It was Sunday and the Packers were losing. I started praying.
I readied my offer to God.
I was praying for the Packers to win. Dear God, I said, if you let
the Packers win, I’ll never
drink again. Then I remembered my beer, half-finished
and waiting for me.
Never mind, God, I said. Never mind. I’ll think of something else.
I looked around
the room. There was, in the room, a man I did not intend
on giving up on quite yet,
a TV I would not watch less of, a floor I wouldn’t sweep more.
The Packers lost.
For what must have been the first time in my life, I couldn’t
think of anything
I was willing to give up or change about myself. I had prayed
before to wake up different.
I had begged God to change many things about my life, like
who my parents were, or for
a bead door to my bedroom, or to make me married to
my favorite baseball player.
I had even changed myself many times, with no one’s help.
I changed myself, for instance,
into a person who hikes. I hiked to the top of a hill
in Indian Lake Park where in 1857
a man built a tiny blue chapel—he promised God he’d build
a chapel if his family survived
the diphtheria epidemic. The snow on the path to the chapel
had iced over, so I slid
my way up the hill, falling every few feet to find myself
face-to-face with some
animal’s blood, spilt into the snow. The blood continued
up the entirety
of the trail. I reminded myself that animals killed each other
all the time.
I needed new boots. My Timberlands were six years old
and had holes—I prayed
to God for new Timberlands. I prayed for warmer feet, I prayed
to stop falling.
The chapel was surrounded by a black fence. The chapel was
about the size of my kitchen.
Inside, there were multiple pictures of Mary—should I have been
praying to her instead?
In the chapel, beneath two Marys, on top of the hill, there was
a prayer book full of prayers.
Moms had written down prayers for their kids who couldn’t
write yet. Kids prayed
for the family dog, who did not know prayers existed.
Aunts and uncles were in the hospital,
maybe God had time to help? Reading other people’s prayers
felt dirty, but I didn’t stop.
I rationalized. I was certain my reading them only
made them stronger.