Read the original Spanish version here.
Of Love and Stones
by Maximiliano Martínez
translated by Gabriel González
He held the stone for a moment and stared at it, as if hefting its weight. He switched it from one hand to the other, caressing it with his fingers, as if feeling its texture, its hardness. He walked to his house and set the stone down on a small piece of furniture that he used for studying the scriptures. He sat down and stared at it for a long time. As he gazed at it, he thought of his wife.
In accordance with the law of his people, an adulterous woman was to pay for her sin with death. People would pick up stones and throw them at her, one after another, until she was dead.
He had never taken part in a stoning, but he had heard the roar of the crowd when it happened. He had heard the moaning of those in their death throes, the sound the stones made… He looked away from the rock he had brought and looked at his wife who was sleeping right by him. He looked at her eyelids, her long, black eyelashes... her beloved face. Her calm breathing. Her parted lips.
A few tears rolled down his cheeks. These were tears of anguish. The pain was like an ember burnt in his bowels.
Would destroying that beautiful flower return to him the peace that was lost? Would seeing that treasure destroyed on the ground bring comfort?
How could someone who loves attack his own flesh, his own soul? How could he extinguish that miracle which God had brought into his life?
He knew God’s laws, and they were strict. She too knew them... but for some reason seemed to have forgotten all about them.
How could he turn that small, beautiful, and delicate being over to an incensed crowd to be hurt, beaten, wounded...?
Would not this latter sin be worse than the former one?
He felt that indeed, even if he was backed by the law, such a law was not the will of God. He glanced at the motionless stone on the wood. He looked at his wife.
She turned on the bed, bringing one leg up and stretching the other out.
He wept again. He liked to watch her sleep. Her lustrous hair. Her shape as she lay there. Yes, he was hurt. The pain of knowing that what was his had been given to another man. Why? What evil had he done to be humiliated in the worst possible way? And yet, what was he after all but a man? He was not infallible, and he did not understand all things, but it seemed that this tempest within was God testing him, that God’s ways were higher than those of the people, that there was greater joy in forgiveness than pain in deceit. He stroked her wife’s soft cheeks with the back of his hand and pictured her covered in wounds, blood pouring from her nose and mixing with the dirt of the road, her hair dirty with dust and soaked in blood. His heart wrung inside him.
He stroked her hair. With the tip of his index finger, he traced the tender relief of her nose. She opened her eyes and discovered his own eyes, glazed and moist, very close to her. They both smiled.
“God bless you,” he whispered.
He then stood up, picked up the stone, and walked out to the patio.
He took a shovel, and dug a hole, but as he did so, he felt a hand, a large hand, resting on his shoulder. He turned around and found a man dressed in white, a man with an imposing bearing and manly yet kind features, looking him straight in the eyes.
“Dig deeper, dig a deeper hole,” said the caller.
The young husband felt this was a command of sorts. He dug deeper and deeper. When he finished, the stranger helped him out of the hole, and said to him, placing his hand on the young husband’s chest:
“Be comforted,” and he was comforted, the anguish and pain vanishing away. “Because you uncovered the true meaning of the law and because you loved as God loves and not as the children of this generation do, the Lord will bless you abundantly, and you will receive seven times more than what you would have achieved by your own hand. And now I give you this commandment, that you free this people from the stones that are found among them.”
Then the man walked away, and upon reaching the wall at the patio’s end, instead of crashing into it, he walked right thought, the same way a person might walk into a cane field and vanish from sight.
Life went on for this man, with its daily routine, with its comings and goings. And he kept this saying in his heart, revealing it to no one.
But it was inevitable that his wife would see this daily occurrence. A hole that little by little, day after day, continued to fill up with stones that he brought in from the street.