guest post by Alec Crisman
Near my father’s house, where this one is currently located, there is a small Catholic prayer garden, a beautiful, hexagonal affair wreathed in trees and centered upon an alabaster Virgin Mary. The Holy Mother looks up towards the sky with that look (perfected through centuries of sculpture) of divine bliss and tranquility, her serenity still palpable though bits of her have begun to chip off. The branches from the nearby foliage bend low over her, shading her during the hot summer days. Indeed, the whole garden is quite overgrown at this point in summer (it’s attached to a church that serves as a school), with the approach through the brick archway at its entrance now requiring a deep stoop under cascading greenery. Entering this sanctuary almost gives one the sense of going through C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe, and as such the air hums with an almost permanent sense of peace.
So I wasn’t surprised when, in the course of an evening walk, I see a young girl stooping under those same branches, using her cell-phone as a light. I opt to leave her the illusion of privacy, moving to the outside of the fence gingerly and softly, intending to skirt by unnoticed and take in the faux-Tudor architecture in the rich neighborhood across the way. But before I can go I’m arrested by a heaving sob (clearly held in during her midnight trek) and a primal, heart-rending plea to the Madonna.
”Please help!” she gasps simply, overwhelmed by the sudden flood of her barely-contained pain. She looks down at her cell phone, and types with the speed and ferocity that clearly (for our generation at least) bespeaks of an argument. More deep sobs escape her, the kind only shed in private and that I, now, am suddenly privy to. It strikes me that most of us have shed these same brutal tears, but most all of us prefer to pretend they don’t exist. It strikes me that this is an incredibly stupid state of affairs.
As her fingers fly across the keys and the tears stream down her face I suddenly know this conflict is with a loved one, quite possibly a first boyfriend judging by the garish pink of her sweater. In between texts she looks up at the same sky the Madonna does, and the contrast between the faces couldn’t be more pronounced. The girl’s eyes scan the heavens beseechingly, begging begging begging but for what, I do not know. I only know the feeling. Her phone glows and hums, and she lunges for it eagerly, but the screen doesn’t tell her what she wants to hear, and more uncontrolled sobs leap out of her chest. Her head swings back haphazardly, and as her body continues to shake she glares at blurry stars, and a familiar phrase exits her lips
”Why isn’t it working?” she moans softly, her voice getting weak with her despair. “Why won’t you help me?”
Yeah, hon. I know that feeling too.
“When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate.”
-Shakespeare, Sonnet 29