B + S + C = A

"But who could know, if I'm a traitor? Time's a Revelator." - Gillian Welch

I. Betrayal

Jarod asks, but Mathew, he will not share her.

Instead, he lets his friend, his Grief-clad Brother, watch him and his woman together.

Jarod is a pool of stillness in the corner. Sitting, smoking in a green chair. The top three buttons of his blue shirt undone, he is dreaming he wears the woman of his friend, his Joy-clad Brother.

Jarod slips his skin like smoke, so that any, "I love you," can belong to him. He slips his skin, and the long ash leaps from his cigarette to the floor.

Judith she gives it all away. Gives herself away; gives away the creature she actually is: sparking blue light, pulling long into a comet's tail.

To Jarod, watching from the corner, the light he sees in her is the fire of re-entry.

She rises over Mathew like a Phoenix, and falls to ash across the bed.

The wind spills through the window and her ash stirs against them, eddies into their arms. Enters both men like pollen. Mathew and Jarod breathe her in like asbestos. Like the white smell of sheets dried on the line.

Mathew kisses her gently, gathering her face into his hands as if she's made of glass. Then he kisses her hungry like she's held together by honey. In so doing, he revives her, and Judith rises from the bed. Not a feather out of place.

Twice wounded, once stolen, almost resurrected, Jarod rises from the green chair in the corner.

Judith stands by the bed where Mathew sits. The moonlight thrown over her shoulders like a shawl. Jarod draws near and enters into the smell of her:

Wood smoke. Sugared maple drawn from the heart-bound artery of the tree. Green moss of the forest floor. Secret hollows. Places without reason or rules, where you come as you are and they don't turn you away. Places where your credit is always good.

She smells of Absolution.

Jarod sits next to Mathew on the bed. Looks up at his brother's woman and reaches for her.

These unspeakable acts of the heart.

Judith, she is the good medicine. And. She is the spoonful of sugar that helps it go down, that steps back from Jarod's hand.

Judith is the antidote that does not move away when Mathew places the hand of his brother, softly on her waist.

Cowardice is not an innoculation against grief.

But.

As Jarod's hand slides round the back of his brother's woman, as she steps forward into his one-armed embrace, he is certain that she is. Innoculation.

He presses the side of his face to her belly and hunching his shoulders, roots against her like a babe after milk. Judith strokes his neck. Stokes the fire of his frail belief until he is consumed by it. She touches him this way, and this way only, until he is ash that can no longer touch her. Until he is without fingers and skin. Until they are bound together like insects in sap.

The two of them.

The three of them.

Seared together for a lone, amber moment.

The lover, the brother, and the woman.

Staring down at the men.

One she gave herself to. One she was given to.

Looking back up at her.

They drink whiskey in their coffee. They sit barefoot in blankets, saying nothing. They stay this way until morning comes and shears off her wings.

When Judith turns and walks away from the sunlit window, she leaves behind a set of heat born footprints on the hardwood floor.

These are all that's left of one night's Salvation.

And Mathew and Jarod, they watch where she used to be, until her footprints disappear. They listen together to the sound of water lurching into the bath Judith draws herself.

Two men. Two friends, sitting next to one another on a bed. Two brothers now clad in the same woman that they can hear, singing a Sunday morning song as she sinks into the water.

One woman, loving her man the best way she can, by loving his brother. Without asking why.

Just three people, trying to make it through a day made strange and tender, by a love that beat the night.

II. Suffering

I am telling you the story of Judith and God but that does not mean it has nothing to do with you.

God holds Judith while she sleeps. She is Golden against Him.

Judith is a woman lovingly polished by God. But He has put her through the tumbler, He has smeared her beauty with His fingerprints. He has come

into her and spilled out of her and come into her again. And He loves her.

He loves Judith like a man loves a woman lost to him. Loves her like He will never see her again and wants to remember everything. Touches her like she's already gone

but He has her ghost by the ankle and He is trying. He is trying to pull her back. He spills

out of her. He spills out of her in a constellation of regret. Loves into her as if she can stay if only, He fills her enough.

Judith, O - Judith.

"Come unto me in the night."

Judith.

"This heaven will be so lonely without you."

I say,

Ever loved a woman in this way?

I say,

Can The Devil come out and play?

I say,

Any woman who can break the heart of God, is the goose that lays the golden egg.

And it's too bad, really. The way it always goes down for the goose in the end.

God holds Judith to Him. All through her stay of execution.

