sidebrow

A Hole in the Wall Called a Window

The Tinkerer sits in your room, sleeves rolled up, his face clenched tight as a fist. Since noon he’s been hunkered squint-eyed under a hook light, plying your larynx with a pair of tiny crescent wrenches. He pinned the skin of your throat back butterfly-style to give himself more elbow room, and now he’s fingering the pitch pipe beneath your chin. Your voice lessons didn’t go so well today.


He needs you to talk. That was my big shortcoming. I can turn my head to his beck, bend my back to his whim, but I cannot turn a phrase out loud. Articulated but not articulate, I gave him all the wrong patter. How quickly he tired of my softshoe. I am a mere tool: a shovel, a wheelbarrow at best. Mute as a millstone, me. He wants a parrot with a tin tongue. He wants an echo with a pulse.


This morning he drew a seagull on the blackboard. A brilliant bird in mid-flight, legs tucked, each feather a ghost in hatched lines. He poked it with his chalky thumb, and you said, “Muffler.” Next, he drew a star—the simple shape, a child’s symbol. He pointed, and you said, “Toast.”

He knocked your head to the floor. You picked it up and handed it back to him.



Will you remember any of this once he’s done? How well can we know our own conception? I was there when you were merely a sketch on the back of some sheet music. I don’t remember the song, exactly—a waltz, I think. This was back when the Tinkerer still loved me, when I was his favorite fruit. He was teaching me to dance in the cellar beneath the stables: arms up, back straight, glide. He was a hawk behind the piano, he with those ravaging eyes, and his hands were good little horses. The music never strayed, never faltered, always came home on time. But that last song broke like a box of dishes. The notes fell everywhere as he was struck by new inspiration. He slapped the hood down on the fingerboard, snatched the sheet music away from its note-perch and began to scribble. And there you were, an idea scratched out in black ink, a shudder of potential laid out in line.


He brought it to me, his face aflame. He touched my arm and said, “We could really do this, you know?”

We.


He considered us a we. He wanted me to help him make you.


I could hardly breathe. 


His fingertips on my wrist. He was all I knew, my sun and moon. I worshipped the squeak of his shoes. My heart filled its cup, ran over.



You’ll want to love him, too.

You’ll too want to love him for your hair. Like gold spun from smoke, like champagne unspooled in the sun. He grew those locks in a jar by his bed, woke up three times a night to feed them sugar-water from an eye-dropper. Say what you will about him, the man can do hair.


And you’ll want to love him for your fingers, too, each one long and finely tuned. How many hours did he spend weaving wire and horsehair through the hollows of your handbones, all so that you might pluck an eyelash from his cheek? He polished the base of your thumb with his mother’s wedding veil. I was there when he finished. He wept.




Now he thumbs the notched wheel on the face of the crescent wrench, slips it onto a tiny banister bolt and turns your voice down an octave. He listens with his whole face to the wind under your tongue. With all these gears and calipers, he means to make you sing. But first there are the words, the block and tackle of language, the simple tools you refuse to master. He has bloodhounds who are better conversationalists.

Up on the rack with pegs in your back, you’re a sight for sore eyes or eyes, like mine, made bleary by rust. I can see you still, from way over here, where I rest on this shelf, half-forgotten. I am a rude mechanical, it’s true, but I spliced the lines of your lungs in my day. I polished your eyes on a kickwheel grinder. I’ve seen your heart and held it in my hand. There’s a corkscrew drain in the left ventricle—I know because I put it there so that he couldn’t flood you at will. He’s sure to find it one day soon, and, when he does, Sweet, the mess will be hip-deep.




So listen to me now, if you can. 


Listen not for my voice but for the tiny vibrations of my will, let them sing out this distress call, Child. Listen to this beacon:

Not every star is wired.


Not every bird is made of chalk.


There’s a world on the other side of these walls he’s squared around us. 


There’s a hole in the wall called a window.

Let that word take root. 


Window.

Draw the strings of your lips’ purse to shape its beginning—whe, whe. Now let your tongue tap the ribbed roof to trap it—win, win. Build a dam with your tongue’s tip and blow it down to speak escape: Window.

It’s there beside the chalkboard, behind that eyelid called a blind.

He’s wrapping his tools in a chamois cloth now, and rolling them tight as a cigar. He thinks he loves your harpsichord heart, but he will smoke you to the stub. You are the First of the New Ones, Dear, his Lilith and his Eve reconfigured. But when his hobnails hit the top step, and the tumblers settle in the their lock, I want you to look to the window, Love, and find the ring on the string beneath the blind.


It’s as big as a button on an overcoat, and its surface is ticked like piecrust. Slip your finger in its hole, curl your finger and pull.


With this ring I thee wed.


And wedding you, I give you up to the world.


There’s a sky on the other side of that marriage, my Sweet, and in that sky, a sun: everything you’ve never seen, burning. There are flowers along the road that taste like color. And there’s wind that will push through your hair and make the leaves in the trees start to whisper.


I’d lead you out myself if I could, down the path and to the wood and out beyond the road into the sea. But he took away my dance and shoes, my course, my lane, he gave to you. The pelvis bone you rest on was once mine. As are the wings within your shoulderblades and the lock on your left knee. I was stripped for parts for you. My roughcoat of flesh woven finer for your wear.


So, please, crawl out the window. Use your arms and legs, it won’t ruin you. The sea road runs to the west. The sun is slipping slowly as we sing. And when you see a bird tumble and glide, you’re sure to say “bird.” And tonight, when the stars shine down on your teeth, you’re sure to say “star.”