The light leaves My Son’s eyes. It’s after He hangs His head. After that final exhale slips out of Him, silent as when He was a baby and I’d check to make sure His chest was moving because I couldn’t hear Him. After a breeze blows a string of dark hair, matted with blood and sweat, into His eyelashes but He’s too far gone to even blink.
It’s a moment after that. He’s looking at me, and His gaze freezes. They lose focus. And He can’t see me anymore.
Thunder severs the black sky. My ears split and are left ringing. Magdalene, tears plastering her black curls to her face, and John, fingernails bleeding from biting them raw and then gripping the foot of the cross, flinch and clap their hands over their ears. A pebble knocks against the side of my foot. Another. The ground shudders.
A deep, hollow crack rumbles in my shins. Magdalene yelps and jumps away as a shallow fissure appears at her feet. John reaches for me; I put up a hand to stop him, and he backs off. My gaze never leaves my Son.
The cracks spiderweb the ground, surrounding me, releasing dust that coats the clotted wound on my shoulder, from when the soldier's whip hit me when he meant to hit Jesus.
This is the Father’s heart. This is my heart. This is my Son’s heart.
They lever the last needle from Jesus’ foot. The centurion, hands painted with blood, stands and nods to me. His hands are shaking; he moves to the side as I approach. I lower to my knees, matching the pace of the twin tears dragging down my cheeks.
Nobody has closed His eyes. The lids are trapped halfway down. I stroke them shut, the way I would when He was a toddler and was too excited to bring Himself to go to sleep, no matter how hard He tried.
Wind cools the sweat on my back and the blood soaking His shredded skin as I bend over Him and wrap my arms around His dislocated shoulders, the dense swelling pressing against my biceps. I sit up and slide Him into the crook of my arm. The thorns in His head, sink into my skin.
Something slices open inside me. I draw his forehead to mine, and I don’t care as His crown scars me. My nose nuzzles His broken one. The only way breath comes out of me is with the tears burning and bleeding inside me.
“I love you,” I whisper. “I love you so much.”
The stone slab is smooth beneath me, the cold seeping through my clothes and into my thigh. He’s stiff by now, joints locked where I set them. A breeze skims over the oil slicking His exposed neck and face; the last of His blood trails and curls through the glistening fluid.
Air clatters into me through my nose, and sharp myrrh burns my nasal passage, cutting through the rich metallic scent of skin and vessels slit open. I stroke His face, bruised hairline to swollen jaw, with the backs of my knuckles, the way I did when He was burning with the same fever that ended up taking Joseph. My rough cuticle almost snags on one of the gashes at His temple—the flaps of frayed skin are dabbed clean and folded together, but a splinter peeks out. I pinch it out with my fingernails.
Footsteps enter the cave, bare feet on dust echoing around the storm-gray walls. “Mother?” Magdalene’s voice is like the last seconds of a long note, forced out in a sleek line because, otherwise, it would crack, trail off, and die. “It’s almost sunset.”
I turn to her, pushing a brown curl behind my ear. Salt stains stripe her face like the torn slices across my Son’s back; her forehead is scabbing over from where she crushed herself to the beam holding His feet, a thin trickle of blood dried and burgundy next to her eye.
I nod to her but don’t move, glancing over her shoulder to the sunless area behind her. She takes the cue and steps back.
I turn back to my Son and gather the burial cloth into my fists. I clench it tighter when my hands start to shake.
“Baby, You did it,” I whisper. My voice splits in half down the middle. A hot tear splashes onto His cheek; the blood and oil wash away where it touches. My fingers spring away from the burial cloth, wrinkled from my grip, and it lands underneath His chin like a blanket.
I lean down and press my forehead to His, our noses touching. “See you in three days.”