At thirteen Ben Joe could put me on my back. At fifteen he could carry me. At sixteen he was tasting whores round the port of Caesaria in Samaria, while I kept guard under the window against gangs of drunks who wanted the same whores too.
‘You have to meet Mags.’
‘What makes her special?’
‘She is just great fun; what every boy needs.’
‘And I suppose she’s available to any boy that wants her?’
‘Nothing wrong with that.’
Mags kept house with a huge Turk eunuch. The Turk had two jobs. One was to stand at the door in his turban and silks and generally garnish the place, provide the suggestion of a palace to a small house. His other job was to protect her. He looked to me like a man who could break your neck with ease in his hands and not be distracted by pity. I assumed he was a slave, though I would have advised Mags to keep him happy and pay him enough to save for his days of freedom – when she had become too old or diseased to carry on with this work.
The eunuch knew Ben Joe and stepped aside to let us pass.
Inside was a small warm chamber decorated with wall hangings and oil lamps to produce an atmosphere of sensual comfort and intrigue. Beyond that there could only have been two other rooms in such a small house, one for Mags to change and wash in, the other the bedroom itself.
‘What do you do if she has a man with her when you come?’
‘You just don’t get past the monster at the door.’
We sat and waited.
How often had Ben Joe been here before? Was it wise to be getting so preoccupied with her?
The door into one of the other rooms opened and in stepped the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Was it possible that by dressing in fine clothes and draping herself in jewellery any of the woman of Nazareth might also look like this? She was tall and slender and she wore only a small bodice and a fine skirt. Her shoulders, arms and waist were bare. The shape of everything else was clear through her light clothing. I felt my face grow warm. Mags sat down opposite and joined her hands on her knees and spoke in the most businesslike way.
‘Now, what have we here; two young bulls? We will have to discuss different terms, Ben Joe.’
She handed me a chart of options, with prices beside them.
‘Why do Romans pay less for a hand job?’
‘It is less work with a Roman. God gave men a little extra to play with then asked the Jews to give it back. ‘
‘This is like buying a camel.’
‘Indeed, why would it be any different?’
Ben Joe thought we were wasting time. ‘We weren’t thinking of going in together. Me first and then Judas, at the same price. Two payments for you.’
‘Very well. But Judas will have to go outside. I won’t have you in the house if you are not in the bedroom where I can keep an eye on you.’
‘Look,’ I said, ‘I don’t think I’ll …’
Mags smiled. ‘That’s okay. It’s not for everybody.’
Ben Joe took out his purse to pay and I went for a walk alone along the harbour.
When we camped together at night on the beach after Mags had kicked Ben Joe out, he would rest his hand on my shoulder and tell me every detail of her body and his exertions. ‘She says I am different from all the rest, that I am the only one she would take if she didn’t need the shekels.’
‘And you are daft enough to believe her?’
‘Of course not, but if you make a woman squeal she will greet you with a smile the next time you call.’
A year later, when I was on my own and without a home, I walked past Mags’ house, not sure whether to go in or not. I watched from a distance. Her eunuch still guarded the door and, as I watched, he barred more visitors than he admitted.
Would she talk to me?
I had hardly spoken to anyone for three days and I felt miserable. I was hungry too, for I had become careless about eating. So I would have to do something about that soon.
Mags’ door opened and a man I took for a Roman emerged. I waited until he was past the next corner and then I approached the eunuch. He was abrupt with me. ‘You have money?’
He must have taken me for a scruffy beggar. I showed him some gold and he opened the door. I was back in the luxurious little room where Ben Joe and I had last spoken to her. What was I here for? Well, I wanted the same comfort and pleasure as any man who came here, and I was led by my curiosity for I had never had them. Mags entered with the graceful sway of her body, studying me carefully. She looked a little older but not much older, though I had not expected her to have aged at all.
‘Well, what can I do for you?’
‘Please, don’t show me the list. I will pay you properly.’
‘You know me already?’
‘I came once with Ben Joe.’
‘Ah, the Nazarene. How is he?’
‘I have not seen him. I thought you would know where I could find him.’
‘No. Is that what you came here for?’
