Easter Eggs

2024 / 856 words

He’d been gone so long. We’d mourned, gathered in dark rooms above kebab shops and dollar stores, drunk gallons of whatever we could get our hands on, chain-smoked, scribbled in our journals, hugged, told stories. Every once and awhile we would laugh when recalling something he’d said. “Did you know what he was talking about?” one of us would ask. “Hell, no!” another would blurt in reply. Then we’d all laugh, until Miryam’s laughter would turn into sobs, like she was auditioning for a Hallmark special. We’d all look at each other, our eyes asking, “Who invited her?” Then Zevi would just shrug.

As we emerged from the darkness of the loss, those scribbles in those notebooks started to gain a shape. We talked more about what should be next instead of what once was. We felt like painters with a blank canvas. We started to see that we could do more than just talk. We began to realize the word was to become the way, and the way couldn’t be written down, there was no map, this was uncharted territory. Maybe we could drop some clues, tiny rolls of paper, stuck in bottles, bobbing in the ocean. But we were headed for the horizon.

We’d get dirty looks and hear stage whispers as we listened to Romans, washed lepers, and fed Ishmaelites. But we knew this was the way, that between where we were and where we wanted to be was every other person. In fact, we began to learn that the less we at first wanted to know someone, the more likely they could point us in the next right direction.

Sunrises began to get brighter, and their light would show us those living markers in the distance–the hunched over, the fallen, the dirty, those with tears that never turned to laughter, those with bottles lifted over their lips more often than they were left to rest on tables. Even those with swords or gold, they often left us bloody or hungry, but they always pointed the way, their wooden arms pulled by an absurdist’s string.

Sunsets’ colors expanded, stealing the kings’ purples, and the barons’ gold, spitting them across the sky for everyone, proof that we’d lived another day on the way to nowhere, reminding us that tomorrow the sunset would still be at the horizon, infinitely distant, the distance filled with others.

Even those nights brought comfort as we decompressed, sometimes hungry if we’d encountered the rich, more often satisfied and with flavors and spices still lingering in our mouths and on our fingers, had we encountered the poor.

It was happening, we were living in the way he’d tried to teach us. Sometimes, we’d encounter someone and not know what to do. We’d work through our confusion, trying to just do something. Then, later, we would remember some of his words. They’d replay in our minds out of nowhere, and we would suddenly understand what he meant. It would happen to a few of us at once, and we’d catch each other’s eyes, and we’d just know that we knew. It was uncanny, often creepy, and almost always comforting.

Once, during just such a moment, a sand storm kicked up out of nowhere, a dust devil that shot sand painfully into our wide eyes. After our screams and curses subsided, we all laughed. “Ok, break’s over!” Noam shouted between guffaws.

Then he came back. Just started appearing at people’s houses and shit. It was all over the news. People started creating alters in his honor, they started to write songs, they started to write down prayers so they could recite them in unison. Someone won the lottery and said it was because he’d prayed to him. A famous gladiator claimed he’d survived for so long because he believed (he would later be impaled by an ox).

People would recognize us and ask where he was. When we told them we didn’t know, they’d get annoyed and ask us to leave. Some of our motley crew left to go back, to see if they could find him. I heard some of them became leaders and writers.

As sightings became rare, a story started to circulate that he had floated up into the sky. Some Roman Jew from Asia Minor somehow became the leader of the entire movement, writing more than anyone, seemingly determined to incorporate our Jewish laws back into the deal. Last I heard even the Romans were after him. It probably made him feel good to be pursued the same way. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess? Or embrace, extend, extinguish. Whichever.

We continued in our way. We became adept medics, farm-hands, cooks, roofers, therapists, and midwives. As his reputation grew among the cities, the pictures people drew of him started to more resemble the foreign politicians and bankers the locals supposedly resented.

Meanwhile our own faces weathered, and the blood vessels in our eyes burst, and we started to look more like that crazy carpenter we followed around all those years, all those years ago.

Photo by Nicole Elliott