I stumble through the alley, trembling as I hold on to the rough, cracked walls for support. Tears that had glistened in my eyes the entire morning now flow freely, clouding my vision.
I reach a crossroad and look around. Where to go now?
I can’t go back to my Uncle. He had been the master mind behind it all. Shock, shame and utter dismay was what I felt when he had broken in that morning, with a few other mean-faced men, and caught me right in my lover’s arms. I had been dragged out forcefully, my veil torn, my hair disheveled. Boos and jeers came from every corner as I was dragged to the temple.
Everyone knew what it meant, adultery was a grievous offence. I had tried to hide my face with the shredded veil but nothing could shield me from the feelings of indignity and humiliation that I felt. Though my eyes were dry, my heart was broken. I stumbled and fell but was roughly pulled up and pushed again.
In the temple, folks were listening to the rabbi who had been sitting there, teaching.
I was pushed through the teeming crowd and fell on my face, dust unsettled around me as I hit the ground. I raised my head slowly and saw feet. Dusty feet. I hoisted myself up and looked into the face of the man before whom I now lay, sprawled. He was the Rabbi. The same one I heard had healed my friend, Ahava’s great aunt who was bent double with age. She had raved on and on about the ‘miracle’. These thoughts raced through my mind as I lay there.
Rough, mean voices had jolted me out of my reverie. Loud accusations and curses aimed at me. I got up shakily and gathered my skirts about me attempting to cover up my shame.
“She was caught in the act, master, and right in the arms of her lover! Adultery is a grave crime, punishable by stoning! What do you say to that?” the sinister smile in the accuser’s voice could not be missed. I cringed at the thought of the judgment that was coming my way. I was sure to be further condemned by this Rabbi who was evidently a holy man.
Minutes passed, I heard nothing. More accusations were made, still nothing. I looked up beneath the shredded veil. The rabbi wasn’t listening, no; his attention was rather on the ground where he was inscribing something in the dust. I strained to see what he was writing, was it my judgement? The Pharisees raved and ranted, ready for blood. I could almost feel my uncle’s hot breath on my neck; he was actively against the Rabbi and had been seeking for a way to indict him. Was this it?
Through the tattered veil, I saw the Rabbi raise his head and look around at the men. His next words drained the energy pulsating from the angry mob.
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” his voice was gentle and kind, unhurried and full of wisdom. I closed my eyes and shook my head, tears pooled in the corners of my eyes. He went back to writing in the dust.
Minutes passed as a hush fell on the blood thirsty mob. I heard a shuffle of feet. The men were probably disappointed at what they heard. Another foot shuffled, followed by another. The steps were moving towards the heavy doors at the entrance of the court. I couldn’t dare believe what it might mean. Were they leaving? I had no strength, no boldness to look around.
After what seemed like an eternity, the rabbi looked up and called to me.
“Woman” I jerked up my head at the sound of his voice. The look in his eyes set my heart on fire. I felt drained and weak. My shame doubled under his intent gaze. I felt naked and bare, scared and confused. I clutched at the mass of shredded fabric at my chest.
“Where are your accusers? Nobody condemned you?” The compassion in his eyes was evident; I could almost feel a rush of water run through me, washing me up, inside and out.
I shook my head as the tears welled in my eyes. “Nobody, Lord.” My voice was shaky and unsure. His next words knocked the breath out of me, releasing me into a feeling of freedom I had never known.
“I do not condemn you either, go and do not sin again!”
I had stumbled out of the temple, wanting to be anywhere but in the presence of this man, whose mere gaze convicted me of my wayward self.
Now I face this crossroad, contemplating my options. Go back to my lover or continue to carry this burden of freedom I suddenly feel. My heart gravitates toward the latter. I can hardly believe the feeling of urgency that I feel now, like I’m here for something in particular. I marvel, tears running down my face. I relive that moment in my heart, when I stood before the master awaiting my conviction. He had handled it all like he knew without a doubt I’d be dragged in that morning. Like he had planned it and it fell in place like a pack of cards. The impact of his love seemed intentional… He must have known.
I turn again and head toward the temple, my feet in a wild hurry to reach the courts. The rabbi may still be teaching. If he did this on purpose, I want to get to the bottom of it. I want to know how I can give this to someone else, this feeling of freedom and hope.
The first person that comes to mind is Ahava, my friend, who had experienced the master’s touch but was still far from identifying with him. She had introduced me to the one I was found with. After such an encounter with the Master, the son of God he said he was, I couldn’t imagine not letting her know. Deliberately, I make my way back….
By Remi-Roy Oyeyemi