He bounced up and down the room. The cell, actually. We’d both been in worse places, but not many. He’d had another of his attacks the day before, something he now just seemed to accept. That he could not be healed had perhaps been a worse difficulty and sorrow than any of the beatings, or the imprisonings, or the delay in the Lord’s coming. He had gone over and over that one, spinning out words, understandings, theories. I did not know how satisfied he was with his current understanding.
He was now on a straight path to death. I think he knew that. Of course, Roman policy was not as fixed at that time as it is now but, well, he was no fool.
And he bounced up that cell – his arms outstretched, crying out ‘Rejoice, again I say, Rejoice!’ My stylus dug into the wax, and eventually he paused for me to catch up. He perched on the bed end, beaming. His mind was already in another loop.
‘They are wonderful people – those two women, especially,’ another beam, ‘though the men will keep trying to undermine them,’ deep frown, ‘and that is something to watch,’ deep sigh, ‘I do have to keep on prodding and pushing so.’ He fell silent. ‘I don’t seem fully able to get my joy across.’
I waited, sucking the flat end of the stylus.
‘Why is that?’ he pondered, ‘Why don’t they yearn to give, to serve, why do they still worry? I worry over them, of course, but nothing else.’ I knew his thoughts had again turned to the Lord Christ because his plain sweaty face under the domed bald head was suddenly illuminated by joy and safety. Safety like – the child who being afraid, runs to her mother and then peeps out from the sheltering skirts, safety breeding mischief. Like the lights set at a harbour entrance, flickering yet constant. Like a lamp set in a small dark window opening to welcome home the wandering beloved.
‘They are getting better’ a little forced, I thought, ‘One day the world will say “How the Christians love one another” – if only they give up arguing so.’ Easier for us all if they give up arguing with you, I thought.
Then suddenly another indrawn breath. I was startled. I caught his eye, saw laughter growing.
‘And the end of your stylus. I worry over that. One more tooth mark and it will never smooth out the wax properly.’