from Marcelo in the Real World

At the very end of the train, we find an empty seat. “I told you we’d make it.” Arturo is out of breath.

“It is more relaxing to be early,” I say.

“This is work, buddy. No more relaxing for you.”

After the conductor takes our money, Arturo takes a newspaper from his briefcase and unfolds it on his lap. I make a mental note to bring a book tomorrow. Maybe I can read without getting dizzy like when I try to read in the car. It occurs to me that it is a good opportunity to say the rosary. I take out the multicolored rosary beads that Abba gave me before she died and I begin to mouth the words of the Hail Mary wordlessly with my lips. I always say the rosary in Spanish. Abba and I used to say it together that way and that’s the way it stayed with me.

Arturo folds the paper carefully. “We should go over a few things,” he says.

I finish the Hail Mary and stop.

“How shall I say it? You are going to be part of the business world. You know, I have nothing against your interest in religion. I want you to be religious. We’ve been to Mass every Sunday since your First Communion - before then even. I let you see Rabbi Heschel even though you’re not Jewish, you’re Catholic. I’m one hundred percent in favor of your religious interests, your religious books, your praying or remembering as you call it, your saying the Rosary in Spanish, all of it. So I don’t want you to misunderstand what I’m about to say. I want you to be religious but, at the same time, I want you to participate in the day-to-day work-a-day world, my world and your world too now. And to do so, you have to abide by some established customs. People in the work-a-day world are discreet about their religion. They pray in private. They don’t quote scripture, unless it’s a figure of speech like, I don’t know, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,’ ‘the blind leading the blind.’ Things like that. Phrases that have common usage.”

“Can a blind man lead a blind man?” I say.

“Beg your pardon?”

 “Jesus’s exact words were, ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?’ Luke, Chapter 6, verse 39.”

“That’s exactly what I mean. It’s not customary to quote Scripture to someone, much less quote him chapter and verse. I think that if you’re going to benefit from this experience, it’s important that you try to act as is customary.”

I take out the yellow notebook that I always keep in my shirt pocket. I write: Do not pray so that others see M pray. Do not quote Scripture. Note: Listen for religious phrases that have become figures of speech. Those are allowed even if not accurate. Do not provide correct version or cite where it appears in the Bible.