A harlot’s way: 2 Babylon

Unlike the psalmist, I did not find myself weeping by the rivers of Babylon, and to be frank, I did not miss Zion one little bit; so there. What a bad woman I am.

My new Lord was generous. He wanted me not for himself but for the governor of Babylon, or, to be precise, Seleucia, which was beginning to replace the old imperial capital. There were many of my race and creed in Babylon from the old times, and the governor lusted after women from our race, but none could be had; now he had one – me. The man of business who procured me was paid handsomely, but I insisted on a share of his profit, telling him that without it, I would be sure to make his life a misery by disappointing his patron. A shrewd man of business, he recognised a kindred soul in me and handed over ten percent of what he received. In return for a discount on the twenty percent I had demanded initially, he negotiated me a regular allowance. I did not disappoint. I knew, in theory how to please a man, and my practice occasioned no complaint. He was an older man, not too demanding, and easily satisfied. He liked that I would read to him and that I would keep him amused. As I say, I knew how to please him.

Did that make me the harlot that my fellow Jews in Babylon called me? I took money in return for sex, that was true, but it was with one man, and I was one of many concubines, and no one called them whores. A better standard was expected from a Jewess, and I fell below it. My one attempt to go to a synagogue on the sabbat was a huge fiasco. I was turned away when I reached the court of the Gentiles. That was me put in my place.

Mind you, Mordechai, the treasurer of the Synagogue, did not disdain my gold when I gave it to his charge, not did he refuse to take interest from what it earned, any more than he refrained from suggesting that I might add “pleasure to business” – as it would have been his pleasure and not mine, we left it at that.

Orodotes, my Lord, was a generous man when he was in the mood, and I made sure he was often in the mood. Quietly I donated money to the fund kept at the synagogue for the poor and needy, but I did so via Mordechai, who no doubt took a fee. I knew my Torah, and if I could not keep it all, I could be charitable. I could afford to, but not everyone who could afford it did it.

My life continued in this way for more than a decade until, halfway through the second decade, Orodotes sickened and died. I tended him on his deathbed. I had grown genuinely fond of the old man and am not ashamed to say it was the one time I wept by the rivers of Babylon. I was in my late twenties, my looks, if I say so myself, were unblemished, and my skills almost at their peak. Orodotes man of business, Arsacres, suggested that I get him to negotiate a deal with the new governor when he was appointed. I pretended to consider the matter, but the morning after the funeral of Orodotes, I saw Mordechai and collected from him some gold and a note of credit to his banker in Jerusalem. I left the following day. I never saw the Euphrates again, but retain fond memories of it.

Traveling by stages, I reached Jerusalem two months later and presented myself to Mordechai’s banker who asked whether I would continue to use him as my man of business. I readily agreed, and as he was handsome, was happy to pay him commission in kind. I never liked to give away for free what men would pay for, but when men paid, that was business. I stayed with him for a year on my return, before deciding it was time to move on. The question was where? Enquries had established my uncle was dead and my aunt was no longer in Bethlehem. She had gone, I learned, to Bethany, so thence it was for me. Through my man of business I arranged the purchase of a house and some land. I would, henceforth, please myself, I decided.

Again, I could hardly have been more wrong, but what did I know? I could not have known as I took that road that it would intersect with what had happened in Bethlehem nearly twenty years earlier – how could I?

About JessicaHoff
Church of England. Survivor. Grateful. Rabid feminist lefty, according to some, wishy-washy liberal according to me.

6 Responses to A harlot’s way: 2 Babylon

  1. the unit says:

    “…my skills almost at their peak.” Waiting for it…since POTUS-elect says we can’t travel during the holidays. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: In The Mailbox: 12.02.20 : The Other McCain

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