Jesus: An Easter Speculative Profile

I was settling back into the swing of things, getting used to life again, when Cec burst in, talking a thousand miles an hour.

“He’s back! JC! Joshua! He’s…he’s…he’s back, I saw him, he’s here, he’s alive, he’s the same, but different, uh, like, JC IS ALIVE!”

I was dumbfounded.

“Alive?” I say slowly.

“YES. Alive! Like back from the dead! Like a zombie, but ya know, less…gross.”

Wow.

I didn’t know what to think. Obviously, I believed Cec, but I couldn’t believe it. It was too much. I couldn’t bear to be disappointed again. No. I can’t fully let myself believe until I see him. The cost of hope is too high.

I sat, overcome with the feeling of hope that I couldn’t stop myself from feeling, no matter how hard I tried. How could I not believe my wife?

I look over at the clock.

11:45.

“Shit. Babe, we’ve gotta get going or we’ll be late!”

We hurry to gather our things and H— before rushing to church.

As we’re hurrying we pass a middle-aged woman in disrepair, looking in need of a shower, holding a piece of cardboard with, “2 kids. No work. Need food. Anything helps.” scrawled on it. I scrounge for some cash and hand her five bucks without stopping.

Clouds are starting to gather above us.

We pick up the pace and make it inside, just as the rain starts to pour. The tall heavy wooden double doors of our old school chapel closing behind us.

I breathe a sigh of relief and the three of us find a seat.

We’re next to an older gentleman in the congregation, who is notorious for talking through the entire meeting. Immediately he starts in on some meanderings about a dog or a horse and the farm and a broken tractor and I’m trying to pay attention to the meeting while nodding and “uh huhing” along with the story so he doesn’t feel ignored.

This went on for a few minutes and then I glanced over at the old man and his eye twinkled.

JC.

I startled. Wait is that….no. It’s just Wilford. Just Wilford. What am I saying. Even as ye have done it unto the least of these. The woman from earlier flashed before my eyes. I’ve been failing you, JC.

I turn to Wilford and truly listen to him. As I turn, his eyes are welling up with tears, he’s talking about loss and pain and loneliness. I simply lock eyes with him and put my arm around him before pulling him in close. We stay like that for a moment, the rest of the chapel fading from view. He pulls away, and whispers, “Thank you.”

Thunder rumbles.

We sing some hymns, as I continue to ponder what has happened and what I’ve done.

I repeat the refrain that’s pulled me through the grief thus far.  

Lord, I believe.

Help thou mine unbelief.

The organ swells and the prayer’s about to start when thunder booms throughout the chapel, echoing along with the trample of the rain. The prayer begins and before the last “amen”, the sound of the thunder and rain ramps up and the doors begin to creak open.

I look back.

A tall, dark-skinned figure, head bowed, hair covering his face dripping with rain, pushes both doors open, in shadow, until he stands tall, moving his head out and to the right, shaking his long hair out of his face. The shorts and floral shirt are too good to be true. It can’t possibly be.

“Well, God surely does send down rain on the just and the unjust.”

His eyes twinkle, the smile that crosses his lips filled with renewed energy that I haven’t seen in months.

I climb to my feet and leap over the pew to run to him.

He opens his arms wide, grinning with his whole face, his whole being.

We embrace.

I’m cheering.

Tears stream down my face.

We hold each other close.

My friend. My brother. My king.

Jesus: A Saturday Speculative Profile

We had all gathered together. The old crew. All the places were laid and we were just getting food out (Cec and I were hosting so that we could step away and help out our daughter if need be). I was counting the places set one last time to ensure that we were totally covered.

“Twelve! There are thirteen of us, remember?”

Oh.

He’s gone.

Still.

Gone.

The grief catches me in surprising moments like this. I think that I’m totally fine and have come to terms with his absence when all of a sudden it hits me. He’s not here and I’m waiting.

Back to the wilderness.

I sometimes wonder if I’d be better off now if I’d never known him. If I never saw him heal. If he’d never ministered unto me. If I’d never felt my soul on fire with his teaching.

And then I can’t stand the thought. I can’t stand thinking about the ways that my life could have been better without JC. After all he did for me. For us.

I hate myself for even daring to think such a question. He’s fresh in the ground and I’m already wondering what all this was about and if it’d be be possible or even beneficial to imagine a world where I wasn’t wracked with guilt at every absence that I noticed.

Could I have arrived here without this pain and suffering? Or was this an essential part of my adult life experience?

