Content Warning: Pica/Glass
Born from molten lava, the first glass formed into smooth or fine crystals, depending on how slowly or quickly it cooled. Much later, human hands formed glass from sand, melted at impossibly high temperatures. What results is an amorphous solid: an organized, crystalline structure that co-exists with the random, molecular nature of a liquid.
On the edge of the sofa, I sit and watch Renton crush light bulbs into a fine powder and eat them. He’s been doing this ever since we met. Sometimes, slivers of it slip into the powdered pieces, and he swallows them down. Larger shards could poke through layers of the stomach, or get caught in the throat, causing great pain and bleeding, possibly a visit to the emergency room, but that’s never happened. Not in over 20 years of marriage. But when he turned 50, he started experimenting with other glass, including bottles and fragments of church windows just before they were placed into panes, where St. Anthony’s underwent a renovation, and the boxes were left outside.
“I like the taste,” he says at dinner.
I’ve cooked a steak, which he’s hardly touched. A broken vintage-green Coke bottle lies next to the napkin.
“Ryan hasn’t left his dorm room,” I say, picking up my fork.
When Ryan turned 16, we downloaded one of those apps that tracks his driving. Though he doesn’t have a car on campus, we can still follow where he goes, and I hope he leaves his room sometimes. But the weekly trip report is a straight line from his room, to classrooms, and back.
Renton runs his fingers along the jagged edges of the bottle.
“I’m going to try larger pieces, this time,” he says, pushing the chair back from the table.
I take the dishes to the sink and rinse them off, wondering if I should get rid of the ceramic plates and water glasses.
A trail of shards of glass leads to the bedroom. I follow it in the dark, carefully stepping around the edges, the light from the streetlamps throwing sparks that glow. My husband sits at the edge of the of the bed, crunching glass. I can hear it in his teeth. He turns around to smile, and I see the blood.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “I know what I’m doing.”
He turns back around to keep eating.
“Now that Ryan’s out of the house, we could be spending more time together.”
But I’m not sure he hears me, over the sound of the glass, echoing in his head.
I go to the dresser, to take out my pajamas, to get ready for bed. He pulls his shirt off, to do the same, and I stare at his naked back, which is smooth, shining in the soft glow of the lamps from outside. I run my hand down his spine, but he doesn’t move. He just sloshes the glass between his teeth. His skin is cold, hard—and it occurs to me—that he might never know that I’m touching him.
“You know I’m right here,” I tell him. “Please look at me.”
He turns his entire body around, from the waist up, and I discover that his lower abdomen is translucent. Inside, bits of colored glass mix with blood and tissue.
“I know,” he says, without any expression in his eyes. As if they’d been replaced by onyx.
Broken bottles and antique dishes fill every room in the house, including Ryan’s, left empty, with the bed still made up and some clothes he decided he wouldn’t take with him to the dorm. Renton trudges from one to the other, the sound of breaking glass piercing through the night and day. Each day, more of Renton slowly disappears, as he turns into a transparent shape, with only a few bits of colored pieces of glass floating on the back of a shoulder, sliding through the esophagus, or stuck where a kidney might be. At dinner, I look at him again, his face almost gone.
“I’m right here,” I say. “Please look at me.”
But all I see is my own reflection, and a gaze as distant as a desert full of sand.
Cecilia Kennedy (she/her) taught English composition/literature and Spanish language/literature in Ohio for 20 years before moving to Washington state with her family, which includes a very demanding cat. Since 2017, she has published her stories in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and England. Her work has appeared in Potato Soup Journal, Maudlin House, Coffin Bell, Idle Ink, Tiny Molecules, Streetcake Magazine, Wrongdoing Magazine, Rejection Letters, Open Minds Quarterly, Headway Quarterly, Flash Fiction Magazine, Kandisha Press, Ghost Orchid Press, and others. The Places We Haunt (2020) is her first short story collection. Additionally, she thoroughly enjoys being a volunteer adult beverages columnist for The Daily Drunk, a proofreader for Flash Fiction Magazine, and a concept editor for Running Wild Press. Twitter: @ckennedyhola