by Jose Marte Abueg
And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near …’”
– Matthew 26:18
When Grandmother said, I cannot hear the twilight anymore, Father thought to move her to the large upper room.
Wide walls, two small windows, a wooden post at the center; Father sometimes slept in that room, in a narrow bed, by a stone corner for a fire, seldom used; in the expanse of space, Aaron once circled like a butterfly that had flown in, fluttering, I seated on the floor, wanting to do the same.
Grandmother slept by the door of the pantry. Liked listening to the grains in the bins, the lentils in the bowls, the water in pitchers and wine in jars, she said.
We should listen to soundless things, she often said. The last time, we were at the patio, I by the doorway watching Aaron chasing pigeons under the sycamore, branches leaning, crown spread wide. There are not enough sounds for all the mysteries, she said.
A gift your grandmother has, Father tried to explain to Aaron and me.
Much affection; much sand and dust on his feet and sandals.
Tried to catch a pigeon once, I couldn’t; we cheered, laughed loud, when Aaron caught a fish, the sky bright over Galilee. Boys’ hearts that listen are heir to heaven, Grandmother said to the two of us.
Things look very different up here, Aaron said, perched on a branch of the sycamore, I seated on a big root, the three of us looking skyward. It’s what birds see, Grandmother said, it’s what angels see. Look there, she pointed to connecting clouds, clouds are like secrets before secrets are known. When it rains, there are rivers and wells everywhere.
When Grandmother said she could hear a lamb coming from the field, Father said it was better for her to rest.
Long airless night, hollow in the belly, too empty the house, Aaron climbing the post in the large upper room, was told to be careful, I by the door, hearing two servants outside whisper to themselves the time was come.
At close to midnight, mute the large room, the two small windows, the door, the stairs; down in the pantry, mute the wheat, barley, millet and raisins, mute the jars, mute the water; out in the patio, soundless the sycamore.
Aaron went. Aaron. Suddenly Aaron went.
I hollow. Hollow the head.
Blank. No breath. No air.
The house, the rooms, the patio, all empty, all nothing.
Childhood became an absent window. Birds departed the sycamore. Leaves died.
In the lake the fish went absent, boats arrived bare. The shore lay like a place without memory.
Understanding came slow.
Sometimes people have to be like houses, Father said, as though hoping to explain his days. We need walls, our windows we sometimes have to keep shut.
Those are fine branches, he said on another night, out in the patio.
The coming and going of time, that’s outside our making. Sometimes some of us are able to flow better than others. Some of us are fortunate, a few are blessed.
The farewell I understood much, much later.
The house will be sold, I told the servants. We will live away from here.
Mostly sounds of strangers now in the old house, itinerants, transients; I visiting again for another Passover; the pantry a seldom used space, the large upper room a supper room for journeymen who have no one in Jerusalem.
All quite lifeless to me, save for the sycamore, with its kind shade.
His disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late.”
– Mark 6:35
The girl was dead. One of the servants’ sons, normally reticent, came running from the synagogue. They said the little girl was dead, but the teacher, from Nazareth, told them she was not dead but asleep. They laughed and he had them sent out.
And then he told the girl to get up, and she did, she began walking. He said to give her food. He told them to tell no one.
Alone on foot for many days, to Bethany, to Jericho, to Galilee, to Judea; and then on hillsides, at edges of water with the multitudes; I listened, heard words that could heal even the dead. “Blessed are those who mourn.”
Thursday during the Passover, visiting in Jerusalem; renting the supper room in the old house; starting to get dark outside; the water jar brought in.
Two men carrying nothing, in a voice that seemed from behind or beyond them, to me: “The Teacher says, ‘My time is near; I am to keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”
In quiet space, like a vivid dream; Grandmother, Father behind her, Aaron high among leaves of the sycamore; I bowing, bowing deep, wanting to speak, to say hail, to find a prayer to say; the silence pure, the sound of faith, like rain filling everything; our house resurrecting.
Jonah, son, can you hear my voice? I can no longer hear the twilight.
Mother, I will ask to have you moved to the big room upstairs so nothing will disturb you.
But there is a lamb, somewhere coming from the field.
It is getting late, Mother. Better that you rest.
Smell of smoke
Flat on the plate
A piece of bread
Small, plain, ordinary
The room is silent, they are eating, Jonah. A long table, a fire at the rear, a man with his friends, a frugal supper, some wine and bread dipped in herbed oil.
Mother, it is only the boys. Aaron, be careful.
The room, the table, the wood in the fire, the walls, they all breathe.
It is the window curtains being drawn, Mother.
A solitary voice, real, human, divine; Jonah, listen.
Take, eat; this is my body.
I should rest now. Where is Abigail? I do not see her.
Abigail went a long time ago, Mother.
But she has not left you and the children, Jonah. I often hear her around the house.
Mother, when you do, Mother, tell her the sycamore in the patio, I planted it for her.
A gift your grandmother has, boys, a true blessing.
Come and say goodnight now. Aaron, take your brother downstairs. Tell the servants to light the lamps.
When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
– Matthew 26:30