When you sit next to a kid who tells you he wants to drop out of school, you worry a little about what to say, this is what makes some people praying people. “I know you can make money doing things that are illegal, but doesn’t pretty much everyone who’s doing that stuff eventually go to prison? ”
Long pauses. Wait almost too long for the kid to talk.
“And then you can’t get a real job after that?” Sit next to kid, facing the same direction. “I mean, I hate it, I wish it wasn’t that way, but that’s the way it is, isn’t it? But you have to make your own decision. You’re almost an adult. It’s up to you.”
I know this is the right way, that is, the honest, loving one. Still, I shake off my hands afterward, as if they are wet.
After my friend was hurt, I prayed The Great Litany. That is what it is there for. It is very long, in church we only do it at the Easter Vigil when we are pulling out all the stops. The next day, it was a Monday, I went into a shop that looked wholly foreign to me, a white Protestant girl, a storefront looking so handmade as much does here, shelves full of prayer candles, odd pieces of fabric, African masks, the door would not shut properly, the clerk had just asked the previous person in there to shut it. In the city, doors don’t close.
Most of your usual saint choices were on the shelf: Our Lady of Various Things, Jude, and then one had the devil on it, and one had money, which made me feel dirty. Then there was Saint Francis. He was fine. My friend loves animals more than people. So do I. I bought the St. Francis candle. It only has prayers in Spanish. I do not speak Spanish. St. Francis would have to operate without me. The clerk wrapped my candle in white paper and I carried it home against my chest. It felt like fat dynamite. It was cold.
The kid keeps coming to school, so there’s that.
I kept lighting the candle every evening. I stopped formal praying. I have a hard time believing something bad actually happened, I keep hearing about it, waiting to believe it. It’s too crazy to have feelings about, too crazy to believe.
And it is near Christmas, and I get frightened that I have no babies, that maybe I never will, I also hear about this and don’t quite believe it. We read the Elizabeth parts of the Bible, with old Elizabeth miraculously having her baby.
And I think, the time we would get together at Christmas, with my friend, we won’t do that. We won’t be sitting in our usual restaurant at our usual fourtop with the French cafe chairs, shooting the shit and making fun of each other for the things we have been making fun of each other for for a long time, since we were young adults, now we are just adults. He won’t order a beer.
One of my students has gotten it in his head I revise things 25 times. Probably because I said this. I don’t know what I say. “Ms Schurman had her writing published, but she had to revise it 25 times.” Sure. Twenty-five. That’s it.
We beseech thee mercifully to incline thing ear to use who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have asked faithfully according to thy will, may be obtained effectually, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
It’s always the long-term that interests me. How long you can be friends with someone. How long you can teach. Can you write a book, a whole book. Can you stick it out. When someone is hurt, when people grieve, it is an explosion with a long road away from it.
Image: Double-Flash Photograph of a No. 8 Du Pont Dynamite Cap, Harold Edgerton, Metropolitan Museum of Art.