He saw me as I was standing there. In the shaded part of the house. The sun was blistering, the bluest of skies and a Mediterranean heat which shimmered. So dry that the dust was everywhere kicked up, the floors a carpet of the finest of sand grains.
I pressed myself against the wall so he could pass, this strange Man and his friends whom Martha had let in. I knew he would want to sit, to enjoy shade and cool water. And my sister was determined to sweep him through into the best room in the house, to show him that our family offered the best hospitality this side of Jerusalem.
But he did not pass. Though my sister almost quivered with agitation in her bid to direct him forwards, he stopped and looked at me.
And those eyes.
It was as if those eyes saw what I did not yet know, an eternity of knowledge in them. Before I was, he knew me. And in that gaze, I saw wildness, love beyond reason.
My sister bustled him into the sitting area. He sat, his friends around him on the carpets. And she and her friend went straight to the kitchen. They expected me to follow but I did not. Martha was too caught up in that moment to notice but disapproval radiated from her friend like something physical.
Even so I did not move. How could I break that gaze?
I sank to the little stool, knees pressed to the floor, at his feet. And they were with me still, his friends, yet I did not see them. Perhaps I was wrong to stay in a room full of men, only I by myself. But thought escaped me, shame had no place. For that Man filled my gaze. Those eyes, that face.
Martha returned, with water, with refreshment. She said it to him, plain. Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me. And I knew what she wanted. She had been happy there in the kitchen, delighted to serve this Man. But then she saw me. Couldn’t understand the look she saw there in my eyes. And what came out was her frustrated desire to make me like her, her need to contain what could not be understood. Perhaps too she knew what I could be, if only I would not lose myself to the wildness in that room.
I know she asked it of him, for they told me later. But I never heard the words. In that moment, though I saw the face of her friend, though I felt the frustration rolling off my sister, I never heard the words. For all I knew was him.
His eyes. His face. That gaze.
Everything in me was reaching out to him. Desperation without words that he would not pass me by. That he might overwhelm, overcome, utterly possess, until I would be found in him and he in me. That I might sit at his feet. Hear his words, hold his gaze.
I tell her this, stumbling for words as we sweep those sandstrewn floors. The best room empty now, those men long gone to the next place. She listens, doesn’t contradict. Remembers, perhaps, his answer that day. That I had chosen the better portion, that it would not be taken from me.
Yet though she is quiet, I know still she hopes for me a husband, children, the future she has planned. Still she will call me to kitchen, to making the home. For that is my sister, convinced by her knowing of what I might become, needing to contain what she cannot understand.
I want to please her. I see what she sees. But now I have seen wildness too.
Those eyes, that face, that gaze.
This was an exercise in Ignatian imaginative contemplation, via this Soundcloud link, ably guided by the wonderful people at Pray As You Go.