The sound of breaking glass

The sound of breaking glass would make its way to my ears through two walls and two doors, and I winced at the sudden disruption of my train of thoughts. I hadn’t slept during the last three or so hours, and so I had tried to distract myself by letting my mind wander from one to the next association. It had worked quite well, for the first couple of instants at least, until the sound of breaking glass interfered with a brief rehearsal of yesterday’s elegantly dressed waiters offering the chef’s special to my guest, only to have her decline the proposal after intently staring at me and saying: „I’d rather go somewhere else, if you don’t mind.“ I hadn’t expected this kind of a reaction, so the rest of the night would have to be improvised entirely, which I wasn’t so sure about. I had planned so much, only just to now discover that I hadn’t been prepared for the slightest deviation from the entirely purposeful evening out I had so long envisioned.

So there I was, wincing in my bed, weighing the costs and benefits of responding to this perhaps more, perhaps less suspicious sound presumably emanating from the kitchen. Costs: I would have to get up, walk through the cold corridor all the way to the kitchen in order to check and see what had occurred. If something serious were to be discovered I would have to face confrontation with whatever threat there would be, which I would probably be even less prepared to than to my guest’s idea of walking over to the sandwich place instead. I recalled having guessed that this should be yet another status marker of the nouvelle noblesse who’d mastered the art of taking a fast-food counter for a candle-light dinner and their ‚used look‘ for a more refined type of cloth. Benefits: I would prevent the question about the origins of the sound of breaking class (possibly something less simple than glass itself) from being left unanswered. For what had happened? Why had glass been shattered? Which glass at all? (I only owned metal and porcelain utensils, and my ears are able to distinguish the sound of glass quite accurately I believe.) I would furthermore be able to prove my capabilities of being a master to my own little place, and of defending my property.

By and large, I decided not to do anything about the sound, and tried to return to the train of thoughts I had been carried away from. My mind wandered once again through the peaks and valleys of that night’s further developments: How I made an effort not to let her notice how I clueless I was about how and whether to proceed, facing the prospect of improvisation. How I let her know that I would be of course very glad to go to the sandwich place, much to the contrary of what I actually thought of it. How I then kept up and alive a gentle facade, helping her into her coat, opening the door for her, and walking her to the other side of the street, which might as well have been the opposite end of a whole spectrum. How I asked her whether she was a sandwich kind of a person, and how I immediately regretted having asked that for the lack of interest I actually had in finding out about it. I didn’t care whether she was a sandwich kind of a person, as little as I cared about her culinary preferences in general. I wanted to take her out and please her, that’s what I cared about. But she had smiled at me, and she’d said: „Well, we’re about to find out! Besides, I didn’t know you were a candle light kind of person!“ And she had laughed, at me or with me, who am I to tell the difference.

My guest ceased to be my guest the moment we entered the sandwich place, for from now on she was the owner of the place, judging from the comfort and ease with which she danced into the brightly lit joint. (White neon lamps were screaming light into every corner of the room, and I had been surprised at how imperfect she looked, now that she was under the unscrupulous scrutiny of those tubed bulbs and no longer muffled by the dim glow inside that other world.) „Two Jeff’s favourites please!,“ she said to the small man behind the counter, with a big smile decorating her cheeks and a swing of joy that I had never noticed about her before. My improvisation wasn’t much needed, I had to admit, and I had to ask myself too: was my company needed at all? Suddenly, however, I was once more interrupted by the sound of breaking glass.

This time, the benefits clearly outweighed the costs (or the other benefits), as something told me that I should really rather check, otherwise the sound wouldn’t have had to urge me once again. What did it try to tell me? So I opened my eyes, only slowly getting used to my physical surroundings now substituting my imagination. I realised: this wasn’t my own little place, and there was therefore no way of getting to defend my property. And as much as this wasn’t my own place, this wasn’t my own room, nor my own bed, nor my own sheets under which I had tried to get a good night’s sleep. I left the question about my whereabouts unanswered for the moment, as I usually trust my senses to slowly return once I would wake up a little more. So I got up, out of the bed, and opened the curtains that had so imperfectly cloaked the room in darkness. Outside there was a tree, and to the left there was a small, wooden and half-rotten garden gate, still swinging as though someone had just entered or just left the garden. It reminded me of the reason I had gotten up for: Breaking glass.

So I took up my mission to investigate the causes, and walked over to the other end of the room in order to open the door. On the way there I saw, in the silver light that fell onto the walls through the opened curtains, a fair amount of pictures stuck to the wall. My eyes stopped at one particular picture, a picture of a face that somehow I knew, a face that looked back at me so intently, so curiously, so wildly that I wanted to know right now, and quickly, who it was. And then, like a lightning, it struck me: It was her. I was at her’s. I had slept in her bed, I had opened her curtains, I had approached the door of her room. So I followed up on what I had started doing, and cautiously I turned the knob of that door, gently pushed open that dark and heavy piece of wood that separated me from the sound of breaking glass, and stepped into a hallway that just as much wasn’t mine, but her’s.

There was darkness of the kind I had never seen before. Only darkness. Step by step, I approached what I took for the place the sound had come from. I wouldn’t necessarily know the precise direction, but I needed to try if I were ever to find out. On tip-toes, withholding my breath as carefully as possible, I went on through the darkness of the corridor. Suddenly my feet touched something warm – something that was alive. I bent down, still very carefully of course, as if proximity would have broken the darkness I was still fully and impenetrably surrounded with. My thoughts, though only very briefly, returned to her holding the sandwich, looking at me as glad as a child. That same stare, that very happy light in her eyes, was what I had remembered and minutes ago recognised in the photograph on her wall. No candle light dinner, but sandwich. No kind of a person, no kind of an evening, just her and the neon lamps glowing from the ceiling.

But there was something else, not just something warm and alive. There was something wet, and something breathing, and something that I must have forgotten. I got up again the moment I heard another of those sounds – yet another glass breaking. It must have been further down the hall still, so I took another couple of gentle steps through the darkness until I reached what must have been a door, the door, I thought, from behind which that sound had come. So I found a knob, and very slowly I pushed open this door as well, and light reached my eyes with an intensity I had not at all been prepared for. It was so much that some abrupt impulse made me push the door open all the remaining way at once, and with a loud noise it thunked against the wall of the room I was about to enter. Someone had been here, or someone was still here. The light of the room swept into the hallway behind me, and as I turned around I saw her lying on that floor, and the floorboard was wet with her blood, and I never had the chance of turning back around to the room, and I was never to find out about all that broken glass and all those broken thoughts that had kept me awake for so long into that strange night.

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