Beautiful Hands

Mark Bair

In the twilight, I wondered, is that him? It can’t be. When he came near the fire, I knew. He approached me and held out his hands. His skin had topography. The terrain of his right palm had the appearance of a circular clouded crimson lake surrounded by uplifted jagged ridges. Like a textured tattoo, the outer rim was black and blue. The center of the palm was like a peach pithard, red, and pockmarked. The other palm was similar, the circle being less centered, encroaching on, and distorting the shape of his thumb. In low light, the marks looked like eyes that had been struck by the blow of a fist. I was queasy at the sight.

I slowly caressed the hands, hearing the sound of friction like a sharpening stone. I have known these hands for years, working hands that conveyed affection. So often these hands, nicked and sliced by the labor of his craft, would pull me in, sending life into me. When he first extended his hand to me, he seemed to see into me.

He lifted his cloak to reveal his side, just below his ribs, revealing a vertical gouge, tilting slightly left. The same hues as the palms, it had the shape of a shorn twig the breadth of a finger, running five or so inches.

I relived the horror of his brutal execution. The blood, shock, rage, and shame. The large spikes and the spear. I wondered why, since he rebuilt Malchus’s ear, he didn’t smooth his own punctures?

I demanded to see these hands eight days ago when my brothers told me they had seen him alive, but I never thought I would. Over those three years, he attached his very heart to mine. These hands washed my worn and weary feet. They broke bread the night before his body was broken. When they slaughtered him, I could not bear the tearing away. I disbelieved because I loved him! I shoved hope out of my realm. I could not be thrown to the ground again.

Before, I had a fragile belief in his words, reinforced by displays of his strength to heal.  Now I have breathed the air of his weakness, touched the Life that died. His darkness and marring have shone the light of his glory into the night of my free-fall soul. He lost his precious skin to take away my ugliness. His naked humiliation clothed me.