Both of our windshields are cracked. Each car dinged on separate journeys, the line making its way across in the cold and dark, a silver thread delineating a muted mountain scape, meandering across just below the line of sight we use when we drive.
My ding happened the night before I visited Melmark that November, and my companion looked at it and said you’d better get that fixed, it will spider and spread. Noting the other ding on my side of the glass, I said, I am not in a big hurry – that one has been there since June 2005. But exposure to the cold and snow of a night outside the garage in the snows of Vermont took the November crack and stretched it across the glass, to the point that I spent the hours travelling south to Rutland waiting for it to split wide open. I trained my eye on the spot where it stopped, waiting for it to continue to the edge where I imagined a snap and a rupture on Route 107. My eyes darted back and forth, eye in the crack on the left and following the churning white river on the right. It is an interesting river, rocky and changeable, winding its way through the muted colors of the sloping green mountains, now more gray and black than green. Aside from the occasional red barn, the whole world seems is in shades of gray, the mountaintops getting a sprinkling of sugar snow that we see as rain. With each swipe of the wipers I wince, waiting for the silver line to extend and breach.
I annoyed myself by giving into the metaphor created by the fissure. They tension, the duality, the precarious holding together of everything and still all of it as invisible, as transparent as glass. Do I only imagine that a break is imminent or is it simply a part of life occasionally in need of attention and repair. The tiny leak in the front living room window, the dead car battery, the dual cracked glass, do they are they cries for help or simply a life in need of routine maintenance.
He is treating me delicately; careful not to snap or blame, qualifying each observed problem with a judicious remark that it is no one’s fault, and I wonder if he observes the fault lines in me and knows that my internal plates shift easily now. I am as tentative with myself as he is; confidence is fleeting, patience is hard won, joy almost non-existent, tears the most accessible. All of the ingredients of happiness are there but they are frozen and refuse to mix and become the whole person for more than a moment or two.
I see the same suspended animation in him, too, (his glass cracked last week and he has driven to work today with his own silver fissure just below his eyes on the glass). We do not discuss it but only hint at the cautious relief that the boy appears moderately stable on this Christmas vacation. We watch him as a sailor watches a changeable sea, wondering how long the calm will last, knowing that the waters ahead are unlike any we have sailed before. How to plan for the unplannable, how to respond to the lightning fissures of the autistic mind, how to stay poised for those and still respond to the vagaries of adolescence and anxiety that still form the other two. Sometimes it feels like we are fighting a war on three fronts and can barely resist the urge to run up the white flag – but then what? There is no surrender beyond sleep and so we take that and hope that when we wake there will be a smile to greet us.
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