Sarah Ensor

Prayers for Hopeless Cases

And other good intentions.

photo-1451187580459-43490279c0fa

This is a love story.

In your journal, you draw faces, words, and twirling patterns. In notebooks, you doodle improbable leaves and tesselating triangles. Sometimes, you draw a funny pig or a bird. Your mother used to draw the same triangles on notebook paper or envelopes as she talked on the phone. An old drafting pencil made particularly crisp lines as she repeatedly retraced her design.

First a triangle. Two become a square. Three, a house. Four, a rectangle. Beyond that, it’s a pattern without shape or reason.

You have done this in class, in meetings, during readings or speeches. You have trouble sitting still. You frame your nervous energy, fence it with lines and triangles, an endless trap of tessellations that will never be satisfied.

A man murdered fifty people last week. An alligator snatched and drowned a little boy. An old, kind acquaintance lost a child to an awful disease. Your dog was diagnosed with terminal cancer. A thousand million other things terrified the tiny creatures on a spinning globe in an endless universe.

Your journal sits on the coffee table. You want to doodle, shade with the new pencils you bought with your children at the craft store named for a founding father. But you don’t. You write drivel on social media. Sentence fragments. You give the dog bacon and extra peanut butter. You eat double-dip ice cream cones with your children and swim together at the YMCA. They try to make the tiniest splash and then the biggest. They request that you rate the splash created by each jump. You listen to the dog’s snores while you work and will your heart to ignore his present missingness. You pet his soft head, to his annoyance. Other people’s tragedies feel too close. A storm is coming.

On your back steps, sometimes you smoke cigarettes. You are not a regular smoker but you like rituals, and you have always loved the view of the stars in your backyard. You struggle to remember the constellations from your undergrad astronomy class. One star is Betelgeuse; three stars are a belt; seven become Orion, but you have to look that up. Look up. Look out.

On the back steps, one of the corner bricks cracked in last winter’s snow and it seems as though a chunk might fall off. The sky spits now, and the first drops hit your arm. Next door, maybe the artist is leaving his studio, or his wife calls in the dogs. Why do fireflies avoid the rain?

You go inside and pet the dog. He is panting but you don’t know if he is nervous about the storm or if a tumor is shorting him lung capacity.

On social media, someone has made a joke, someone has posted a sunset. A new niece, a dead parent. Are you there?

Yes, I’m here. Are you?

Goodnight.

Goodnight.