But the grief is debilitating. Worse than before I met JC, because now I know what connecting with the divine is like. Back to seeing through the glass darkly. What am i supposed to do? What is the point?

What was true that he taught? What am I supposed to do with his message now, in the wilderness? He taught so much and promised so much that now seems impossible. How can the Kingdom come if the King is dead?

Even now with his loss the memories of being with him are starting to fade. Some of the things we saw seem impossible. Each passing hour changes what I feel and how I remember. Perhaps the Divinity and truth that I experienced wasn’t. Perhaps it was something less, some kind of trick.

God, how could this happen? How could you let them take him? We needed him? His work wasn’t done. We’d only just started, and now…

I need to keep him near me. Somehow keep him here. Remember him. Honor him. Serve him. I thought he said I’d see him again or that he’d be back or that this wasn’t the end, but I don’t know what he was talking about.

I wait.

I mourn.

I ache.

I suffer.

I need JC. I need him. Where can I find him?

Lord, I believe.

Help thou, my unbelief.

And still, I wait.

Jesus: A Friday Speculative Profile

There he was again. JC. Dressed in that damn orange jumpsuit. I tried to come every week, but life had gotten busy and it’d been awhile. But time was running out.

I looked up at him through the glass, his brown face looking back at me, long hair touching his shoulders in loose ringlets that he’d brush back every once in a while. His beard was trimmed pretty closely (from the trial, he’d refused to cut his hair, the help of an attorney, and even to say anything in his defense, but did clean up his beard a bit).

He was just looking at me. Those big, kind, eyes always felt like they were giving me a hug, when he was the one that needed comfort.

“It’s good to see you, Conor.”

“Good to see you too, JC. How are things?”

“My end is near, but things are good.”

I close my hand into a fist, squeezing my nails into my palm in anger and pain, hoping to stop the tears I could feel welling up.

“Why? Why couldn’t you just defend yourself? Or run away…we could’ve got you out of here…what are we going to do without you?” I trail off, looking down and off to the side before turning back, locking eyes, his gaze clearly never leaving me, “What am I going to do without you?”

His lips turned up into his familiar smile, weaker than usual.

“I am, who I am.”

“C’mon, JC, they’re going to fucking kill you and you’re…you’re being all cryptic and shit…”

“Hey. Conor.”

His hand was placed on the glass, splayed out and inviting.

I reluctantly bring mine to rest against the other side of the glass.

“I’ll be back. This isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning.”

“I…wha…”

“You’ll see.”

“But why why you? Couldn’t it be someone else? Anyone else? This isn’t right. You don’t deserve this, you…you…you”

“Does anyone here deserve this?” He asks, gesturing to the other inmates around him, “If they can’t have justice, why should I?”

“I…I…”

“It’s good to see you, Conor. You’ll be here tonight?”

Tonight. Tonight was the end. The execution. Tonight they were going to kill JC. An innocent man.

I paused.

“I’ll be here.”

“Thank you. I’ll see you.”

He placed the receiver in its cradle. And started standing up before sitting back down and picking up the phone again.

“At least if I end up in Hell, I’ll be prepared to search for my book of life for eternity, right?”

I chuckle.

“Right,” I say with a soft smile.

He finally places the receiver in its cradle. And stands up to leave. He’d turned to walk away, but looked back to shoot some last finger guns at me, his eyes wearily twinkling as he walked back.  

I sat. Stunned.

*

It was time.

I was back at the prison. I’d dressed up, not sure why, but it felt right to witness JC’s final moments looking my best. Even though he rarely changed out of his patterned shirts and board shorts. I chuckled to myself remembering all the times we’d had — the fish sinking that boat, that wild snow storm, that night with H—. What am I going to do without you, JC?

They walk me back to the observing room. The chair is in the center.

I’d tried to stop myself, but I’d been devouring everything I could find on lethal injection and my stomach churned thinking about how fucked up the whole thing is.

They walked JC out, in chains.

They place him in the chair, and strap him in.

The doc is preparing the injection to the side.

This is it. The End.

The injection is placed, but before it can enter his blood stream, JC cries out, “God, where the hell are you hiding?”

The injection enters.

He slumps, twitching.

I gasp.

I stare dumbfounded.

It was finished.

Jesus: A Thursday Speculative Profile

JC and I walked in for dinner, pretty late. I hadn’t been home since I left early that morning, leaving Cec alone with Baby H— hours longer than I tried to.

