The Sound of Breaking Glass
by James Shaffer
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
The dream awakened George. He opened one eye. The bedside clock said 6:14. He lost focus on the time as his closed eye watched the unfinished dream fade to black. It reminded him of a brooding foreign film that never reached a climax and then ended abruptly without conclusion, without satisfaction. It begged you to fill in the gaps.
George wasn’t a gap-filler. He wanted it all right out there. He wanted to watch it unfold like the beauty of a time-lapse flower coming into full bloom in seconds, all questions quickly answered, the hidden swiftly exposed, no latent mystery.
But he’d awakened before the flower fully opened, a victim of his own body clock. He’d succumbed to the natural course it took, a premature arousal without climax. George Lindquist was a reluctant player in his own foreign film.
Sleep was gone, gone along with the dream and his resulting tumescence. His wife, Michelle, stretched out beside him, one leg cocked outside the covers. She was a nurse and had worked the late shift. It was her morning to sleep in.
He tried not to disturb her. Holding the covers in place, he sat up on the edge of the bed. Julia, his daughter, would be up at 7:00. That gave him about 45 minutes in the bathroom. It was better to get in first. Her toilet habits were unpredictable, and he was on a schedule.
Venturing out into the hallway in only his underwear and slippers, he felt safe enough at that hour. The house was quiet and under its roof, his wife and daughter, his two undisturbed souls rested in peace. He shuffled off toward the bathroom.
Ceramic tiles in varying shades of blue, his wife’s favorite color, covered the floor and walls. It was a calming color. It didn’t assault the senses early in the morning, his wife had said. As he locked the door and turned to the room, the scent of Michelle’s seaweed soap broke over him like a cool wave. It reminded him of the shore, the scent of suntan lotion, a tiny umbrella floating in a salty magarita.
His bathroom soundtrack that morning was Tony B singing “The Good Life.” George hummed the tune as he pirouetted toward the sink. He filled it with hot water and watched as steam rose and coated the mirror’s surface. He rubbed a spot clear in the middle.
The mirror reflected a natural light that poured in from the sole window. It was hot and bright. He walked over to the window. It opened on a space between his house and his neighbor’s. He stared at the house across the way.
The Harrisons had called and said they weren’t going to be home for a week. He remembered now. Michelle had handled it. Something about Vegas. They had copies of the Harrisons’ house keys in case of a problem.
He stared across at a dark empty window. Their house was a flip copy of his, typical of suburban developments. He knew that from the backyard barbecues they’d had together. The window he saw was a duplicate of his own bathroom window.
He was about to turn away when a light came on in the bathroom across the way. He jumped away from the window and stepped back into the shadows. The Harrisons were supposed to be away! Who was there? They hadn’t mentioned someone would be staying at the house. At least Michelle hadn’t mentioned it that he could recall.
He waited a few moments then leaned slowly to his left until the window across the way came into view. The shade was pulled part-way down, but with the light on he could clearly see a woman’s naked body, at least from the waist down, leaning forward against the edge of the sink. He couldn’t see above her shoulders; the window shade blocked her head and face from view.
Then another body joined hers. It moved in behind her. In a few seconds, “joined” became a mere figure of speech. It was a man. His excited state betrayed him. A hard reality, George thought, amused. The man put both hands high on her back and pushed her insistently but gently forward over the sink. She was a willing participant. Her one hand came around and acted as a guide.
George mused, There are some things you can do simply by touch. He watched for a few more seconds until the rhythm of the two bodies fell into a natural synch, unhurried and not yet desperate. What he watched was real, but distant and distorted through the glass like a dream — like his dream. He saw their desperation building to a climax, and he pulled back from the window. It was his nature, pulling back from the brink.
He returned to the sink and splashed the now cool water on his face. Leaning against the edge of the porcelain sink, he felt the hard effect the scene had on his own body. Cause and effect, a law of nature. My nature? he thought. As a diversion, he grabbed his electric shaver and passed it cursorily over his face hitting only the high spots.
In that scene, the tenor of the morning had shifted. An inner, dangerous excitement had raised his temperature just enough. He felt it. A towel hung from the rack next to the sink. He grabbed it and wiped the moisture from his brow.
Flipping off the switch on his razor, he held his face close to the mirror. Is it possible to separate mind from body? His mind’s eye posed the question. His body betrayed his thoughts. “You may be locked away in suburbia, buddy, but you are not immune,” he said to the man in the mirror.
“Daddy!” His daughter pounded on the door. Startled, he jumped back from the mirror. In a few seconds he recovered and found his voice.
“What?” He looked down. His excitement had quickly waned. Cause and effect.
“How long are you going to be?” Patience wasn’t her virtue.
“Just brushing my teeth. Two minutes. OK?” Her feet padded away from the door.
Was it that late? He rubbed toothpaste on his teeth then brushed them furiously. He spat into the sink and hung his toothbrush in the holder.
There was no hint of it in his mirrored reflection. Have I been a voyeur? Living in a non-descript development house deep in the heart of suburbia, he’d felt safe. Safe from what, though? he wondered.
He leaned close to the mirror. He still looked like Michelle’s husband, Julie’s father, work colleague, business man, pillar of the community. He whispered at his reflection, “What’s a voyeur look like?”
Before he left the bathroom, he tiptoed over to the side of the window. Leaning haltingly to its edge, he dared one more glance across the space between the houses. The Harrisons’ bathroom was dark and vacant. Nevertheless, he pulled the shade all the way down. If there was a re-enactment, he didn’t want to arouse any suspicion of what he might have seen. It wasn’t a breakfast table conversation he wanted to have, especially with his daughter.
He exited the bathroom feeling his secret was, if not completely safe, at least contained. For the time being, he remained an anonymous member of the suburban landscape. To the good life, he thought.
Julia’s room was at the end of the hallway past the stairs. He gently rapped on the door. “Julia, I’m out of the bathroom.” She answered through the closed door.
“OK. About time!”
He kept silent. Her comment didn’t merit a response. After all, the world revolved around her needs. But he had needs too. His world spun on a different axis now. It threw him slightly off balance. A secret excitement had invaded. A dream had arrived in the night and then in an uninvited moment, sprung to life before his eyes. What are the odds? he asked himself as he padded back to the bedroom.
George stood in front of another mirror folding the Windsor knot in his tie when his wife spoke in a sleepy voice. “What time is it?”
He looked at his watch. “7:40,” he answered. He turned toward the bed. She turned away from him and pulled the covers up over her shoulder, burying her head between the pillows. “What time do you work today?”
“Three to eleven.” Her voice was full of sleep.
“Go back to sleep then. Julia will be off to school and I’m off to work in twenty minutes. The house will be quiet soon.” She didn’t answer. She had drifted off already.
He sat down and slipped on his shoes then ran a brush over the toes. They would do, but he’d have to polish them soon. He stood and took his suit jacket from the closet but didn’t put it on. Toast and coffee awaited him downstairs. He walked over to the bed, leaned down and gave his wife a kiss on the top of her head. She stirred.
“Work hard,” she muttered half-asleep. A smile played on her lips. She could stay in bed.
“You too,” he said. “Keep the world healthy.”
Copyright © 2014 by James Shaffer