Normally speaking, I am a morning person. Actually, I’ve never quite gotten used to getting up in the middle of the night to go to work. It’s almost impossible to drag myself out of the house when everyone else is right in the middle of a solid night’s sleep, even though I’ve usually been conked out for at least a couple of hours by the time they go to bed. Down around the city, there seems to be something stirring at any pretty much any hour. Up here, it gets dark pretty early and by the middle of the third watch the blackness seems to dye even the grey ropes of the nets.
That is, however, the life of a fisherman. The crepuscular animals we harvest won’t wait for us to have a full night’s sleep, so I’m up well before first light to get out on the water and lower my nets. It’s lonely on the lake in the middle of the night. It’s lonely even when I’m out there with three or four other guys. Some of them don’t speak any of the languages I speak, and it’s only because we have been doing this for so long (we being the people who have lived on every side of this lake since Noah came out of the ark) that we can fall into a rhythm of labor that doesn’t need any words. So I’m not alone in my work, but I’m alone in my thoughts.
Mostly my thoughts are about how this is not really going to work out this time, even though it has worked out more or less every time before now. You don’t know what the catch is going to be like until it’s in the boat, and I’m enough of a worrier to worry about it. Each and every time. But when the catch has been dragged up over the gunwales and lays wriggling around in the hull, I can stop worrying for at least as long as it takes to get back to the shore. At about this point, the sun usually peaks over the ridge on the east and the light starts working its way down the bluffs on the west. By the time it is reflected in the lake water, the sun has become a ball of molten bronze up in the sky. Beautiful but also kind of dangerous looking in the still calm of the morning.
I get why roosters crow at that thing. It’s more than a little bit scary, even if you know well enough that the sun is not going to start dripping liquid metal down on you anytime soon. The sun works more slowly but more thoroughly than that, what with the droughts and all, except when you concentrate it a specific spot, the way the Greeks supposedly did to the Romans at Syracuse. Whether or not that story is true, I can imagine what those poor Latins felt like. I’ve had the full power of the sun focused on me, and it’s a wonder that I did not burst into flames. And it all started with at the cock’s crow.
As I said, I’m usually a morning person. But in this case, I had been up most of the night before because the Master had been up all of the night before. We had made a seder. It was not particularly elaborate, but we had not all been together for dinner in a while. It was nice just to have everyone in the same room for once. Then He started talking in that way He has — or had I guess I should say — and everyone got a little nervous. I’ve told Him before to cut out the apocalyptic crap, but He wouldn’t listen. It drove off Judas, like I figured it would. I think He sensed that I was disturbed and He told me that I would be the next one to jump ship, that every night. Once again, the Master knew me better than I knew myself.
I hoped a walk, maybe up to the top of the mountain, would bring Him out of His reverie, but we did not get any farther than the garden. Every now and then, when He’s in the midst of one of these funks, some time alone — a little breathing room — helps. Helped. I don’t know. Anyway, when He wanted to go off alone, I said, “Sure. We’ll be right here.” By the time He got back, we had all nodded off. He did not say too much about it. He never said too much about anything, but we could tell He was pissed. That’s when Judas showed up with the Romans. I keep thinking that I could have kept them out of the garden, if I had been awake. I could have talked to Judas alone, before he had to make a scene.
But I wasn’t, and I didn’t. When they led Jesus off, he looked oddly relieved, like whatever he had been wrestling with all night was resolved. They did not tell us where they were going, so we followed them as far as the palace courtyard. It would have been suicidal to go inside. Only Judas followed them in there. I realized I was the only one of our group left. Everyone else had scattered. I thought about leaving too, but I also had this notion that maybe I could do something. After a couple of hours, the screaming started. My heart was in my throat. I’ve never seen a man tortured, but you can pretty much tell what it sounds like. I couldn’t sit by myself anymore, so I went over to where someone had made a fire.
At this point, I think I had started to come unhinged. Going from the warmth of the meal we had shared to the cold darkness of the garden after He was gone in just a matter of hours was such a shock that I began to suspect I was having some sort of horrible dream. The faces around the fire were foreign faces, unlike any I had seen before. Their eyes were hidden beneath the hoods of their cloaks, but their voices came out sharp and accusatory. “You’re one of them,” they struck out at me. I swore I was not. In the early dawn, a rooster cried. Again, they hurled an accusation. Again, I denied it. The chanticleer heralded a new day. “I saw you with Him,” one testified. “That wasn’t me,” I replied. A cock crowed so loudly, it seemed to be right next to me. I stumbled away, realizing that He knew before I did just how low I would go.
Maybe I’m not the same person. Maybe that guy who followed the Master all over Galilee, up to Tyre and Sidon, and down to Jerusalem, maybe he’s as dead as Jesus. I just don’t know what to think about anything anymore. We’ve stayed together, the eleven of us who are left. It doesn’t seem safe to try to leave, and we don’t know where we would go if we did. All we can do is sit here and wait. For what, I don’t really know.