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With Your broken nose and the bruises now beneath Your eyes, You appeared wounded as the walk began. The dried blood in Your nostrils made it hard to breathe and the day, like all the others of that week, was hot and filled with dust.
Despite Your health, Your strength, for You were young and had walked through Galilee, the cross was heavy for You to bear. One thief, who prided himself on his strong muscled body, found his cross heavy too. The other, who had been sick all winter, staggered, before the three of you started the slow climb to the waiting place.
You, with the purple and green bruises, one man with his huge muscles working, one man with the scars from the winter's sickness as he tried to balance his dreadful burden carefully. The three of you moved slowly through the streets while a child's voice selling trinkets was a counterpoint to the oaths and to the breathing.
Your progress was so slow, so labored - perhaps because You knew all that that cross bore, that finally, in exasperation, a guard ordered Simon of Cyrene to carry Your cross for You. Because he could be ordered and because he had to obey, his eyes met Yours in some deep understanding of obedience.
Without Your cross, You walked upright and the phlegm and spittle caught You sometimes on the face. The angry thief cursing, cursing raged and was beaten the whole way. The quiet thief kept silent and few paid attention, except his wife, except his mother, except his sisters.
Then, the three of you and the crowd were there, at the place of crosses. The angry one, with some extraordinary effort, almost flung his down; the quiet one let his cross slide slowly from his shoulders, deep splinters now within the flesh across his shoulder blades. Simon of Cyrene knelt to let Your cross fall to earth with a dulled thud.
You were ordered then, and there was some rough pushing, You were ordered then, to lie upon Your cross. There were enough soldiers so that the three of your were nailed at one time - the sound of hammers and of the moans alternating with the oaths of the angry thief.
Who pulled Your arm into place for the first nail? Or did You reach out for that first spike? Who hammered it through the small bones of Your wrist as the women began their weeping and the crowd began to scoff? Who held Your feet? No stoic with the first pain in the wrists could have held bare feet for that tortured spike. The soldiers forced with their own oaths the angry one's feet together as his wrists already tore at the spikes in his own rage.
They raised the three of you together, moans from each of you as your bodies pulled on the spikes in your wrists; your whole weight hanging from two spikes - the one through your feet holding your bodies in some extra pain so you could breathe in that position and so not die quickly.
The soldiers did not lift the crosses gently, that would have admitted to your pain and then the soldiers would have felt it too. To deny that pain, they lifted each cross roughly, thrust them roughly into the waiting holes while one of you screamed in pain; while one of you bit his lips until they bled; while You tried to turn Your face from Your mother and Your friends so they could not see the pain there in Your eyes.
Then they shoveled the dirt around the bases of three crosses and tamped it down, there in the Friday sunlight.
Blood fell from outstretched arms, blood running through the toes and down the cross into the ground. The quiet one's scars showed more clearly in this sunlight, sweat running down his chest. The angry thief had an erection and the soldiers hooted and made ugly jokes while he cried in rage and pain, his body hair matted now with blood and sweat and dust.
Most of the women wept softly. One fainted and another fanned her in the shade of another's body against the sun.
The angry one died first - or lapsed into the unconsciousness taken for death after they had broken both his legs. When a soldier probed those muscles of the broken legs with his sword, there was no reaction and someone exclaimed "One down!" and there was laughter.
Someone had to hold the arms of his wife who, now that his curses were stilled, screamed her own oaths upon the crowd and then fell, holding his legs as she sobbed, calling his name over and over, his blood smearing her dress, her hair, her face - until her sister-in- law and her husband's brother took her home.
The little sister of the scarred and quiet one just sobbed, with a rhythm that did not vary for the hours that he hung there that Friday afternoon. Under the sound of the dice game, under the sound of the angry one's cursing until his voice had ended in one terrible blasphemy, under the wails, under the gossip of the crowd while You talked with her brother - under all of that the little sister's sobbing was a pulse to it all.
When the women brought the drugged wine, her brother had bent his head for some, forgetting his bitten lip and he had shuddered as the vinegar etched its way into the cuts.
Another sister simple knelt, hitting the ground with her fists, no sound from her at all, but her fists against the earth.
And You were witness to this all.
It seemed to the mother of the quiet one that she had stopped breathing long ago and then, a terrible sigh would escape her lips and she would realize she was alive and she would walk down the hill with her daughters, with her daughter-in-law while her first born, and the first born of that other mother, would be dead.
Finally, her son's head dropped. It was true, she was still alive and walking down a dusty hill in the late afternoon, glancing at bits of cloth and sandal marks - a broken wine cup. It was true, she was still alive. One daughter held her hand and they all tried to console the little one; they all tried to console his wife.
And You were witness to it all.
When You said at last, "It is finished," the marks from the thorns looked like beads from that blood had dried a long time ago. The only blood that moved was from Your side.
Your friend's request had been granted. They were allowed to remove Your grayed and bruised and bloodied body from that cross in the darkness of that afternoon.
It was awkward. They were stained then too and their breathing was tight - as though the slightest move would hurt You more, although they knew that You were dead.
One soldier had stayed to help and as he pulled one wrist from one spike, Your mother turned upon him with anguished eyes and he said, subdued, "But He's dead, Lady."
Your head lolled. With the beads where the thorns had pressed in, with the sweat and grime, with the broken nose, the bruises around Your eyes, she could hardly recognize You, her child, as they let her hold You for some aching moments.
The woman from Magdala seemed to have gone into herself. She might have been winding linen around a stranger's body, hurrying to go home. There was no pain, no horror, not fatigue in her, just a methodical moving of an alloed body into clean linen.
As You were placed inside Your tomb, as the rock was rolled to hold You there, the quiet thief still hung in the dark of that day. One sister, the one who had pounded the soil, sat now with her back against his cross in some kind of vigil.
In the gathering darkness of that night, the angry one's muscles were still outlined against the wood and all who had witnessed that afternoon could still hear the wailing of his wife, if they allowed themselves that memory.
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