Matthew Zapruder

This Little Game

When I’m washing my hands I think of a name
of someone I don’t know. Like Evangeline
or Rufus or BobBob. And I sing happy birthday
inserting that name at the proper time,
stopping only and turning off the water
when I reach the end of the song. This
little game ensures I am washing my hands
just long enough for the little soap particles
to bind to all the nasty dirt ones
and wash them down the drain.
Which makes me feel protected.
Like going to what we called “temple”
but actually was a church we shared
with some Ursulines, an order of Christians
dedicated to the education of girls and care
of the sick and otherwise needy. We
used it on Friday nights and Saturday days
and they on Sundays of course, sometimes
Saturday evenings all full of emptiness
troubles and peace and done with our final
service we saw them crossing the street
and moving like phantoms towards the building
already no longer ours. In the lobby
there was a giant baptismal font made of stone
and at Christmas little carvings of Jesus
on the cross hung up on every wall. None
of us cared and we thought ourselves
good and brave for sharing and also safe
from all true Christian soldiers. Never
with terrible swords made of virtue and light
shall they trouble us, they shall pass us by.

Matthew Zapruder
“This Little Game” first appeared in Tin House, issue #43.