I could not bring myself to utter the words. Me, of all people, the one he loved…me, the one some say closest to him. Maybe that’s why I could not speak my mind for I knew, I knew he was like flint now, unswerving. I knew I had to be like that too, for him, for me, for the rest of us…I had to will myself to hold my tongue. Had my lips been loosed they would have pleaded: ‘Please don’t get on that beast. Please.’ But he did, as I knew he would. He spoke to me, once, just before the clop of hooves began: ‘Remember, John…courage.’
And so I followed him, as I’d followed him those brief widening years. His ride was so very awkward. Had it not been for the press of crowd on either side he would have fallen off more than once. But they hemmed him in that next chapter of the tale. From where I followed it appeared he rode their shoulders instead of that innocent beast. Jesus – to the crowd a shoulder-high hero; to me – my Lord and my God and my friend slouching toward Calvary. But on he rode as they brayed their praise.
You see, it is remembered as a triumphal entry, something in contrast to his cross-laden steps only days later. But I saw it as the death gyre, all of it, from the green of the palms one day to the red of his wrists that soon followed. And if I am honest I have to confess that I feared the center would not hold, that this man I grew to love like no other would drown and be lost. That I would wake one day to the sound of the sea licking the boat’s edge and find it all only a dream. And I would be alone again.
But no, we had come too far, so I decided to mimic him. And so I placed the fear in my fists, as I’d seen him do time upon time, and I strangled it away and cast it among the crying stones that day. I had to be courageous, for me, for the rest of us, and for him. When he’d gone far enough, he dismounted and turned round twice searching the crowd until he found me. He stepped toward me and placed the rope in my hands. His face still a rictus of elegy. I told him I would see to the beast. He said ‘I wish for my life to protect your life.’
As he walked on with the crowd I noticed his hands clenched in fists at his side. I knew then that surely the revelation was at hand. He was not a dream. He was this defiant publisher of love loosed upon our world, the weary madman from Galilee.