It seems, in truth, that we use our prayers as a jargon, and . . . we count on their effect depending on the texture, sound, or sequence of the words, and on our bearing.
montaigne, “of prayers”
It was a quilt such as the kind I know to be in most U.S. hotel rooms—synthetic and scratchy on the underside where little pills gather from rubbing, and snags from rings (diamond, engagement, upright in that very impractical setting) make a constellation of lines. Time marks blankets and towels with thin spots, blinds with frayed slats, a toilet seat with a chip. Rust stains a sink, water marks a nightstand. Quilts of this kind withstand a lot—our antics and rest, much shaking and straightening, rough cleaning—all forms of the passage of time.
It was an early spring day, but likely the ac in the room was on. He’d have thought of the sound as muffling, a small calculation any mind would make.
I’d think of that.
Maybe he fixed on the single word “muffle” and repeated it a few, then too
many, times. Any word, under strain, will collapse into nonsense.
There’s a store manager in this, too, you might recognize. Imagine him at the new Crate and Barrel, a few blocks from the hotel. Just hired, proud of his clean and bright unit, a step-lively-and-much-can-be-yours kind of guy, with promise, energy, smarts. Here, when you buy a knife, they wrap it securely in sturdy paper, which indicates they run a safe ship, no bows or gift wrap for the cutlery. They seal such things with a wide strip of tape and let it be your problem getting it all undone at home. How could he know, the manager-taper, that he had his hands on something terribly wrong? That another hand, a hand he touched—showing the balance of hilt and blade, passing the pen to sign the receipt—would act in ways so unthinkable that he himself might feel implicated? Sometimes I touch my dollar bills, especially the fifties, and think what bribes they sealed, what drugs they scored, and run in my head dna tests on all the microbes, stories, economies I’m passing along in the purchase of onions, sliced turkey, and cheese….