Prayer for me is looking out a window. There’s not much of a scenic view through any of ours, but there’s nothing that calms me quite like standing by the kitchen window, waiting for the kettle to boil, concentrating on a weed growing in a patch of dirt, or, fresh-brewed cup in hand, idly gazing through the glass in the parlour, waiting for a car or pedestrian to pass. There isn’t much to see: my options are the yard or the street, and both are drab and quiet. There is little traffic on Spinner’s End, and still fewer remaining residents, so I haven’t many people to look at from home, but it’s a blessing, really. Better to live on a nearly abandoned dead-end than amongst a teeming mass of unpleasant neighbours. I like the stillness of the pavement, and watching its gradual deterioration over the years, trying to recall to memory its state of decrepitude at various points in my life. How big was that hole when I was ten? Was that crack there when I lost my virginity? How long has that window been busted? Two years? It’s a form of long-term meditation.

I look out a window all day at work, when business is at a lull, waiting on hold to wrap up some fried delight for the next customer. I love those moments when I can zone out and think about nothing in particular. Makes standing around on my feet more tolerable. Centring.

And then there’s the cathedral of the library, where I often take vigil at my favourite seat by the window that looks out on the crooked tree, and I lift my head from my book every so often to look out, even though there is nothing new to look upon.

And once in a while, my prayers are answered, because it really is a silent, secret prayer, watching nothing, thinking nothing, praying, hoping, begging for something. And once in a great while, he will pass by, my most secret, quiet prayer, and I wake up with a revelatory POP! in the few seconds he is in my periphery, and then he is gone, leaving me as light-headed and filled with confused, unsatiated bliss as a devoted worshipper who’s had a fleeting knowledge of the presence of God before them. That’s rather blasphemous, but it’s not as if I’ve seen much evidence of God, whereas I actually HAVE seen this man.

He isn’t especially God-like, except in that his presence in my life has been simultaneously consistent and rare. And though he is near, he is yet a stranger to me.

He’s lived here as far back as I can remember, the last house on Spinner’s End, staying here as the rest of the neighbourhood moves out, staying here as the empty houses fall to shambles, staying and walking the same street with the same spinster watching him pass for a couple of decades. When I was little I would sometimes see him in the summer, and I wanted to play with him, even though he was older, and quiet, and unpopular with the other children. But those were probably the exact reasons-- he wasn’t one of the typical dumb bully types with whom I shared a mutual dislike. But I was shy then, and grew up getting shyer all the time, and by the time I was a teenager it seemed I saw him even less often, but I thought of him more than ever, as a hormonal girl will with any available male candidate, and became conscious of his being a man. When he did happen by, a tall, dark streak moving briskly along the pavement, I planted one of those plentiful, readily sown seeds of a crush for him, and it sprouted and grew slowly, where so many others had blossomed and died away. Such a dense and delicate and wild bloom-- whenever I see a patch of wild carrot, I think of picking a few stalks and leaving them on his doorstep, but he would probably brush them aside as rubbish, or get an uneasy feeling over who might be leaving weeds at his door.

A sacred offering to a hidden devotion, laid at the feet of the dwelling place, the shrine, to someone, no one.

What silly prayers. Just to see a stranger. I can’t even imagine what his name might be, and we’ve been neighbours all my life. He could be called Fred. He could be called Enrico. I’ve asked him a million times in my head. Sometimes he answers, but usually I can’t quite hear his response. Deaf when it counts. Deaf in dreams.

The End

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