It was in his moment of utter confusion that Judas gained an insight most men lack: women never know what they want even though they want it immediately.
Jesus was on his merry way to Golgotha, which was not supposed to be the case. Anna was on her way to Tarsus to meet her Roman soldier lover and Judas was on a tree. With a rope. A strong rope. Again not supposed to be the case. But at least they were parting, though not the way he had planned it. Since forever Judas had been planning to part ways with the Galilean wonder so he could be with the woman of his dreams. However, watching Anna leave hadn’t been in his plans.
Anna of the gorgeous curves and generous lashes. Of the seven sighs who owned a key to that paradise that all men seek to enter. Anna who did not know what she wanted but wanted it immediately.
It was evening. The tree was sleepy. His legs and hands pretended to be sleepy. Why would they not when they were being forced to do something they were unwilling to do? Judas sat on the branch and stared at the dirt path before him. There was nothing to look at, but he looked anyway, to keep his eyes away from his hands and the rope in them. He had already tied one end to the branch he sat on. What remained was to make a noose from the other end and slip his head into it. Then jump.
Perhaps somebody would come along and stop him. Maybe Anna. Maybe she would come with tears in her eyes and rescue him with her wet kisses, her scented body, and many sweet words. Profess her undying love for him and tell him the Roman meant nothing to her.
With a smile on his face, Judas began to make a loop. With God all things are possible. That was the Galilean wonder’s favourite saying. Miracles were real. Judas had seen them with his own eyes. Blind people seeing, lame people walking, the dead rising! All because the man spoke a few words or did a few deeds.
But he knew no miracle was going to bring Anna back to him.
Fat chance of that happening.
She had called him a filthy snake, a betrayer, and she refused the money she had asked for. The money he had betrayed his master to get for her. Was it not what she wanted? And she didn’t even care about the man. She only thought his ‘tricks’ were cute. And then she thought he was kind because his cute ‘tricks’ actually gave blind Bartimeus his sight again. But then she didn’t like him because he made her uncomfortable. Righteous grey eyes and hands. The righteous mouth that was supposed to be kissed but could not be tainted. He made her feel unworthy. Filthy.
She had wanted him to get away from the man. Had wanted him to make lots of money. She had wanted him to ride off with her into the sunset to a place where she could live like a princess. Women.
It was then that the snake bit him. A sting in his thigh, followed by another. He was startled at first, then gripped by intense pain. The sight of the reptile, a short, green thing shook him so much that he shifted on his rump, lost his balance on the branch and fell.
When he hit the ground his pain doubled and his vision blackened.
* * *
Judas dreamt he was with Jesus Christ and the other disciples in the garden of Gethsemane. Peter was beside him as usual, the mouth runner. He was on the left though. On the right was John, a good, meek man.
They were sitting on the ground eating bread and drinking wine when Jesus suddenly said “One of you will betray me”
The wine in Judas’ mouth turned to vinegar and he spat it out. The disciples all turned to look at him. Their looks were baleful and twisted accusations. He wasn’t going to betray the man! Why would he? He got up from the table in anger.
“Come, kiss my cheek you betrayer,” Jesus said.
Judas shook his head no and stood up.
“Go and do what you have to do then,” Jesus said.
Judas turned and walked out of the garden. Outside the garden, he saw a crowd waiting for him. They were screaming “Betrayer!” When he made to run away from them he tripped and fell. He didn’t make any attempt to rise from the ground but lay there weeping until those gentle hands touched him.
He opened his eyes and found himself looking into the loveliest pair of brown eyes he had ever seen. Lucretia.
Her small hands cradled his face “Are you alright?”
She bit her lip and looked away. Judas raised himself to a sitting position and closed his eyes. This was the third day since the snake bit him. He didn’t know how it happened, but Lucretia and her brother Luke had been close when he fell from the tree. The sound of his fall had drawn the harlot and her brother.
But she was no longer selling her body to men; she told him that yesterday. Lucretia was going to Ephesus with her brother, there was work to be had in the house of a man her brother knew there. And she had invited him to come with them. Something he was still contemplating.
“Don’t worry?” Lucretia said, “With time the nightmares will stop”. She bent to kiss his forehead.
He wanted to tell her that they wouldn’t stop. What he did was evil and he would always be punished for it. Why was she pretending he had done nothing?
“There is something you need to know,” She said. “Anna came looking for you”
Surprisingly his heart did not flutter when he heard the news.
“Luke turned her away,” Lucretia said.
“Good,” Judas said ” I do not care to see her”
“Who would you see instead?”
At that moment he didn’t need to search his heart. Gratitude did his searching for him. It scoured every nook and cranny and found only one name in both the lit and darkened parts.
“Lucretia,” He said. “You”
She gave him her trademark toothy grin and bent down to kiss him. Who else did she think he would long for? Was she not the one who had saved him from the brink of death and nursed him back to health? Anna was now dead to him, so dead that he didn’t even think to wonder why she had sought him out and what had become of her and the Roman soldier.
He kissed Lucretia deeply and reached for the hem of her gown. When his hand slipped under the fabric and reached her valley a low moan escaped her throat. She was already wet.
* * *
Luke stood outside the tent watching the sun set in the West. He wondered who told Anna that Judas was with his sister. The woman had come crying, asking for Judas, asking if he was still alive. When he claimed that he didn’t know the man’s whereabouts she said someone had seen him and his sister carrying the man’s unconscious self. It was then that he lied to her and told her that Judas had died. That he was, in fact, dead while they carried him. He had hung himself on the tree from which they brought him down.
The man had the head for books. An artful thief who would prove useful in his future ventures in Ephesus.
Written by Samuel Ifeanyi Gaius