She laid in bed looking up at the ceiling. Today would be different, it had to be. Another night of restless sleep, she couldn’t do it much longer. She rolled onto her side and pushed herself up off the matt. She walked across the floor of her one room dwelling to the basin to wash. How much longer would this go on? How much more could she take.
She began to layer her garments, today she needed extra layers. If they saw her, if there was any sight of blood it would be her demise. She ran her hands over the once luxurious garments. She remembered when they were new, when they had color.
She loved color. In her past she was known for her unconventional style. When she walked through the streets she drew admirable attention as she carried herself with grace. Those times were long past. Now, these same garments were warn and tattered. With each layer she felt the weight of her illness and the heaviness of her shame. This was a dirty illness. She had scrubbed her garments until they were so thin they were almost useless. Nothing had color any longer and nothing was white. Her life was covered in dull dingy grays.
She pulled her hair back and covered it. She added a second veil to cover her face. She couldn’t risk being recognized. She walked to the door. This wasn’t a home, she had lost that years ago in order to pay doctor bills. Over these past twelve years she had lost everything. She had been drained of status, wealth, security, belongings, relationships, health, and most recently, the will to continue the fight.
She had made her inquiries and knew where he was staying. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find him, these days there was always a crowd. One final check to ensure she was completely covered. She risked everything walking out those doors, she couldn’t be discovered. That would ignite new battles that she didn’t have the means or energy to fight.
She could see the home where he was staying in the distance. She watched as the crowd grew. He must be there, he had to be there. She was a short distance away when the crowd began to shift. “He’s not there,” she thought. “No. He has to be there.” She quickened her pace and in doing so felt the dull pain awaken.
The crowd seemed to be turning as if a great ship pulling out to sea. They turned toward her. She stopped. She waited, squinting to make out the images. Two men were in the lead. They drew closer and she gasped. “It couldn’t be. They hate him! Why is he here? I can’t do this. What was I thinking?”
Still closer, she was sure it was him. He was one of the officers, the temple leaders. He held a great title and with it great power. If she was recognized… If there was any sign of blood… She had been warned twelve years ago when this all began. It was the law and she must obey. Anyone showing any signs of bleeding was sent out. They were expelled from the world they knew until they could be confirmed clean. She couldn’t risk it. They were now yards away and walking in haste. Why were these two men together? And why today?
She took a breath. She didn’t need to stop him, or interrupt, she just needed to brush up against him, touch his hand, or grasp his arm.
She tightened her stomach hoping it would stop the bleeding. She knew it wouldn’t work, it never did. As they passed, she forced a step. She merged into the crowd but they were moving faster then she had anticipated. As she found her stride she counted at least five people standing between her and this man. She was moving faster then was safe to do. He was in her sight and she wasn’t going to lose this chance. She pushed her way through until there was only one person between them.
She kept the pace. Their speed created small gusts of wind catching their robes and forcing them to flow behind. She felt her veil assuring that it was in place. She reached out, hoping to touch his sleeve as his arm moved back and forth at his side. With each step she reached a little further. And with each step, he was just inches out of her reach. She couldn’t keep the pace much longer. The wind blew, the pace quickened, she reached forward, she felt it. She had touched the very tip of his garment. The moment over took her and she fell to her knees.
He stopped. The crowed did their best to follow his lead but not without first bumping into each other. No one notice her.
“Someone touched me,” he said.
“Of course someone touched you,” his follower said. “It could have been anyone.”
“No,” he said with unlimited confidence. “Someone touched me.”
By now the crowd had halted. He turned, and on cue they began to step back reveling a mound of garments, scrunched down in the middle of the road.
“Who touched me?” he asked again in a voice that blended great strength and love into harmony.
She couldn’t speak. She could hardly breathe. And then, she began to sob. She felt him near. She heard his footsteps. She felt his warmth. Then, she felt his hand.
“Was it you?” he asked.
With her head buried in the dirt, she nodded. He waited. Her life flashed before her. All she had lost, all she had suffered. Then suddenly she felt the release, muscles that had been knotted for what felt like eternity began to untie themselves. Her entire being was warmed as if warm oils were flowing through her veins. She couldn’t look up, the other man would certainly still be there. He would have her arrested. He would have her sent away. The little she had left could be ripped from her. But she couldn’t feel the blood any more. She couldn’t find the pain. From the depths of her soul she felt the birth of life. New life. Whole life. She was alive.
“Did you feel it?” he asked.
She nodded again. She felt his warm hand cradle her chin. In his hand, she allowed her whole being to relax. He drew her head up. She could feel the tears running down her face, mingling with dirt from the road. She looked up at him. His eyes were gentle, like none she had ever seen. In them was the source of life. His face was kind.
“Are you whole?” he asked with a depth of reassurance that could calm seas.
She looked up at the other man. All the fear and hesitation vanished, she was no longer in his control. She looked back into his eyes. “Yes,” she said.
“I know,” he said.
He helped her to her feet, steadying her. She wanted to throw her arms around him. She wanted to fall back to the ground. She wanted him to hold her up forever. Without a word, he released his grasp and she knew it was time to go. She brushed the dirt from her tattered garments, adjusted her veil to reveal her face. She raised her head and began to walk. The warmth of the sun penetrated the layers of fabric and she breathed in life for the first time since she could remember.
He stood watching as the crowd began to separate as she passed. This one who had hidden herself, who was unrecognized, who did her best to be invisible, walked through the crowed as royalty.
After all she was, she had just touched the hem of this man called Jesus, and she was whole.