Friday, May 29, 2015

If only I had died instead of you!

Meanwhile, the second runner arrives, a dark skinned young men with an Egyptian accent. 
“My lord the king,” the Cushite calls out, “hear me, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”
To his surprise, and mine as well, I care nothing about how the battle developed, and how victory was achieved. Instead, all I want to know is one thing, and one thing only. “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
The Cushite raises his hand, and with a cruel glint in his eye and a slicing gesture across his throat, he starts laughing. Perhaps he hopes  to sweep me into his bloodthirsty joy. 
I cover my eyes so as not to see him, but I cannot stop myself from hearing his voice, saying, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”
At that, I am badly shaken. 
I go up to the room over the gateway and close the door behind me, and clap a hand over my mouth, clap it tightly to stop myself from uttering these gruff sounds, these sobs. 
This is not the first time I find myself in the presence of death. I mourned for friends and for enemies, and managed to shape my feelings into the most eloquent eulogies, articulating the meaning of grief for large audiences. I knew they needed to wash themselves of sorrow, by devoting a moment to remember the departed, and vow to keep him in their thoughts forever, before allowing him to be forgotten. 
I used to enjoy expressing myself, even in sadness. Yet now, the only cries that come bursting out of me are so violent, so forceful, that they are nearly devoid of language. 
“Oh my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!”
I thrust my crown across the floor till it clangs, clangs, clangs. And to that sound I collapse into the corner, and press my lips like a lover  against the stone wall, letting its coldness seep into me.
“If only I had died instead of you! Oh Absalom, my son, my son!”

I have no idea how much time has passed since I closed myself in this place. From time to time the door starts screeching on its hinges, as someone comes in. He brings in food, which I know because the plate rattles against the surface of the floor, before his footfalls fade away. Whoever he is I grant him nothing, not even as much as a glance, and I leave the food untouched.
Yet even as I want to be left alone, I find myself dreading my loneliness.

My heart pounds, my strength fails me. 
Even the light has gone from my eyes. 
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds. 
My neighbors stay far away.

My novel is greatly inspired by art of all ages, and here you can see two of the art pieces that depict the moment of Absalom's death, in two very different perspectives. The first piece, a beautiful etching by the French artist Gustave Doré, the moment is depicted with a great, dramatic thrust. You can see only a silhouette of the victim, hanging by his hair from the tree, still alive, still twitching, until the attackers (in the foreground) will arrive to pierce his heart. 

The second piece, done in green silk with foil-wrapped threads, is deceptively, eerily quiet, with a beautiful landscape encompassing it all. The victim is in the center, the attacker at the right, but the real drama happens in the heart of the king, who is waiting at the very top for news, to hear if his son is still alive.

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