He saw it shimmer in the late afternoon sun as its enormity slipped away, saw the silver flat-bounced sunburst float in his rear-view mirror for an instant, had an eerie surreal sense of the impossible before the splintering and the shattering and the sparkling brought home the truth of the more than possible.
It was hot. Viciously hot. No one on the street.
No one to see him step out to claim the seven years of bad luck.
No one to see him drive away.
So fuck it.
Her house didn’t have air conditioning, and so all the windows were open in hopes of a breeze. There was no breeze and she was sweating in her absolute inaction, sweating profusely, sweating so that the surfaces of her were slick and glossy. In the moment before the explosion, she was running a finger down her breastbone and along softness, tracing moisture as she went, thinking it terribly unfair that the rules of lubrication had changed for her. What was once secret, her body had decided recently to put on more apparent display; need and vulnerability were now advertised through every pore. She was just trying to imagine explaining to her husband that they needed air conditioning so that she could keep the evidence of her unending wanting to herself when the thick sullen air of her living room was blown apart, leaving her standing in the thinner crystalline atmosphere of glass’ broken echo.
Her first thought was a car accident, and she stepped out into her front yard to look down the street to the right, realizing as she stared at the empty street that there had been no sound of impact, only of breaking. Alright, so not a car accident. As she stared, the empty street danced and glittered and shimmied for her attention, but she looked past the performance for the source of the sound, discounting the tawdry asphalt dance as a weird heat-mirage. She walked down the desolate street, already doubting her memory of events . . . why would she be the only one to hear the noise and come to investigate?
The road glittered impatiently as she approached.
She stopped. There was glass everywhere. Everywhere.
Not the tiny perfect squares of safety glass, either. This was a mirrored explosion . . . silver-backed daggers and swords and knives lay submissive and inviting at her feet. She stood in the middle of the street and stared down at herself in one long thin triangle of broken, astounded as always by how little she recognized. She bent to run a finger along the edge of her and came away sliced open, the blood thick and salty in her mouth.
This needy evidence, at least, was hers alone.
She stood, still alone with the breaking, trying to decide what to do. She walked to the doors of the two closest houses and rang the doorbells, knocked on the doors, but no one answered. She went back to stand in the midst of the glass, but when, after a few minutes, no one had emerged and no cars had passed, it occurred to her that perhaps this was a new kind of dream.
She stared again down into the million bits of reflected unfamiliar her.
Yes, perhaps this was a new kind of dream in which she was all alone in the world with the breaking.
A new kind of dream in which she sweated and bled and broke and no one noticed but her.
She went to get a broom and a shovel.
It took her a moment to collect the tools, a moment more to bandage her wound, and a moment more to find the gloves that would stop her accepting other sharpened invitations. When she returned to the glass, she found two other women staring into their own broken reflections, and they turned to look at her, confused and upset. She recognized the women as living in the houses whose doorbells she had rung, and after they each in turn offered assurances that they did not know how this had happened, she shrugged her shoulders and set to work.
The other two women watched her for a moment, one of the women about her age but with children who were grown, and the other older . . . her hair grayer, both her skin and her posture softer. Without speaking, the women went to get tools of their own; one returned with a broom, and the other came back with a garbage can, a plastic dustpan, and gloves. The three of them worked in silence through which the swept and shoveled glass scraped ragged holes of protest.
A few cars passed through the scraped silence, the drivers making no acknowledgment of the situation or the women’s effort to clear the way.
She thought again that this might be a dream.
The women swept and shoveled and plucked the glass from the surrounding lawns and driveways.
When the job was done, the street still sparkled, but now beneath a mere shimmer of reflective dust.
It clung to them as well, this sparkling dust of broken, stuck to the glossy sticky sweat of them.
They stood for a moment, wiping at their dampness with gloved hands that smeared the glittered filth of broken across their reddened features in shimmering gaudy smears, awkward in their conversation as moisture pooled and purpose dissolved.
She picked up her shovel and her broom and she mumbled vague words of future inclusion, gesturing with the hand that held the shovel as though the three of them might take a journey together.
The others nodded, agreed to the nothing on offer, relieved to have the obligations of this moment ended.
In the time it took the other women to walk away, the street was once again empty.
She walked home, parting the sweltering air with her own heavier humidity.
She pulled off her gloves and her clothes, and she stood damp and disheveled before the bathroom’s mirror.
How little she recognized.
She ran a finger along the edge of her and within, traced blood across the curves and angles of truth.
The broken truth of the more than possible.
No one noticed but her.