a story about windows

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Someone take a photo of that window and send it to me. Be sure to get the frame in frame, the one I swiped my hand over and picked the peeling paint from. That’s the most important part. Of course, I can still see it in my mind, the shaded glass I poked my head around in an attempt to see the sky, to see only roof instead. Was it raining? Did it snow? I don’t know, I couldn’t see.

“Chad”, I say, apropos of nothing, informing my mother of a country in Africa, standing in the middle of her kitchen under a skylight. “Is that the name of my future son-in-law?” She asks. No. Probably not. I can see the blue of the sky from there; perhaps the same color as his eyes. Probably not. I’m sure they are brown. They always are.

The pictures they put on the cover of magazines and in travel guides are so ultra-contrasted and over-colored. I’ve never understood why that’s necessary. I’ve seen some of those places with my own eyes, and the blues aren’t that color, the cobblestones not so gray. Those pictures look like nostalgia feels. Is that the point? Only $6.99, and less if you sign up for a whole year – that’s 12 issues, and 50% off the cover price.

Once I met a boy named Chad in Las Vegas. He was a waiter with a complicated story. I recently deleted his number from my phone. I don’t think he had blue eyes. They never do.

The most beautiful things can’t be photographed; can barely be seen at all. The silence of all of us sitting there, next to the lake, sitting silently together in a ring of padded patio furniture. Later, all of us, none of us with blue eyes, but all of us beautiful, a woozy slumber party of supposed-to-be-adults. The late summer sun rising the next morning, us rising, rushing, back to somewhere. All of it beautiful, and it still is.

Winter, a few seasons later, almost Spring, and the skylight in my mother’s kitchen is dripping, dripping, dropping once-snow water onto the floor. I pull a pan from a cupboard, and it’s grey and scratched, a bit rusty on the bottom. I set it on the floor, also grey and scratched, a bit wet. There are pinging sounds as the drops hit the empty metal container, a rhythm of indoor rain. I look up, and the sky is a kind of blue-grey, a darkening, changing color as the sun slowly sets.

I remember Chad talking about his step-father, and saying that he’d moved out of his mother’s house and left to find a job in Las Vegas. He ended up as a waiter at a steakhouse. I don’t think that was his dream career move, but it had happened, and it paid his bills, for the most part. If he put on his waiter-face properly and acted like he cared enough, he got pretty good tips. It was Las Vegas, after all. People went there to drink and lose a pre-determined amount of money that usually slightly increased once they’d lost it faster than they had expected and still had three days left of vacation. They knew the price of steak was slightly higher there, so a slightly higher tip was also in order. Sometimes it was even included in the cost of their all-inclusive vacation package.

The pictures of the Las Vegas strip in travel guides are surprisingly accurate. The neon lights, the casinos that are also hotels, the hotels that are also casinos. That’s the face of it, the story, the main plot line.  It’s an easier story to tell than most places: an over-colored, over-built, long strip of road. It has an easy cover photo, unlike “Winter” or “last Summer” or “Spring in my mother’s kitchen”. It is a place, a snapshot, a photograph that exists and is easily defined, not like Chad from Africa or Chad from the steakhouse.

The sound the water droplets made changed as the pan filled, from a steely ringing to an almost-noiseless splash. The rhythm changed, too, slowing, like the roof was running out of water. When it finally stopped, I emptied the pan in the sink, watching the grayish water swirl down the drain, leaving tiny white bits of plaster or drywall behind. The skylights were dark now, almost black, and I could see myself in the reflection, looking up and back down at the same time.

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