It wasn’t that unusual for JC to join us. He didn’t really have anywhere else to go and often found himself at our table, which we were always grateful for. He was a delightful dinner guest, always ready with a witty retort and deep thoughts on everything (though to be honest, I sometimes felt a little like he was operating on a different plane than the rest of us, just seeing a totally different world than we see).

So, JC was over. But something felt different about tonight. He seemed preoccupied, some heaviness weighing him down.

We traded pleasantries and dinner was ready.

JC’s mind was clearly elsewhere, so Cec and I caught up on how each other’s day was, with JC occasionally chiming in. All of us taking turns with H— as the meal went on.

As we wrapped up, JC cleared all the plates and did the dishes (all of them, even the ones from days ago with food crusted onto the pots, pans, plates, and bowls). An unexpected kindness.

As he was finishing, he turned to me, “Conor, I know you’ve got work in the morning, but can you stay up with me? I’m waiting to hear from a friend and…”

“Of course, JC, I mean, Cec’s tired and I’ll probably need to help with H—, but I’ll be just in our room, awake, if you need me.”

His eyes filled with a gratitude, barely masking the pain and longing that was beneath.

“Thank you.”

After bustling around for a couple of hours, we left JC out on the couch, thumbing through Steven Peck’s A Short Stay in Hell, while we went to put H— to bed. Cec was out immediately, exhausted after caring for H— all day.

I woke up to JC, shaking me, my body splayed out across the bed, hand holding a pacifier in H—’s mouth.

“Conor, I’ll never shake the angst about eternity from this book!”

“……wha…..what….what book?” I slur out, still practically asleep.

“This one!” He whispers with necessity and excitement, brandishing Peck’s novella he’d been browsing earlier.

“Mmmmmm, it’s good…huh,” I manage to slip out before my eyes close.

H— is screaming.

My world is spinning. Something is happening. I have to do something. What is that noise? GAH, I scramble for my glasses and my phone to piece together what I’m experiencing.

2:47

Shit.

I blink rapidly, trying to prevent my eyes from closing involuntarily. I reach over to H— and touch her chest, making quiet, calming noises, while I try to wake up enough to help her.

Cec is already awake, checking for a bottle or a diaper. Stumbling around.

“Babe, it’s ok, I’ve got her. You sleep,” I tell her, still feeling some guilt for leaving her alone with H practically the entire day before.

I picked up H— and tried to calm her down, when JC walked in, and I realized that I’d left him totally alone with the existential angst of Hell and felt awful.

“JC, I’m so…”

He simple shook his head, his long curls gently jostling, before reaching out for H.

“Hey, H—…” he trails off, lifting her from my arms and looking deep into her eyes. “Sleep, Conor, I’ll take her.”

“Are you sure?”

He looked at me with that same bone-weary, yet kind look.

“I’m sure.”

“Thank you…” I mumble as he turns to leave.

I get one more look at H— and got the strange feeling that she was helping him as much as he was helping her.   

Jesus: A Wednesday Speculative Profile

Nothing was ever quite the same after I met Joshua. He had a knack for upending life, bringing in the unexpected.

I was in the middle of teaching a class when he first came in. We were talking about rhetoric and the ethics of persuasion and finding common ground, when all of a sudden the door opens, which wasn’t that unusual, and this guy looks in. He’s a little wild looking, but overall, he’s fairly nondescript. I couldn’t give you a clear physical description of him.

I stop and turn, leaving space for him to jump in with his question if he had one and there’s nothing. I wait expectantly.

Nothing.

I turn back to my students, “So, how can you use appeals to pathos ethically?”

“Come,” the stranger at the door beckons, “follow me.”

He then bounds off, the last thing I saw of him before he was out of the classroom, was a knowing smile, with a twinkle in his eye.

I didn’t.

*

I was out with some friends on the lake. We were sorta fishing, but mostly just wanted to hang and laze about in our boat. I kinda hated fishing, to be totally honest. I’d fished a handful of times with scouting as a kid, but it was so boring (and then you had to kill and gut the fish, which was gross and smelled awful). Anyway. We were fishing.

We’d been out all day and were about to come in. Nothing to show for our efforts. Which is the absolute worst. Usually, we at least had some fresh fish to fry, but nothing. Just vaguely smelling like worms and lakewater.

Then, suddenly, there’s a guy on the shore. He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t totally recognize him at the distance (not to mention the angle the sun was at).

He calls out to us, “How’s the fishing?”

