On Breaking Windows

I am standing before my mother attempting to summon the greatest anger. But I don’t have a catalyst to set off the fission because my mother’s disappointment has deflated my ego. I am unable to come up with a lie, blame someone else, or shed tears. There would be no anger. Instead, I am consumed by silence and I feel sorry for myself. I feel sorry for the broken window. I feel sorry for my mother.
She has the audacity to ask me why.
“I don’t know,” I mutter. It’s a stupid question. I just did it. And now I want her disappointment to break but it remains malleable like honey on my shoulders. She doesn’t spank me. Instead she walks away and I am left alone to examine the fragments of my youthful madness.
What inspired me to thrust the pole through the window? I am at a nice café, sipping on an earthy black coffee contemplating this question and that moment with my mother. It’s Saturday morning and I am already late. I’m wondering where is the inspiration to help me shatter this crystalline façade of mine? I loathe this sallow, well-dressed, observant, respectable stranger that I have become. But my question is disassembled by semantics. I love this crystalline façade and I don’t want to die just yet. What is my desire? This morning, when I woke up I needed coffee, but I know is an addiction and not a desire.
I am lost in the search for meaning. If only I could buy a guide.
To get around the great cities of this world I use maps and anonymous reference books with rating systems. And I walk with determination everywhere. The American. I am the American everywhere. Not the fat white-guy with a fanny pack but the ‘I was you once, now I am America,’ American. It has a life of its own, which I can’t quite call my own. In fact, I’m still paying interest to TV shows filmed before a live audience, hot afternoons on asphalt playgrounds, hoop dreams, and a 1968 Ford Fairlane. I never mention my great efforts to invite America to roost and feed on the algae of my third world soul.
Today, this morning, I am at a café in San Francisco, surrounded by friendly anonymous people, voicelessly keeping each other in line with simple glances and American made gestures. I can hear the conversations and cringe because I once rehearsed the same role. If by chance we traded seats, I do believe the nice man sitting next to me would not fail at all to wallow contently through my life and I his.
After twenty minutes, the sweet stranger packs his notes and slides his book into a portfolio. He leaves and his table is unoccupied. I continue this dialogue realizing that though he said nothing, barely cast his sights on me or anyone else, his presence yields the essential purpose to my presence. With him gone, I feel no further need to sit and I’ve also finished my cup of coffee. I do as he did and walk anonymously to meet with my beloved. I cannot keep her waiting.
Despite frequent sabotage, I am loved and will never lack anything. It is the curse and blessing of my life. It happened when I was a boy. Three women prayed for me, my mother, her mother and sister. Medicine had failed so they turned to the litany in eternal Spanish. Torre de marfil. Ruega por nosotros. Despite the fever and because of the fever my penis was erect. Santisimo mysterio. Ruega por nosotros. I had no pubic hair. Santa Madre de Dios. Ruega por nosotros. In the fever shivers I encountered exquisite delights. Not in New York or Paris. No. The light of these delights began and ended in the confines of my sick room where the smell of Vapor-rub reigned like a Holy Spirit and my body distilled beneath wool blankets. The candle lit voice of the triumvirate prayer scurried me to health and eternal welfare. In one last feverish thought I listed the cretins forbidden to attend my funeral.
Yes! You know who you are. You taunted my dreams and pressed my idealistic fantasies until tears ran down my sweet cheeks. How could I allow the massive disillusionment of our being to be present at my holy redemption? You know who you are.
The streets are bright and beautiful today. I turn on 16th Street for no particular reason. At some point between Valencia and Mission, a homeless black man wanders into the traffic. His attention is completely absorbed defending himself against invisible assailants. He fends them off ferociously. Unfortunately, the driver of the Honda Accord is blinded by the bright morning sun and comes to a stop only after the man’s body comes down to the ground after a flaccid somersault high in the air. I rush to the scene but I am useless. The other ants like me are equally confused. We stagger about as if a devious child has interrupted our chemical trail with its plump thumb.
I was in my early twenty’s and completely insolvent. The only thing of value in my possession, I thought, was my soul. I got up one bright morning and dress in my only suit. I am determined it would be the day I finally get something for it. Satan the only buyer gave me the only price, it was low and he was being fair. “The market is saturated. It’s supply and demand,” he explained almost tenderly. “God doesn’t want you.”
I held off and spoke to a friend who advised me to short my soul. “The prices will continue to plummet,” he explained, “and you’ll make a fortune.” I did as he recommended and also shored up my tenuous position with several options. Tricky stuff but he guaranteed I’ll make money anyway the market goes. And I did. I eventually purchased my worthless soul back after two years (Sentimental reasons purely). The war was good for speculators.
Nevertheless, the experience tamed and civilized my unruly ways. My body bridled my soul’s blind rage, so that I won’t break windows (or myself) any more. But it goes without saying that when a glass tips and shatters the sweetness of breaking that first one evokes such a delicious melancholy. Like a boy’s first orgasm, breaking the first window is eternally sweeter. All others are desperate attempts to conjure that moment.
I remember…I held the broom pole like a lance and galloped against the glass, the crystalline evidence of humanity’s madness, the contradiction to see but not feel, to love but not suffer. Quality therapy…only quality if the window is not one’s own, other wise it remains therapy and this is not as good. Discovery is so profound as a kid because the illusion of ownership has not been branded into the mind and yet I don’t wish reliving it on anyone.
