A teacher’s prayer — via Zoom

Published on: November 15, 2022 6:13 PM EST

Illustration of white woman looking up at a sunny sky on left, and Black teen boy turning away from cloudy sky above him on right. There are rowhomes in background next to him.

Alone in my dining room, at the ringing of an imaginary bell, I start second period. A handful of names tells me it’s time. In a line to the right of my screen, they wait.

His name appears: his fifth time, maybe fourth, here. Before he has the chance to greet me — ”how u doin ms kerry” — I think of his apology from months ago, back when the weather was still warm.

On that morning, he’d said, “i be tryin to come.”

I’d almost resented the standard “stay safe” that he said to me at the end of class, believing it was wasted on me. Wishing he’d kept it for himself. Although I barely know him, I know this city — and I don’t trust it.

Today, he sends me another private message. A conversation only for us, nowhere near what we’re discussing as a class.

“do u believe in god?”

“Yes,” I write back, my instinct, always, to let the lovelies learn about me. “You?”

“no”

His answer is instant. Almost as quickly, I reply, “I get that.” My next thoughts, though, I type in trickles.

I believe, but don’t understand. I never will. I just know god to be tranquility — not always nearby. Often.

I hit send and wonder. Does my experience relate at all to his? Or is this one more way we’re different?

“yeah,” he says. “but when you alone in these streets you don’t get a good feeling about god”

I don’t tell him my immediate prayer — it wouldn’t mean anything to him; why should it?

I say it to myself again. Please let him stay safe. Even though god probably wasn’t close enough to hear.