"Judith. O - Judith, what he'll do. What he'll do to you."

God built woman to survive. He built her to survive things that are easier to die by than live with. So -

when Mathew comes home from the grocery store she is still there - she is still there, but Judith is gone, long gone. And Jarod is crying in the bathroom, his feet braced against the door. As if he can keep what he's done at bay this way.

Judith is torn by him.

Jarod, in the bathroom is plauged by the stolen smell of Judith. She is ground into him. Like clay into the seams of blue jeans. At the seams of his heart, he will never come clean.

Judith wears the smell of Jarod like sackcloth. She is ashes. She lays where Jarod left her, and this is how Mathew finds her.

Judith she cannot fly, cannot carry, cannot see color anymore.

But.

As long as there is still beauty in the world, God is not dead to you. So Judith, has

gone away.

In her mind she is walking the white ruins. She is moving inside the circle. She is gracing the sundial shadow of the stone with her long, white body.

Ever lose a woman to rape?

Jarod has. A wife. A woman erased by a man neither knew. She lives with her mother, now. Up in Bangor, Maine. Because he:

"What were you doing opening the door that late at night to a stranger?"

A perfectly reasonable question, that implies what happened was her fault. You can't apply reason to atrocity, safely. He:

Blamed her.

And some things you don't get to take back. Some things you don't get to make up for. And Jarod made the bed he lies in.

In the time it took Mathew to buy eggs and milk and bacon, Jarod became what he hated.

He became what he hated to understand how it happened and realizes now, with his feet braced against the bathroom door, that he was already what he hated, long before. That he became what he hated when he:

Blamed her.

Because he is the product of biology, Mathew does not go to Judith.

No.

He goes after Jarod instead. He beats down his own bathroom door, while Judith lies where Jarod left her on the bed. He beats down the door and reaches for Jarod. And beats him as if by hitting him hard enough, he can knock them all backwards in time.

These unspeakable things.

In Judith's mind the sun is out and into God's arms, she runs.

"Judith, O - Judith. Some things they just will not let me change. That's how I know they made Me. Judith, O - Judith. Some things even I cannot stand between."

When Jarod fell upon Judith, God hid His face.

Mathew leaves her alone on the bed. He leaves Judith alone so that he can administer the kiss of retribution to ease his own pain and anger.

So he can bark like a dog and talk with his fists because he has no words anymore.

Leaves Judith, running past the white ruins and into the arms of God.

"Judith, O Judith. I didn't mean to make them that way. Judith, O - Judith."

III. Complacency

God failed woman by way of male biology. It's about where He put the firing pin. The fact He left the safety off. It means He did not build safety for women into men.

He just built women to withstand instead; when an ounce of prevention has been worth a pound of cure all along.

Everybody makes mistakes. Even God.

I think that the Old Testament Omnipotent Lord was really just a teenager, thinking He knew every fucking thing. Like any other teenager, thinks they know every fucking thing.

I think that God gets older and wiser. I think He gets more certain by the hour that there is always more to learn. New ways to get it wrong.

And right.

Grows more certain by the hour that it is a good thing He has all of Eternity to get it straight because it's going to take at least that long.

If not longer.

All creatures make mistakes. It's how they learn not to burn themselves.

If you believe that God has nothing left to learn then you must believe Him dead.

To believe that He no longers grows, that He is static as Disney, cryogenically frozen, shelved somewhere safely like grandma's preserves - is to believe Him dead.

Because:

Death by definition is the end of growth. Learn and grow. Grow or die. Learn or die. It applies to God and to you and I: Learn from your mistakes or die by them.

Because no matter what you technically die of, it is the life you failed to lead, that kills you in the end.

Nine times, out of ten.

Judith loves God, like a woman loves a man because God is real to her. To Judith, He is just another man trying hard to get it right for once. And she has been ruined.

Ruined by His Awful Beauty. She has been handled roughly by Him in the night.

He has sold her out to The Devil, His brother from the wrong-side of the tracks.

Two brothers. One she gave herself to, one she was given to.

Betrayal plus Suffering plus Complacency equals Atrocity. And.

Everyone.

Everyone has a part to play. Without the people who allow it to happen, there can be no Atrocity. That is what makes it an atrocity, the fact that it is allowed to happen.

All the human atrocities have been preventable.

People let The Devil through their door because he says he'll wipe his feet.

Because he says, "Feed me nice tonight and tomorrow I'll go to the neighbors."

