When you start your career as a prostitute what expectations do you have? Notoriety, an unsteady income, losing your looks, some one to say they will look after you and then take your money, times of disease and addiction coupled with physical and mental abuse? What kind of world did you really want to live in and how and when did things go so badly wrong for you? A prostitute may be reviled and despised by most respectable people but yet fulfils a vital function and always whatever you think probably always will. It has been said that having sex with a prostitute is like holding a cats front paws and dancing with it. It just doesn’t look right and the cat isn’t enjoying it no matter how much you kid yourself it is. Mary, where did you go wrong, what did he say to you and why has your voice not been heard properly? There is a place for everybody in the cruel world that we have now built and not quite given back to God.
Mary, do you perhaps hope that some day the Son of God will pick you up, save you at some street corner and have a conversation with you, take you by the hand, maybe in the market place or into some friendly household?
All kinds of abuse happened in Biblical times, most is not noted or catalogued and as there is nothing new under the sun: you can be sure it was all as horrible and insidious as it is today. Abuse breeds abuse, lack of self-esteem and shame rot the inner person and peel away the personality until a sad ghost is all that’s left and a need to kick back. Sexual abuse is just plain awful. Mary was abused, Mary had seen and done it all, been to the brink and back and was numb again. When she first saw Jesus she saw just another John, a client. A power broker working amongst the destitute of the city, he would use her, toss some coins her way and then move on to his next engagement or visit, that was the pattern. It had happened many times with priests, centurions and the raggle taggle travellers and traders that passed through the city. So who touched who first? Who said the first words? Where did the pulsing charge first slip from that then exploded their relationship and forged this misunderstood team? As the stones dropped from their clenched fists she followed him to another destruction.
Mary never really loved until now, Jesus loved too easily. A pile of guilt met a mountain of desperation and a black hole of need enveloped them. Crazy people do normal things sometimes and then want to do them some more and in front of a big crowd.
Mary is unhappy; she sits beside him at supper dipping bread in cheap wine and handling cups and baskets of bread. She is restless, she finds it hard to concentrate, she finds it hard to think. She wants to leap over that huge wall of panic and fear that stands between her and all her tomorrows. She wants to give herself to him and feel his body envelope her. She sulks thinking of how she knows only his touch in all the wrong places and his forlorn and puzzled, glazed look of rejection. She wants words, words for her, addressed to her, his attention on her, not shared with these disciple dolts that don’t know how to conduct themselves around a meal table. They bicker and squabble and get in the way with their petty intrigues and debates about ways and means and methods. He just tells them stories and throws more challenges and conflicts at them and they bite every time. But she just wants him now, to herself, his voice, and his choice, to be with her. Let the edges of the room and the world melt away.
Tonight she will sleep alone in some cold corner and in the morning the great and good will resume their dutiful spitting, pointing and scoffing.
For now she can lean into his whisper, try to make a joke, try to hold his gaze for a few seconds before he sweeps it away, that will almost do. Try to touch that electricity that she knows he senses but pulls away to defiantly deny. Being the only woman in a room of men she sits cross legged under scrutiny and feels the other’s disapproval and unsaid questions as her single presence lowers the tone for them. They cannot be free while she hovers in the company of the doves and hawks that circle still. At any time a mob of the intelligentsia, enlightened and fervent scroll readers may return to cast the only stones they know to silence these heretics.
Mary stands out in the rain. She looks up into the clouds that pour on the soil and transform it to running black mud. There is no ray or shaft of light to split this weeping sky as the thunderstorms spill across the land.
The rain stops, days pass, graves roll themselves open and crack their bones to make the prophets sit up and look, dead men may walk someday as Mary guards more wishful thoughts. Gardeners turn their backs like strangers and mourners pull away from faces cracked by guilt and grief. Jews and Gypsies argue about blame and restitution and then allow the wine to help them forget. Romans have better things to do and march and govern and exploit with a benign tyranny that poisons men but writes down their history.
Mary walks by a river, he is dead and those disciples are scattered, life is worse than ever and she knows in her heart she will return to her old ways. Trees hang over the water and shade her from the day’s heat, though no sweet tree or timber scaffold can shelter her now from the bigger hot pain of spending eternity so vaguely documented and misunderstood. She clutches her shawl tight to her breast and throws an end of it over her shoulder and then holding herself tightly scuttles away back towards the city and into a mess of obscurity that will be pondered over, written of and tantalisingly fantasised about in fiction as long as Bibles are black. Too few images will now sum up too complex a life for any real belief to ever follow.
There is no seed and bloodline; there is no leadership team and great male/female mission, no frustrated passion and final mystic consummation. No long trek to the Himalayas or the dry Sierra Nevada of Spain. No boats ashore in the Mediterranean, stumbling onto the rocks looking for refuge and shelter. They will not criss cross Europe in secret and shine bright from within, fuelled by their hidden knowledge; nothing will be founded by them. Only more of a myth and fairytale that catches fire and burns like a candle held below a map, destroying the route and instructions even as it lights them. The end when it finally comes is very ordinary and lacklustre and frustrates historians, theologians and pilgrims alike. The footsteps cannot be followed, as they were never dug deep enough to leave a mark of any kind, even on the softest of sand.
The trajectory of a calculated stone thrown at a distance, curved skyward and falling in a hit or miss, random course that bright eagle eyes could somehow mistake. The rocks that crush a sinner, that pulverise the adulteress, their weight and bulk and frenzied anger are a far more blunt but effective instrument. The crowd calls any name it likes, congratulates itself and feels safe now that the wicked one is gone. A job well done.
In her vigorous anonymity a young woman was stoned to death outside the city wall the other day, but it really should have been some one else. A case of mistaken identity or a curse working its way through some fractured family history? The people didn’t know or care, one stranger is much the same as another, and life is cheap around her, as any Roman citizen will tell you. Execution in whatever form it takes is our main global sport and pastime. So if we get it wrong or if we make a mistake now and then well, that’s just part of the game. Nothing in this universe is perfect.