There had been a storm the night before and she’d forgotten to close the window in the living room. On the floor, in a pool of water gleaming with morning sun, are shards of glistening black glass, the remains of a goblet she’d acquired sixteen years ago.
On the shards she can see fragments of silver text: Bea; mmer; ’94; and Th; uty; ea; e B; Su; st. She knows what the letters spell out. Despair. Doubt. Drama. Paranoia. Betrayal. Love. Friendship. Laughter.
Notes from a lesson. Notes she’s carried with her for a decade and a half for a course that only ends when you die. It doesn’t matter if you pass or fail the final exam, she’s come to understand. Only that you show up to class. Learn the lessons. Keep the notes.
Notes. Musical notes. Little black dots of glass on staffs of wood grain. A score. She scans the measures on the floor but happenstance hasn’t created a masterpiece. Only a chaos of discord. Much like that summer.
She’d been the musical director for a production in those hummid months. Her boyfriend Erik worked in the lighting booth. Christina played Belle, the Beauty. Nathan, the Beast. Her best friend, Evelyn, was the director. And there was Kerrie. That was a long time ago now, 1994.
She leans down to pick up one the larger shards and feels a small sliver of the dark glass slide into the pad of her foot. It is a minor pain. Insignificant. Something she can deal with later. She fingers the surprisingly sharp edge of the opaque glass shard. Even without cutting her flesh, the silver letters Bea open a deeper ache in her chest.
Evelyn had known about Erik and Christina. Everyone had known, it later turned out. She’d known herself, of course, but found it easy to deny when Evelyn had remained silent in the wings. Evelyn wouldn’t remain silent about something like that, would she? But then, she had the Show to think about.
The Show, the capital-S Show, would have been in jeopardy if the lighting operator didn’t show up because they were having a row with the musical director in the parking lot. Or what if the musical director clawed Belle’s eyes out like a real beast? The Show must go on. A bad performance is forever, friendships are ephemeral.
Or is it the other way around? She couldn’t remember. That’s why you keep notes. That’s why you carry your lessons around with you. Apartment to apartment, city to city, life to life.
The glass in her hand reflects a shard of the low morning sunlight into her eyes. It momentarily blinds her like a spotlight. Or a smile.
Everyone sitting around after a performance. Alcohol and pot and laughter filling the air. Friendship thicker than the August humidity.
The loudest laugh, the brightest smile, belonged to Kerrie. It was a moment full of Kerrie’s glittering eyes, glistening smile, the glimmer of her red hair and the twinkle of her freckles.
All faded to black now, in a grave she’ll never visit. In a grave dark as that room in Evelyn’s house years later, after Kerrie’s drunken admission to sleeping with Erik. Kerrie half naked. Fingers. Skin. Moonbeam on the pale freckles of her ass. Kerrie’s musky sweat on her palms. Kerrie’s taste on her tongue. And in the morning pretending it never happened. Again.
Kerrie was good at pretending things hadn’t happened. It was her true talent as an actor. Erik had never happened, and if he had, it was after Christina, so what did it matter? Kerrie hadn’t made him any more of a whore than he already was.
That was a lesson she was never quite able to swallow. If she had, she’d have to acknowledge the black scribbles in the margins. The ones that questioned just who she felt betrayed by. Erik or Kerrie? What was the lesson there?
You sleep with someone’s man, you get a brain tumour. No. It doesn’t work out that simple. Messier. More like a pile of broken glass.
She replaces the black shard on the floor with the others. All the little broken lessons. She’ll get a broom and sweep them up once the water has dried away. It’s time to throw away these notes, these bits of a lesson she’s only just begun to decipher. She only now has begun to even understand what the class is about, what the prof has been telling her, what illusions she’s laboured under that have prevented her from really learning anything.
The goblet—the black glass cup with Beauty and the Beast, Summer ’94 etched in silver—that each of them were given at the wrap party, wasn’t a book of notes on betrayal. Unlike the cup, the shards don’t spell out: Everyone is capable of betrayal; No one can love you more than they love themselves; Trust is another word for weakness.
Rearranged in pieces on the floor, the goblet’s tongue is telling her something different for the first time in sixteen years. The same as each blade-like shard of glass is part of the smooth curve of the cup, the betrayals were part of the trust, the anger an aspect of the joy, Kerrie’s death a part of her life. The years of lingering hatred she’d carried in the black goblet had been a part of those moments of love they’d all shared and needn’t have lasted any longer.
She’ll sweep the mess away later, but first she pulls the sliver of glass out of her foot. She tosses it away like notes after an exam. Completing the course is what’s important, the lessons are never applicable in real life.
© 2010 Jakob Rehlinger