The safety of the gate was across the market. Usually, I had the steady presence of a guide to lead me. All I had to do was keep my hand on his shoulder and he would take me through. Today there was no guide; instead,
I would be the one leading the way. Cold sweat trickled down my face. My heart was already beating fast, now it thumped painfully in my chest.
The clamor of the market was disorienting. I could barely hear the buzzing echo but I continued to shuffle forward. No longer sheltered by the wall, people brushed against me on all sides. With every step, my heart pounded harder. My hands moved around hoping to encounter anything that my help me find the way across the market. All I could feel was the shifting wall of people. My fingers touched rough material and smooth skin. A strong hand grabbed my own and twisted.
“Watch it, old man.” The deep voice snarled above me. “Are you trying to steal from me? Trying to take my purse?” Another hand gripped my throat. Hard calluses scraped against my skin and I was lifted off my feet. I gasped for air, clawing at the hand that held me.
“Stop, he is not a thief, we are trying to get to the gate.” Hadar was still there. I wanted to tell him to run and hide lest they turn on him next. How was the boy to find a safe spot? Was anywhere safe?
“To the gate? A beggar then!”
“Come on, beggar, are you hungry? Here’s some fruit for you,” something wet splatted on my head, the juice running down into my ear. The smell of overripe melon washed over me. More rotting fruit and bits of spoiled meat rained down. I couldn’t stop the tears. Pain and humiliation radiated through me.
Later, sitting on the side of the road, I huddled inside my cloak. Hadar had begun our usual plea for alms. For the first time I could not join him. another shudder wracked my body. I could not remember the last time I had been so afraid. Many years ago, I made peace with the fact that God had made me blind. Whether I suffered from the sins of my father or cursed for some sin in my mother’s womb, it didn’t change the fact that I could not see. I had survived. I had learned to live with it and even find a measure of contentment in my life. Now I was afraid.
God why have you turned your back on me? What must I do to be forgiven? Excited whispers around me jolted me from my thoughts.
“What is happening?” I lifted my head from my hands.
“Jesus is coming! The great Healer is coming!”