I finished my pilgrimage to Columbus, and came back down to the Valley with a bump.
The end of the month is coming up. We have enough to eat and a few dollars cash to take Rosie swimming. But we have nothing for the student loan that defaulted, which will go to collection before long, and nothing for the other surprise bill from the City that will add a late fee on the first of the month. If we did have the money we would pay the electric on time before it gets a late fee. The idea of fixing up my credit so I can move out of here is as much of a fantasy as it ever was.
My friend messaged me that she’s got to pay her fine before her probation hearing and I don’t know what happens if she can’t. She’s also about to get the lights shut of, and I can’t help with that either. I can’t even help myself this weekend. All I could do was empathize.
She has another friend who is fleeing severe domestic violence. For a tense night, we didn’t know where she’d gone. It was just as likely she was sleeping outdoors or had gone back to the abuser, as that she’d gotten to a safe house. Her phone was powered down and last we knew she’d run out of gas. We prayed. I promised to go pick her up in the town where she was if I could get a location. For awhile that was all I knew.
Meanwhile neighbor died– not the one who harasses us, but the one who needed the walker. I don’t even know if she got a chance to use it. I barely knew her. Last year she heard about the harassing neighbor and offered to mow our lawn for us if they got a mower sometime. This year she lost fifty pounds in a month without knowing why, and when she was finally diagnosed it was too late. Stage four. Pancreatic cancer burns through a victim like wildfire. She was crying on Facebook about all the pain she was in, how hot it was in that building with the air conditioner broken, how she couldn’t even swallow food to keep her strength up and the pain medicine wasn’t working. And then I heard nothing, and then she was gone.
I went out to the secret garden yesterday, and found my three beds worse than thirsty. The eggplant was losing her blossoms and the bottom leaves of the tomatoes were yellow. The giant sunflower’s biggest leaves had some new brown spots. The rain barrels haven’t been set up yet. They catch a little when it pours, just from me leaving their lids off, but not nearly enough.
There isn’t enough.
There isn’t anything like enough.
There has never, ever been enough.
And there’s no rain predicted for days.
A lady I know wanted a ride to Mass yesterday, for the feast day. She is in a nursing home way outside of town, which is good because it means she’s not homeless anymore, but there’s no way to catch the bus to go to church. She called me from the front desk because she doesn’t have a phone and she doesn’t have money to get one. She wanted to go to the big baroque church all the way downtown, the traditionalist one, the one where an usher once threw Michael out when he tried to sit down in his old shabby coat. That was the church we were married in, a lifetime ago, at a Mass con-celebrated by a sex offender. The sex offender preached the homily. The girls from the Faith Household that stuck that chain around my wrist were the bridesmaids.
I haven’t been able to walk into that church without panic since Father was indicted.
I said “yes” because I wanted to help.
I tried to drop her off at the handicap accessible entrance by the elevator, but that entrance was locked. All the entrances were locked. The one entrance with the doorbell was at the other end of the church. I had to leave her waiting with my car and go ring it.
The man who had been praying in the Adoration chapel let me in. I walked through the basement to the other side of the church, in the dark part of the way, turning on lights, trying not to look around, trying not to remember.
I think she thought I was going to go to church with her, but I promised to pick her up in two hours and I fled.
I drove up from downtown on the steep winding road that led straight to the old hospital, with the nursing school where Franciscan University was housing graduate students when I came here to go to school in 2006. This was my dormitory. This was the spot where my mother dropped me off, fuming “I hope this place can do something for you, because we give up.” This side of the complex is empty now.
I parked and got out, trying not to remember, remembering anyway, remembering it all.
I faced the place where the chapel used to be, and I prayed.
“Rorate, caeli desuper, et nubes pluant iustum,” I sang, not caring who heard me. “Rorate, caeli desuper, et nubes pluant iustum.”
Drop dew, ye Heavens above, and let the clouds rain justice.
Or, I’ve sometimes heard it translated, Drop dew, ye Heavens above, and let the clouds rain the One who is just.
But there wasn’t a breeze, not the smell of rain, not a cloud.
That night, Michael and I went out to the community garden after dark. After dark was the only time it was cool enough to do any gardening, and the only time safe to drag a parade of bottled water past my stalking neighbor’s house without her wondering where we were going. We filled nine gallon jugs with water from the sink. We loaded up the hand grocery cart, and we dragged it two blocks to the garden, under the cloudless sky.
I drenched the soil around the eggplant. I drenched the soil around the tomatoes. I drenched the corn and the squash and the herbs, the sunflowers and the peppers, the potatoes in their big barrel. Michael kept un-lidding jugs of water and I kept pouring until everything that was mine had a long, long drink. My arms and back were tired when I was done, but we wouldn’t lose the harvest.
The next morning, I found out that the domestic violence victim had made it to a safe place for the night. She’s on the move again, somewhere out there.
I went to check on the garden, and found that the plants had perked up.
If you pray for the rain of justice, be willing to be the one who makes it rain.
If you pray for God to send the Just One, be ready to be a just one.
I don’t know how to do that, Lord, but I’m trying.
Image via pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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