I say, No. O - no.

Don't you ever let The Devil through your door, lest you be delivered unto Atrocity.

Don't you ever let The Devil in your door. Because I
sleep here

too.

* * * * *

Mathew has bathed her he has changed the sheets he has dressed her in her softest flannel nightgown he has put warm socks on her feet he has tucked the blankets up around her he has brought her tea with honey he has he has he has

Sold her to The Devil. Maybe even given her away as if she were Charity.

But she was never his to spend on others in this way. No.

"Judith O - Judith, what he will do to you."

Mathew edges up onto the bed, unsure if she will spook.

Judith does not spook She has gone away. She just continues to lay on her side, back to him, looking out the window. She has not moved from where she rolled to, when Mathew lay her down on the bed. Hours ago.

Inside she has gone to the ruins.

He folds back the quilt. Gently. He wants to lie next to her. Hopes to hold her and give her some physical comfort if he is able to, if she can accept it.

He folds back the sheet and the smell of blood rises to meet him.

Then, Judith smells it too, and understands more horribly than he, what it means.

For she had not told a soul.

She does not roll over only says,

"I would have been due in January."

Some things. Some things are not meant to be shared.

Sometimes. Some times, even God covers his eyes.

Mathew says,

"God."

And Judith thinks,

'Don't you ever speak His name to me again.'

She rolls over. Gets up on her hands and knees and waits. Until her waiting makes Mathew face her.

She shows him the face of Atrocity.

She wears the equation. And Judith she

screams like a rake against a blackboard. Screams out a rotating blade of sound.

She screams because she hopes the sound will kill Belief in anyone who hears her. She wants there to be No More Belief. Not in this world. Not in this God. So she wails His failure out into the world.

And high, high above her...

Way, way, up - the bottom drops out from under God in Heaven. And all the angels, they are Fallen.

And, Judith. O - Judith.

She is up as if she's leaving.

She's making like she's going to walk out on God.

"O - Judith, this Heaven's so lonely without you."

He is calling after her, like any other man calling after any woman who wants to be lost to him forever.

Mathew delivered Judith to the enemy.

When he beat The Devil down in his brother, he was only caging what he had freed. Retribution is no substitute for protection.

With her cry unto Heaven, Judith is freed of Belief. God releases His hold on her.

Because -

even God knows that a woman can't spin straw into gold forever. Not for any King.

Judith, she has the right to defend herself. So -

She murders God with disbelief.

But

the moon still rises anyway. The night still lands all around she and Mathew, like a curtain coming down. And.

There is nothing anyone can do about it.

When the rain starts, Mathew is sleeping. Judith goes to the window. She looks down into the night. Watches the rain drops break the street lamp's reflection in the water. Watches the way the falling water shatters the light, until the puddles are full of fireflies and sparklers.

Sees the way in which light is broken into star and constellation. Understands something that is easier to die by than survive. Understands that if there is still beauty in the world, then out there, somewhere,

God is still alive.

And she fears it is inside her.

It is easier to die by than live with, but she has to live with it anyway. Alone and in the dark.

She ives with the fact that God won't die Unforgiven.

That she cannot kill Him unless she forgives Him first. And. She cannot forgive Him and wish Him harm at the same time.

"O - Judith, please. Have Mercy on me."

Mathew wakes, feeling guilty to have slept. There are no more clean sheets. And Judith has not touched the nest he made her of sleeping bags and blankets. She is at the window. And he is worn down to nothing by the sight of her.

The unspeakable thing he asked of her. He asked it knowing she could not say "No," to him. He asked it of her when he could have said "No," to Jarod instead.

It is a crime ineligible for apology. There is no restitution he can make. There is not even a word for what he's done, a name for what he's guilty of.

Judith turns from the window. Tallies his expression.

She could have said, "No," to Him. When Mathew asked it of her, she could have said, "No." to Mathew.

She could say, "No," to him now. She could even, never ever, say, "yes," to him again.

But Judith, who could do any of these things, shows Mercy instead.

"O - Judith, please. Have Mercy on me. For I could have made man better, but made woman forgiving instead. "

A*troc"i*ty (#), n.; pl. Atrocities (#). [F. atrocit'e, L. atrocitas, fr. atrox, atrocis, cruel.]

1.

Enormous wickedness; extreme heinousness or cruelty.

2.

An atrocious or extremely cruel deed.

The atrocities which attend a victory. Macaulay.

 

© Webster 1913.

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