This is a letter of confession that is unsent. It contains the lamentations of a leader’s regrets and shame that he has towards his late servant of the army.
I know that you are no longer with us but I am writing to ask for your forgiveness.
A few days ago, I got news that my wife was pregnant. In fact, she was your wife. I have made it through so many months after your passing, and the guilt and shame that I live with return from time to time. For the past few nights, the moonlight that crept in from the balcony has been keeping me awake. Last night, I was pacing up and down the cold marble floor when I finally decided that I should pen my thoughts down to you.
Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your faithful service in the army. After your passing, I have repeatedly heard of the many great and desirable things about you from General Joab and your other comrades. He told me of how you had fought bravely for our nation and brought me pride without fail. Yet, their words pricked my conscience.
You see, no one else but your wife and God knows why you died. No it was not the archers that shot you. You probably thought you were faithfully serving your nation, but here I am writing to tell you the brutal truth and to seek your forgiveness.
It was my order to place you there on the battlefront. I needed to cover up for my mistake. And I have let you, my good soldier, down.
It happened on a night where the moon was nowhere to be found. I had seen her from my balcony as she was removing her robes. The servant girls were pouring spring water over her body with earthenware jars, her eyes closed as she relaxed and laid in the bath. Her face was serene and her long black hair was alluring. I caught myself standing at the balcony for a long time and realised how frustrated I felt that it wasn’t me who was with her in the bath. I am ashamed to even recall this incident. I know I should have stopped myself. I should have turned away. But I didn’t. Instead, I called for a boy to get her.
Sometimes when I stand at my balcony I am still haunted by that very night – it changed my life, her life and your life. It was because of that dreadful night that changed who I was, causing me to take your life away.
You and I were not very acquainted but the people could tell that I was a man with big ambitions, to lead my nation into victory and direct them towards success. I wanted to serve my people, guide them see the Light and be a role model for them. I suppose that the prosperity we enjoyed as a nation was because I was confident about my strength and capabilities. But after stumbling upon your wife and falling for her, I lost all of that strength I took refuge in and found my competency being stripped away. I lost myself.
Irrationality invaded my thoughts and panic overtook the wisdom I took pride in. When I heard the news that I had made your wife pregnant, I knew that I had to act fast. Honestly, I did not want to break your marriage but I had to pay the price for my foolish act. My plan was not meant to hurt anybody. I thought that getting you to leave the war and join your wife at home would settle this once and for all. I thought that what I was doing was for the best, for you and her.
Just the other day, I was observing a myna in the courtyard. It was searching for food and it chanced upon an injured butterfly. Using its beak, it caught hold of it but it was too large for it to swallow. Instinctively, the bird seized its wings and shook the butterfly violently. It took the bird a great effort to finally break the wing of the helpless butterfly and swallowed it. That reminded me of myself.
Did you know that you drove me mad? You were not easily enticed by entertainment or even allured by the idea of spending a night with your wife. I can remember your passionate words spoken unto me, “I’m sorry”. You could not bear to abandon your comrades. While Joab and the rest slept in tents, you did not deserve rest at home, you explained. And I saw what sort of man you were, the honourable one that I was determined to eliminate. You opened my eyes to see that I was the deplorable man deserving to be condemned.
Resentment mixed with fear overcame me. If I could not get you to follow through with my plan to preserve your marriage, I knew that I had to get rid of you entirely before my name was tarnished. Hence, I ordered Joab to move you to the front of the battle.
It was one of the rainy days when the fateful news came to us that many men had died in the recent confrontation.
I saw her – your wife – fall to the dirt ground. She was screaming your name amidst the thunderstorm. The servant girls rushed to help her up but her heart weighed her down. Her continuous wailing made my insides churn and her scream dragged my heart down into abysmal depths. I remember rushing back to my quarters to rest from all the commotion.
I thought all would be well after conniving the ultimate ploy to get rid of you, but what filled my heart turned out to be guilt instead of freedom, remorse instead of repose.
It is probably too late to apologise because after you have departed, darkness crept into my life. I just want you to know how guilty I am of being a proud scoundrel that refused to lay my crown down to acknowledge my mistake of sleeping with your wife. To think that I could outsmart the people around me, especially you, and to try and manoeuvre around my mistake – I was wrong.
The bloodguilt that stained my hands stumbled me from leading my people. I was drowning in the scarlet sea of my shame, shackled to the curse of my iniquity. I was afraid and lost in complete darkness, without vision or any sight of redemption. I know I do not deserve forgiveness, but I begged God to show me mercy.
I am so bloody broken. What I did was selfish. I disregarded another life. I played God to think that I could have it my way. Now I want to confront my past and plead with the innocent man whom I have harmed. I sincerely hope that you will look beyond my abhorrent actions and forgive me, will you?
I still remember the last words you said to me, and these words have been ringing in my ears recently. It showed me your sincerity and nobility as a solider and man. You said, “My lord, thank you for showing us servitude, and what resilience is. You’ve led us selflessly, always placing others before yourself. It is an honour to be led by someone so upright and virtuous. I have learnt a great deal from you.”
I am not sure why the first time I had heard these words from you, didn’t strike me to have a change of heart but it must have been the evil within me that deafened my ears. My friend, you command my utmost respect for your brave service to this nation.
I will look after her and love her as you did. After the day we heard the news of your passing, I decided to take her as my wife because I felt compelled to care for her. We lost our first child, but we have been blessed with another. I am not proud of what I have done as a leader and I have learned things the hard way. With you gone and my first child taken away, it is time for me to learn from you what it truly means to place others before my selfish ways.
It seems like things are no longer as dim as it used to be. The cold days have grown warmer, and the light of dawn a little brighter.