Ugh I say. I mean, sure, of course. But let’s not forget that they’re also the way things shatter.
My husband and I were driving this weekend to the beach, for a quick and supposedly relaxing getaway at a friend’s place. We don’t get a lot of time together with our schedules and money is more than tight, so we try to squeeze things in when we can. We were grateful to have this chance.
The trip had already been shortened by a day due to our flooring install being pushed back and then taking longer than expected. Anybody that’s ever paid for work on a house knows that’s pretty much what to expect. Still, my work life had been a bit stressful, and then with the floors, I was feeling pushed around and annoyed, and really ready to get outta Dodge.
We were only about twenty miles out of town, just settling into that we’re going to be here a while lull. And then – dun dun dun – a motorcyclist zipped in front of us far too quickly from the passing lane, narrowly missing us, and slowed down even more quickly. Just as he pulled all the way over to the shoulder, a terribly loud WHACK brought me back to front and center. Something had hit the windshield right at my head level, and the cracks appeared immediately on the glass. They were only an inch or two long at first, but we knew they would the type that grew. I was grateful to the scientists who made this glass so much safer than it could have been. Grateful, but also skeptical.
Truthfully, I was filled with slow dread as I watched the cracks reach like very slow fingers for the dashboard. My mind, being already in a fairly dark place, started to wander into questions like “How far down can these cracks go before the whole windshield implodes on top of us?” and “So what would dying by a thousand cuts really look like?” and “Why haven’t I written that damn will yet?” You know, the usual…
I watched with continuing dread as the two largest cracks moved on a collision course with one another. That’s it, I thought, as soon as they hit each other, we’re done for. The entire window will shatter into blades, and with my blood thinners, I’m a goner before John even knows what hit me. It was just a waiting game at that point. Sure, I knew somewhere in the still-smart outer core of my brain that that isn’t how windshields work. Of course the window’s integrity would hold. Of course it would. Except, what if it didn’t? The very soft and silly inner core of my brain made some convincing arguments, and the outer core, knowing when it was beat, went to pout in the corner.
Staring death in the face, I started to focus on the reflections of the sun on the VERY sharp edges in the cracks. If I moved my head around just a little bit, I could make almost the entire edge shine, so sharp and deadly, and kind of pretty too. I mean, death is pretty sometimes, in some sort of cinematic way. Ah, the light was getting in all right, and all I could think about was how much I’m like that too, all damaged and cracked, and I could shatter too couldn’t I? Any time at all. Yes, it was all very pretty, but it was serious too. The edges of the cracks were all shiny and deathy in equal parts. And there it all was, the metaphor looming, no, growing right up in my face, menacing and real.
Broken things hurt. Shiny edges can cut. Of course being cracked means you can shatter, but it hasn’t happened yet. Not quite yet. Waiting around for things to shatter is not the funnest way to travel maybe, but hey, having a destination sure as hell beats standing still. For one thing, there’s the view.
Anyway, the cracks were going to grow now no matter what we did, so we just kept heading for the beach. The paths finally crossed on the glass after an hour or so. I imagined (again and again and… yes again) the center cutout piece just popping into my lap quietly. I would pick it up and hold it in my hands, staring at those shiny edges almost calmly, just before the whole window crashed in on me. Yes, again, I knew it was safety glass, but still, a perfect dagger-sized piece was just pointing right at me. How could I not poke at that in my head? It’s what I do.
Of course, we made it to the beach just fine, and I let it go for a while, swimming in the ocean and forgetting, until it was time to go home. Driving made the cracks grow faster, and this time I was sure that the second time the paths crossed would be it. The end. “They’re almost at a right angle this time,” I thought, “no way even safety glass can resist that!” I contorted my head the whole way home, watching the beads of sunlight ride up and down the edges, seeing myself in the light and wondering at the likeness. Wondering at how cracked I can be, and yet so shiny too.