He’s only half listening as the voices swirl around him. Most conversations are over his head–literally as well as figuratively. “Look at that, would you!” No, he can’t. He never could. So why bother to listen? Sometimes he thinks it would be better to be deaf as well as blind. And some folks evidently think that blindness robs his hearing, too, because they talk about him, standing there as they throw a coin in his bowl.
“Who sinned, Rabbi–this man or his parents–that he was born blind?” Hmm, that’s a good question. Never thought of that one before. Right. As if he has anything but time to think, wonder, curse, pray, despair. So what will this one’s answer be?
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Ha! Him a work of God? What a joker. Just to underscore the laugh he knew was coming, he heard someone spit on the ground. Well, at least it wasn’t in his face. Others had done that.
Ugh! He recoils, opens his mouth to curse aloud at the slimy slop being put on his eyes. Mockery taken to a new level today? Quite a work of God! His arms flail and are pinned as a quiet voice speaks, close to his ear. “Go, wash your eyes in the Pool of Siloam.” That’s all. No explanation, no apology. No name-calling or ridicule. A command. Somehow, it’s not a voice one wants to argue with. He nods once to show he’s heard and will obey, then scoots himself away, trying to hide the trembling in every limb.
The pool…he knows where it is, more or less. He can feel along the wall and reach it without help, if he can just get to his feet without falling. The shaking is worse now, as if night had come down like a cloak of ice. But he can feel the Spring sunshine on his back as he gropes his way into the shadow of the alleyway leading to the pool. It isn’t cold–he left his warm coat at home today. Still his legs are quivering as he shuffles forward, right hand scraping the stones to keep him steady. He’s been sent on a task…how long since anyone asked anything of him? Since even his parents stopped trying to make him feel useful? He barks a short harsh laugh–‘sent’ to the Pool of the Sending! Maybe this is still a joke.
He can hear a murmur of water, as the breeze laps it against the lip of the wall. Crouching, he crawls the rest of the distance, feeling with his hands so as not to fall headlong. He grips the edge with his left hand, and cups water with his right, bringing it to his eyes. The sandy muck loosens and begins to run down his face toward his mouth. He drops to his belly and reaches both hands to the water, frantically washing the mud he can feel and some he can’t.
He’s aware of a shimmer, like the sun when he turns his face to the sky. But it’s shadowed and cool here, and his head is down. What–? Something comes toward him and he flinches reflexively. How–? His heart is pounding now, and his limbs tremble again in earnest. He kneels and tries to draw a deep breath and…
…there is a creature sitting on the stones next to him. Small and slender, pale against the stone, it skitters away. He can’t name it “lizard” because he’s never seen one before. But he just saw this one. Now what’s running down his face out of his eyes is a flood of tears, which blur the scene but don’t obscure it. He flinches again as a hand appears, wiping his eyes–oh. It’s his own hand. He holds it up and stares, and stares and stares. Wiggles each finger. Laughs and cries some more.