The man is lying on the hot asphalt motionless. And on the windshield, imprinted like two spider webs, is the impact where his head and elbow struck. The smell of urine has calcified his brown trousers. Someone with first aid training pulls his arms to his side and crouches over him. His dark eyes are glassy with a thin cloudy film from chronic alcoholism.
“Instead of standing around why don’t someone direct traffic?” a man leans out of his window from the opposite lane. I look up and see his fat red face cringing with impatience.
Someone else pounces on his anger. It’s a slender woman with dreadlocks and long flowing garments. “You’re going nowhere!” She tells him and calmly stands in front of his car. I want to kiss her. He pounds his forearm against the outside of his door like an albino gorilla.
I’ve said enough on breaking windows. When I was six, I would watch the blue sky until it ceased being blue and eventually cease being the sky. Silver bullets inched across its expanse leaving long white trails. Inevitably, questions emerged. One would yield another until they became a forceful breeze across my mind. “Mama, are they from God’s gun?” Anyone can picture the ensuing questions. The next day, I wanted to be in the flying bullet and see myself looking at myself watching myself across this sky. I would wave to myself…yes I would. But I will confess that on a train from Madrid to Paris I saw a child waving at my speeding train. I broke from my American search for self too late and missed my chance to wave back and return his youthful joy. I waved too late but I waved. Did you see me wave? I saw you sweet child and I see you now despite the hazy memory. I see you! I waved back! In my busy search for a revolution, I allowed fear to guide me away from the hurricane in my chest. This I know.
A few weeks later, I was alone, shivering on the tiled floor of a Barcelona hotel, delirious with fever. The fever-fabricated imagery unearthed the sediments of my mid-20’s disillusionment that was deposited in the deep wells beneath my education. I became a soldier badly dismembered by shrapnel. Limbless and bleeding, I grasped for my comrades that flew the warplanes that dropped the bombs that shredded my limbs.
The man on the asphalt has stopped breathing and his eyes reflect a sweet peace. The cute girl driving the car begins to shout, screaming that she couldn’t see anything. Sirens are wailing in the distance. I know this will upset my sweetheart so when I see her, I don’t mention anything. I take her to an expensive restaurant and study the brunch menu. She picks up on my tension and then tells me she’s pregnant.
Every now and then, I manage to leave my beloved’s side. I explain that I need to be with myself and she asks when am I not with sarcastic humor. There is no use arguing against something that is. Nonetheless, I escape, inspired by the unreason to be with myself, get drunk and listen to Chopin.
Chopin is playing in the background, melancholic and truthful, somehow like red wine. Of the infinite degrees of melancholy, his servings are the sweetest to my heart. My soul resonates with his passion. I am very drunk and I want to get drunker so I drink a tall cup of water before another blast from my tequila shotgun. Chopin’s melancholy points to that instant we are one. I think about my body’s origin. Inebriated by reason, a theorem of truth ignites the beacons guiding peace to roost on my branching soul.
I see it clearly. Two cells became one and then become billions. A cellular Big Bang if you wish. Why not? Everything flowers from that instant. Humanity’s entire past and future is contained in the frailty of a membrane. Glorious. I want to say tragic; it seems fitting, because thereafter our existence is tainted by the sweetness of this moment of unity. Peace descends over my soul because despite my life of constant sin, like any prophet or whore, I too am/was one cell.
A few days later I return to my beloved. She searches my face for signs of infidelity. I’ve been fucking myself for a long time but that’s not what she means. I am faithful to her as the sun is to the earth but the next months we sing a duet of madness.
Peace like a very sexy woman keeps me waiting. The wait seems eternally longer since I met my sweetheart. I once fabricated a vast gilded future. I took ideas, concepts, and rumors and crafted the most beautiful fiction. A miracle bashed it like my cousin bashed my elaborate play-dough Smurf village when I as a boy. I cried angry tears for that village buy my vendetta was foiled by his strength. His is the curliest hair I’ve ever seen and it never occurred to me to pull it. I never fight dirty and the grief was too strong. My arms could not sustain both.
Ten months later. I am alone with my baby boy for the first time. Mama when out for a drink. There I am, intense and serious like always and slightly drunk watching him sleep. I can see truth beyond the illusion of grandeur that so sweetly deceives my mind. A melody begins from the recess of my silent adoration of this little being. I dance and whirl carried away by madness and lose track of my limbs. I am lost in the agony of my existence and the world fades into a dream of movement. I flay my limbs around like blades and imagine myself a blender liquefying the deceits of my father. Inevitably the conditioned precision of responsibility shocks me out my inebriated dance. Had my madness consumed my baby? No. His joyous laugh breaks my saturnine delusion! Such joy, it is unperturbed by the knowledge of tomorrow, or a mind untainted by language. He loves his crazy father.
Knowing what we know, why did we bring you into this world? You fat baby of joy? You were no accident and dare I say my boys were sharp and your mother very strong. A rose blooms because it knows nothing else; it’s its science, religion, and art. I know that a man dies because he learns of death but I ask did he ever live? No one seems to know what living is? But this I know, to live is the only thing worth doing. It is absolutely wonderful and I couldn’t deny this joy to you.

On Breaking Windows


Palo Alto, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

Opening story for anthology ala Jhumpa exploring the Mexican exodus to USA. First draft.

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