It had happened so long ago, nobody could be expected to remember who started it. I could pretend like it had all been her, from beginning to end. I could pretend she had been the way she is right now from the beginning and that was what had broken us. Nobody would blame me. I could pretend.
For whose benefit?
I had cast the first stone.
I had caused the first crack in our fragile crystal cloud, which until then had floated, oblivious yet still somehow cautious, above everybody and everything else. The crystal cocoon off of which bounced the silver rays of the moon and the twinkling light of stars probably long dead but still somehow shining. I had watched the first hairline fracture spread along one of its sides and taped it up and hid it from her view.
She sang and she twirled and she sang and she twirled and she sang and she twirled inside our crystal cloud, as I ran frantically from end to end, fixing the peeling tape, pouring runny glue into the cracks, sweeping away the shards, anything to let her hold on to the illusion. Anything to make me believe in it again. And I did; after a while it stopped being a simple illusion again. So I sang as she twirled and I sang as she twirled and I sang as she twirled around and around our crystal cloud–her eyes bright and cheeks flushed while a warm content spread slowly out from the exact center of my chest, up my throat and down to my toes.
And then one day while the sun shone and the clouds gathered, longing to kiss the earth again, she stepped on a tiny hidden crack in the glass and the whole thing came crashing down while I snatched desperately at the air, trying to glue it all back, glue it all back because there was still time–except there wasn’t and then we were on the ground, millions of tiny powdered crystals all around us while she sat laughing in delight at the sunlight reflecting off of them–her broken ankle forgotten, the pain somehow overlooked; the blood on the deadly shards ignored. Isn’t this pretty, she asked and I could do nothing except nod and sit beside her, the shards embedding themselves painfully into my palm as she put her head on my shoulder and we watched the rain begin to fall, washing away the ruins bit by bit until it was just us in the mud.
I liked our crystal cloud she said simply, picking out the pieces of glass in my palms. We could make another, I said–please oh please let’s just make another, I pleaded silently in my head–we could make another one, better than this one, stronger and bigger, I looked to her and she smiled wistfully, staring at the sky above, imagining our new crystal cloud, stronger than the one before. And she opened her mouth–I could swear she was going to agree–and I sat up straighter as the rain slowly petered out. But then a shadow of unrest fell across her face: how did it crumble, she wondered out instead. And though the rain was gone, I could barely hear her for the thunder in my ear, shutting out all sound.
‘It’s okay, just tell me what happened.’
‘She was there, and you weren’t. Not the way I needed you to be. But I didn’t want this to be done either– believe me, that’s the last thing I want. I was just confused for a while’ That wasn’t the thing to say.
I like thinking of it in terms of the crystal cloud and the rain and the slowly widening cracks.
How did it crumble, she asked. How did I not notice? Did you see anything? How could it have just suddenly gave way? She looked to me for answers while we lay on the ground on our backs, and I mourned our crystal cloud. For her, mourning would come later, I could see, as her broken ankle slowly healed in the hours we lay there. She would grieve after she had the answers–the means to prevent another disaster like this one. I don’t know, I sighed.
You lie, she spat out all of a sudden.
And so I told her, as the sun went down and the night opened up to a dark sky, made of fewer stars than it had been last night (She used to ask me whether each night had fewer stars than the night before, whether some long gone star’s last ray of light finally reached us and died forever nearly every night without any of us knowing. ‘What if an entire constellation were to go dark at the same time one day? Would we notice?’)
I felt the anger radiating off of her and prepared myself to be yelled at, punched, kicked–whatever was warranted. The rain fell lightly again and she held a hand out in front of her, her angry mouth slowly unfurling into a faint smile as the drops fell one by one. I repeated all that I had stammered out the first time, thinking maybe she hadn’t understood just what I had said, and she looked to me and nodded. A smile. I had been forgiven.
And before the full meaning of that could sink in, she got up and limped away, the last few pieces of our crystal cloud cupped safely in her hands, leaving me out in the cool rain, while she trekked up the cliff–slowly at first, and then sprinting, her feet hitting the damp earth with all their might, protesting at being lowered onto the ground from their previous perch up in the skies.
She ground up the remains of our breathtaking crystal cloud bit by bit and threw them into the harsh sea, on an impulse. She grieved quietly into the chasm and her tears mingled with the salty water of the ocean beneath her.
She hammered in the final nail in our coffin. She did it slowly, without me fully understanding. Or maybe I did and chose not to stop her. It happened so long ago, no one could blame me for forgetting.
She walked down to where I was still sat, I could see her limp was worse now. The lacerations on her wrist and along her legs reopened, as her face clouded over. Anger resurfaced.
A lamp was broken.
And we laughed dark green and sickly yellow in the fading light of my room.