“Rubbish!” I yell back, as my friends mock my persistent and haphazard use of British slang.

“Try it once more! Cast all your rods on the left side.”

We all look at each other, rolling our eyes, but something about this exuberant guy made me want to humor him.

So we did. Expecting nothing.

I held my rod lacklusterly, not paying attention, until it suddenly jerked and pulled me forward before I caught myself.

As I braced myself against the deck, I looked around and realized that everyone else was experiencing the same thing. We started to reel in our respective catches. As we’re all reeling and reeling, straining against what felt like a blue whale, I look back at the shore and the man has his hand to his mouth, trying (and failing) to stifle laughter.

I land what I think is going to be some monster fish, as do all of my friends. The deck is groaning under the collective weight of these massive fish, when an entire school of fish leaps out of the lake and onto the deck, flopping everywhere. Where suddenly swimming in fish. Slipping and sliding as I try to get out of the ankle-deep pile of fish. The boat is now taking on water, and we’re desperately trying to navigate back to shore, fighting off untold numbers of fish, and the man is now doubled over in laughter.

We land the boat and all manage to get off, pulling fish out of our pockets and sleeves.

As we struggle to figure out what is going on, I finally got a look at this stranger, wearing bermuda shorts, sandals, and a floral shirt, unbuttoned showing his dark brown chest. He had some sunglasses that he pushed up to rest on his black, flowing, shoulder-length hair, revealing the same face that peeked into my classroom. He reached out his hand, saying through an ear to ear grin and barely recovered from his laughter, “Hey, I’m Joshua.”

“Get the hell away from me, man. I cannot handle whatever it is you’ve got going on,” I retort, pushing his hand away.

“Oh, come on, I’ll make you fishers,” he paused, that twinkle in his eye back, suggesting he was very pleased with what he was about to say, “of men.”

I left.

*

This was a mistake.

The storm raged all around us. Shit. We’re going to die.

We were stranded in the midst of a wild snowstorm, off road, wind and snow blowing in all directions. I couldn’t see anything. Anywhere. We’d tried to walk through it earlier, but fell through the snow banks that were everywhere, not to mention, just being utterly unable to keep our feet steady with the wind and snow.

The snow was starting to bury our truck. Soon we would be unable to open the doors.

A figure was up ahead. Somehow walking eerily through the storm.

“Uh, guys, you see that?” I ask, nudging Andrew next to me, pointing out at this vague person-like figure moving in our direction.

I don’t believe in the abominable snowman or yetis, but damn, what else could be here?
As the figure got closer, the colors were bright, florals maybe?

“Shhhhhhhiiiiiiiit.”

Everyone looks at me slightly shocked, but awaiting my explanation of what could possibly cause such an exclamation given the near-rock-bottom place we already were.

“It’s that Joshua dude.”

“No way, it can’t be. No human could possibly survive this storm, especially be walking like that. Ask him.”

I look incredulous, but after some more cajoling, figure, what do I have to lose?

I roll down the window and stick my head out and yell, “Who are you?”

“C’mon, man, I’m Joshua! Just look at me!”

He had a point.

But for some reason, felt possessed to say what came out of my mouth next.

“If it’s really you, Joshua, ask me to come to you.”

“Alright, Conor. Come.”

I did.

Jesus: A Tuesday Speculative Profile

I was late. I had to finish up some things at the office before I could leave for the day and my manager kept piling on tasks that I had to finish. It was exhausting. We had our regular meeting of the fringes that night and I was looking forward to actually doing something about all these systems of oppression that surrounded us. Seize the means of production and all that.

I hopped off the bus and quickly walked through the last couple of blocks to get to where we were all meeting. The place was packed. Sports cars and even some sort of law enforcement vehicles were out front. People were everywhere, many of whom I don’t think I’d ever seen before. Something didn’t seem quite right about all of this.  

I walked inside and there was JC, at the table, surrounded by some of our regular crew: John a gay spiritual leader, Pete the sort of violent anarchist from Southeast Asia, and Mary the black, queer activist and pioneer. Yet, there were others I didn’t recognize at first. But as I looked closer, I was bewildered. An ICE agent in the corner chatting with a regular, Carlos. Then there was a crowd of Wall Street types, dressed to the nines in suits that probably cost more than I made in a month. A handful of others were scattered throughout the room that I’d never seen before, that looked somewhat uncomfortable with the crowd.

What was happening.