I said nothing and she watched me awhile. She might have been thinking about throwing me out.
‘I am sure I have not had you.’
‘I came but did not stay. It was a long time ago.’
‘What service do you require? You must tell me.’
My head sank. What service? What I needed was a …
‘… a bath and something to eat by the looks of you.’
I laughed. Yes. That’s what I needed – kindness.
‘You pay and I do what you want. If you are lonely and need fed and pampered, I do that too, so long as you then pay me and leave.’
Again I was silent, afraid to say the wrong thing.
‘OK. Come with me.’
She took me into the bathing room at the back. There was a large tub and pots of hot water on a stove. ‘Undress,’ she said.
I took off my clothes and stood meekly in front of her.
‘Now you can’t run away,’ she laughed.
She filled the tub from warm and cool pots and checked the heat of the water with her hand. ‘Now get into that.’
I sat down in the warm water feeling foolish and determined to say nothing that might make me feel even more foolish. She went for jars of oil and some herbs and scented the bath. I had grown up in a house of men and had never smelt a bath like this. She scooped some water in a small jug and poured it over my head. ‘You’re not the first lonely boy who came to my door looking for a little mothering,’ she said.
I lowered myself into the water and sighed with great relief. Mags soaped my legs and body. When she squeezed my cock I gasped and it burst immediately and she laughed again. ‘You have been saving that up for too long.’
Then she went out of the room and returned with bread and wine.
As I lay back in the tub, she broke the bread and fed little bits of it into my mouth. ‘Take this as my body, which is given up for you and for all men who want it.’
She said, ‘This is my breast. Take and eat.’
The dry bread was still warm from the oven. It was the most beautiful bread I had ever tasted, or seemed so then. I seemed to taste all the work and care she had put into making it. Then she raised the wine to my lips and poured it gently into my mouth, dripping some over my cheeks and chin. ‘This is the juice of my love. Drink all of it.’
She poured it so fast into me that I had to gulp to swallow without choking.
And I lay there and my body warmed and relaxed.
‘Are you ready to do it properly?’ she said.
She stood me in the bath and dried me with a warm towel. My cock seemed absurd and intrusive but she padded it dry too and even kissed it. She left the towel draped from it as from a peg and smiled at the joke. Then her own garment fell lightly from her and she stood close to me so that I could smell her sweat through her perfumed oils. I had been eager to see her like this but did not immediately find her beautiful. Her flesh was loose and lined, as if much used. She tucked my cock between her legs, tight under the arch. She clasped me and I was laughing again, and again I pulsed and started to come and she felt it immediately.
‘This boy has no patience. Should I punish him?’
She stooped and licked me clean, taking the drops into her mouth, catching some in her fingers and licking them too. She came up level with my face again and wiped tears from my eyes with hands that smelt of me. ‘It’s OK. A good man always weeps the first time a woman does that.’
Then I went down and licked the rest from inside her thighs. She smelt like a garden after rain. We went into her bedroom and lay side by side and again she did not expect me to speak but said comforting, belittling things to me.
‘Will you be able to do this right before you go, boy, or will you learn nothing today?’
When I was ready she came astride me and I slithered in and slowly and impatiently I studied her body, its curves and its little wrinkles, the fine hairs on her thigh, but especially the rich hair on the bone she had settled on me. And she leaned over and kissed my nose and my brow. ‘What do you want?’
‘I would like to look at everything and touch everything.’
‘You boys are all the same.’ She came off me and lay on the bed while I explored her with my fingers and my tongue.
‘I have seen a Bedouin buy a camel for his son’s dowry with less fuss,’ she laughed.
And when I had finished, she clasped my cock in her gifted hand and drained it quickly. ‘Time’s up,’ she said.
I had never felt as happy – as blessed – in all my life. She fetched my clothes and dumped them on the bed and named her price. It was high, but no price would have been too high. ‘You’re looking for your friend Ben Joe. I think he is in Jerusalem. With his bad-boy friends.’
So I travelled back North instead. Why? I felt refreshed and less in need of Ben Joe. I felt I was man enough now without him.
Iscariot, Malachi O’Doherty’s new novel is now available on Kindle. You can purchase it HERE