Glass Castles

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It was midnight.

I get irrational when I find myself alone in empty spaces. In the hazy spaces between spaces. The spaces of tension between the being and the becoming. But those spaces rarely find me. At least, not by accident. There’s doctrine in there somewhere. But of course, the mystery of the thing more valuable than any creed.

A friend of mine threw an apple at the wall for the thrill of it. She was giddy, and it was infectious. Life’s only exciting if you break things. If you break the patterns.

It was midnight and raining. A mango had been a poor substitute for dinner and an old black and white movie had left me strangely restless. I was alone in a large house and feeling some desperate blend of nervy terror and total apathy. So I went outside.  I found myself in the neighborhood that I grew up in. Either it had returned to me or I to it like a dog to its vomit. Nostalgia of the pleasant sort is crippling. Standing under the thick glow of the street’s only lamp I let the rain, like recollection, collect in my pockets and soak through my clothes to my skin. But that memory was more than skin deep. Terror and wonder were indistinguishable, perhaps as they should be. I tried to picture myself standing under the rain of some other continent. Anywhere but where I stood rooted dreadfully and gleefully to the dull blacktop of Winfield, Illinois.

I had been on edge all day. I had driven my grandfather’s Subaru hours into a future that held nothing for me but places of the past. But it wasn’t the memory that so twisted the knife. It was the loop in time itself. It was the fact that somehow, despite the years, I hadn’t moved on.

Spontaneity should be free from history. But I was trapped, bumping into history at every wet step down that abandoned midnight road. I was reminded of the time she sat across from us on the train, but our knees touched and the history made it uncomfortable. She quoted Dostoyevsky and Dorothy Sayers. Somehow that didn’t help. I remembered the way the chalk rubbed off into the miniature topographies of my old driveway. That driveway seemed bigger back then. I remembered the way the leaves would stick to your fingers from the dew of autumn mornings. I suppose I’m sentimental like that. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks, but there was no need to speak. Did that then betray emptiness? I tried to imagine what the conversation would be like if there was someone to share the rain with. Likely shallow. Like the static that had infiltrated Mahler’s third the farther I had driven from Grand Rapids.

It was noon and raining. I drove through the ghost town of my college after buying more mangos from the grocery store. Colleges in summer are wretched things. Shells, nothing more. I parked my grandfather’s Subaru and tested the door of the theater building. Wandering its halls, I tried to find someone who would tell me to leave. But again I was disappointed, left to myself in an empty space between dread and ecstasy.

I rolled a piano to the center of the emptiness and improvised something repetitive and minor. It got metaphorical too quickly. When I started believing life was an improvisation, repetitive, and in a minor key, I rolled the piano back to its corner. I left the emptiness and closed its door behind me.

We live in empty glass castles between the public and the private. We live in the cartographic conspiracy that uncouples continents, but truly, no man is an island. We worship in the temple of the cloud, and cleanse our hearts by destroying history. Who among you will throw the first stone? You will be the one to see the shadows of real love glinting in the shambles of shattered glass.