid of?"
Involuntarily I raised my gaze. Our eyes locked together. I immediately broke out in a cold sweat and began to shiver.
He suddenly placed his hand over my heart. I grabbed his wrist.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I want to know what you're really feeling," he answered.
"Well, stop it," I demanded threateningly, but I didn't pull his hand off or try to back away. We just stared at each other, completely still and silent.
Could he see how much I wanted to touch him, how much I wanted to be touched? Could he see the aching chasm in my heart? Did he know that I had never been with someone I actually cared for? That I had only experienced the kind of intimacy surrounded by shadows and enveloped in the stench of alcohol?
An intense warmth rose up my spine to my skull and spread across my body. My heart pounded harder, my breathing became increasingly shallow. My eyes filled with tears. I let them fall.
He hugged me.
"Come on, let's rest over here for a minute," he said. I nodded in compliance.
We sat down under an olive tree. I placed my head in his lap and let my tears water the earth and dampen his clothing. He petted my hair and whispered sweet words of comfort. For the first time in my life, I felt safe.
Courage slowly seeped back into me. I stroked his inner thigh. My hand began to wander up his leg.
"Are you sure you're okay with this, Judas?" he asked.
I sat up, smiled, and nodded.
My skin tingled as he undressed me.
The world dissolved away into nothingness.
When I awoke the next morning, he was sleeping peacefully beside me. I got dressed, never letting my gaze leave him. I lay back down next to him, studied his peaceful face, and thought, "How is it possible to love someone so completely? I love every curl on his head, every blemish on his body."
His eyes opened groggily. We smiled at each other in the warm glow of the dawn.
We were together for two years in Nazareth. Those were the best years of my life. We both still had our own "episodes," but together we got through them. He was my purpose, my inspiration to keep going.
Of course, I was often worried about getting caught. I knew very well that others wouldn't understand our love. But Jesus would dispel my fears with a reassuring look and a lopsided grin. It seemed that nothing bad could happen if we were in each other's arms.
I think we both wished nothing would ever change, but naturally, things did.
His seizures began to increase in number and severity. He became more serious, more reserved. He soon revealed to me that he was being called to preach.
"What, do you have something to preach about?" I laughed.
He was very grave. "I don't know. God will speak through me."
The smile faded away from my face. "You're serious about this, then?"
Silence passed between us. I saw the worry in his eyes; I saw the anxiety he was trying to hide even from himself. He needed my support; I didn't want to share him with the rest of the world. But I knew it was pointless to resist. God would keep torturing Jesus until he did what He asked. I also knew that maybe there was a higher reason, something I couldn't understand. I sighed.
"Consider me your first apostle." I said simply. He smiled grimly, and we embraced in our new fellowship.
Now, almost three years later as I looked at the followers of Jesus laughing and chatting around the fire, I could hardly believe how much his words had spread.
Gathering followers was easy. The dregs of society found a home in our little group. I had asked Jesus to be more selective, but he welcomed anyone who needed us. I had to admire his goodwill, if not his common sense.
As time passed and as his popularity increased, Jesus and I drifted apart a little. Oftentimes I didn't see him for days or even weeks. I missed him, but he never seemed to miss me as much. I honestly don't think he had time to miss me. His absence made me realize how attached I had become to him, how dependent I had become on him. Sometimes I hated him for making me so weak.
But at this moment, I felt as I did when we were together in Nazareth. I sat next to him in the warmth and glow of the fire. He made me laugh and softly rubbed my hand with the back of his when the others weren't looking.
Later that night, as we lay together in the soft radiance of the waning moon, I felt like I could finally talk to him about our relationship. I revealed my concerns and angst as nonchalantly as I could. As always, he listened patiently and attentively. When I finished, he playfully nuzzled my neck.
"Judas, I love you more than even you can comprehend. No matter how far apart we may be physically, we'll always be together spiritually, emotionally. Everything will work out for us. You'll see."
I believed him. I wanted to believe him. I let myself be washed over with his certain simplicity and slept peacefully in his arms.
That was the last time I was ever happy.