The Naked Man pt. 2

????????Mark stared at the little boy, at a loss for words. The boy stared back, a grin spreading across his face. The other children began to giggle. Mark turned to the woman in the chair and said, “Mama?” The look of confusion on her son’s face brought a brief burst of laughter from her lips, and she beckoned him to kneel beside her again. As he did, she addressed the children, “Go back to your game my dears. Your great-uncle and I have much to talk about.” As the children resumed their game, she turned to her son, “Oh, but it’s good to see you Yohanan. I can scarcely believe that you’re here. But you must be hungry! Here, help me up and we’ll go find you something.” Mark gently eased his mother out of her chair, trying to hide his dismay at how little she weighed. Taking his arm, she led him inside the house that held so many memories for him.

Miryam asked a servant to bring them some food, and then go out to watch the children. She slowly let herself down at a low table across from her son. He reclined on one elbow, a cup of wine in hand and a plate piled with lamb wrapped in grape-leaves in front of him, Mark looked out at the children as they chased each other around the courtyard. “They must be Benyamin’s grandchildren,” he said. “Yes,” replied his mother. “A source of much pride for your brother. And a source of much delight for me.” He turned back towards her. “’The naked man?’ Why did the smallest one call me that?” His mother held his gaze for a long moment, and then sighed heavily. “His name is David, and it is one of his favourite stories.” Still confused, Mark responded, “What is? Why am I ‘the naked man’?” His mother sipped from her cup, still holding her son’s gaze across the rim. “Can you really not think why?” Mark’s brow wrinkled in thought, and then a flurry of emotion flashed across his face: anger, fear and, finally, a deep sadness. “Oh,” he said. “Yes,” she replied, his sadness now reflected in her own face. “Oh.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Mark picked apart a lamb wrap and then looked into his mother’s face, finding his sadness shared there, but also a gentle kindness. He shook his head. “Benyamin. It must be Benyamin. He will never let me forget, will he?” “Don’t be too hard on your brother,” she replied. “He has never understood the importance of what happened that night.” She paused. “No, that is not precise. He has never believed the importance of what happened that night. To him, your actions merely brought shame on our family – the oldest son, running through the streets of Jerusalem. Naked. He was just a teenager – and his friends teased him mercilessly. And worse.” “Shame? Shame?! What does he know of shame?” His raised voice caused the children to stop their game once more. Miryam saw this and offered them a reassuring wave. As they resumed playing, she reached across the table to place a delicately veined hand across her son’s. “I know, I know. Oh, Yohanan, you still carry that memory deep inside, don’t you? I see it in your face. But you must know that all is forgiven!” Mark’s shoulders slumped. “Yes. I know that all is forgiven.” A wry, pained smile came to his lips. “But I can’t quite seem to forgive myself.” And as his eyes became distant, his mother knew that he was no longer with her at the table. He was in that garden, more than thirty years earlier…

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