Jessica Manack

The Boy Who Went to Divinity School

The Shepherd’s Dream (from Paradise Lost) by Henry Fuseli

couldn’t have much to learn, we laughed, seasick over his sea-green eyes. Ocean Springs, he was from, here in Spain, like all of us, like a fish out of water. But he was already sun-brown, not Pennsylvania-pale like me. Ready. Knowing how to soak it up.  One day in the computer lab, he whispered Pixies lyrics: I’ve kissed mermaids, rode the El Niñoand when I called him on it, he was embarrassed, said he hadn’t listened to any music all year as a Stoic experiment in self-denial. I couldn’t imagine such sacrifice.  When his girl came to visit him for Semana Santa, he stood taller than a sunflower, wearing her on his arm. William, she had said, and frowned, pulling a pair of scissors from her bag, cutting his bangs right there in the Parque de Maria Luisa. She was handy, always prepared to fasten a button or tidy a lazy hem. Always ready to mend. We hadn’t learned to fix things yet, only break them: bracelets and sandals dead under our beds in the morning.  We frowned back at her tidiness, and kept on starving ourselves, half poverty, half vanity, holding each other’s hair back after having too many. We practiced the names of the things that would take us away, far away from everything we’d known: tinto verano, cuba libre. We peed in all the wrong alleys. We learned all the wrong words. They moved slowly through the streets, used to hot places, a pace of life I wasn’t aligned with. Ready to be missionaries, ready to share the good news. I only knew the bad news, running to catch buses, rescue stolen purses, every day waiting to be saved.


About the writer:
Jessica Manack holds degrees from Hollins University and lives with her family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her writing has recently appeared in High Shelf Press, Prime Number Magazine and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and is forthcoming in the Wild Roof Journal.

Image: The Shepherd’s Dream (from Paradise Lost) by Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825). Oil on canvas. 60.75 x 84.76 inches. 1793. Public domain.