We were supposed to be planning a protest for this weekend against the very sorts of oppressive forces that these newcomers represented. How could we do that with them all around us? What the hell was JC thinking?

I was fuming.

My fists were clenching, unbidden. Breathe. Calm down. There’s gotta be a reason for this. I was just calming myself when one of the Wall Street bros (he looks like a Chad, he’s gotta be a Chad) came over to JC and hands him this bottle of Screaming Eagle Cabernet that cost more than I had made in my entire life. Combined. Hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I lost it.

I stormed over and snatched it from the dudebro’s hands, as JC was reaching for it.
“Now, look, man. I know you probably don’t realize this, but we could do so much more good with the money you spent on this bottle. Think of the poor! What are you even doing here? Do you even know what JC is about?”

He was flabbergasted. Stumbling over his words, as I clenched the bottle, a miracle that it didn’t shatter into a thousand pieces (or a testament to my scrawniness).

JC reached up, gently removing the bottle from my death grip.

He nods apologetically to Wall Street, as I turn to look at him, deflated and hurt.

“JC, what’s all this? We were on the cusp of SOMETHING. We were about to do great things. Great things! And now…” I trail off as I wave my hand at all the partying and gluttony that surrounded us, “this.”

JC looks at me, then to the bottle in his hand and turns it over, drinking in every detail of the craftsmanship. Hyperfocused.

He gestures for a couple of glasses, opens the bottle and pours two glasses.

He hands one to me, which I refuse, putting my hands up in front of me.

He shrugs and purposefully swirls the wine beneath his nose, breathing in.

He sips, letting the cabernet flow gently throughout his mouth.

“Mmmmmmm.”

“I…I…I don’t understand. I thought you stood for the marginalized, the oppressed, the sinner, but these…”

“I do.”

“But, how can you stand for all of them, when you’re, you’re here, eating and drinking with the enemy! The oppressor! The very thing we’re fighting against! Drinking their wine!”

“It’s a mighty fine wine.”

“JC…that’s the point. We could do so much good with that money, instead of squandering it on wine. Typical Wall Street…selfish.”

JC moves his hand to my shoulder. He reaches for the glass of wine he offered me earlier and offers it again. His eyes steady, looking directly at me. That mix of steeliness and joy that is so damn intoxicating. His lips turn up in a weary smile.

I take the glass.

“That is a mighty fine wine.”

I join him on the couch.

“Conor, are these not all sinners? All need what we preach. Even the oppressor, the sinner, the enemy.”

“But, but, how can the oppressor and the oppressed sit and eat at the same table? Doesn’t that fail to really bring about justice?”

JC sorta shrugs and looks meaningfully to the bottle of wine on the table.

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

*

“JC!”

JC looked up from the ground, where he’d been drawing in the dirt with some kids.

“What’s up?”

I looked sheepishly around.

“Can you heal this woman’s daughter? I tried and…” I sighed and lowered my head, “nothing happened.”

“Bring her here.”

I mouth, “thank you” as I go with the woman to bring her daughter to JC.

As we enter the woman’s house I’m struck once again by how little they have. There’s a beat-up laptop on the table, open to a GoFundMe page, trying to raise money for treatment for Rebecca, the woman’s daughter. Brochures for various alternative medicine are scattered throughout the house. The woman, Kristina, looks like she hasn’t slept well in months. Lines of worry crease her face.    

“Sorry about the mess,” she says to me after we’ve been in the house for a few minutes, as if she just realized the disarray and disaster that surrounded us.

“Don’t worry about it. What’s going to be the best way to get your daughter to JC?”

We figured out how to get Rebecca from the house to JC (Rebecca’s wheelchair worked most of the way and then we cobbled together a ramp and some other things to make it the final stretch).

As soon as Rebecca wheeled up to JC, his face lit up.

“Your sins are forgiven you!” He shouted, arms raised to the sky, before crouching down and kneeling in front of her, clasping her hands in his, their eyes locked, whispering earnestly “your sins are forgiven you.”

Weeping, she breathed, “Thank you, brother.”

As JC straightened and turned to return to the children, she caught his shirt, “Wait.”

“Wait.”

He stopped and turned to face her again, waiting.

“Heal me.”

He nodded and crouched again, placing his hands on her knees, and pressing his forehead to hers, “Rise, and walk.”

Kristina and Rebecca embraced, mother and child, as if for the first time, holding each other. Tears streaming down their faces.

JC grinned softly before jogging over to the kids playing, his hair flowing in the wind.