Glittering Generalities

August 25, 2008
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The afternoon sun is bright and the light dances over the leaves of the maple trees. The street is quiet, an occasional wind blows gentle and cool as birds sing from treetops and roofs. Bitter rich people watch from the windows of their daintily structured homes as gardeners care for their flowers, flowers they seldom know the name of. Heat rises from the asphalt. Two blocks down there are houses with less imposing walls, and flowers that aren’t paid to be gardened. A boy wearing pants too short and a coat too big sits on a street corner, cryptic black eyes fixed upon two approaching girls, as they make their way, running and giggling, through the chain of pretty houses intent upon being respected.

He watches the smaller one, with the long red hair. He longs to see the green of her eyes, as she gets close enough. He listens to the high, hollow tapping sound her shoes make as they skip along the sidewalk. Her voice is shrill and delighted as she calls to her sister. Her school bag bounces upon her shoulders. She is close enough now. He can see her eyes, green and yellow as the light jumps in and out of them. Her hair is slipping out of its clip. And the two girls race right past him as he sits there, resigned and content to see and not be seen.

He gets up, as he always does, once they have slipped into the door of an inviting house. He is filled with a half-strained joy. He walks back the opposite way of the girls, over the smooth hot asphalt, and the sun glares down on his pale skin. Her happy dancing figure walks before him and he speeds up, hoping to catch what isn’t there. His spurt of innocent desire only takes him faster to the lane of fancy living. He walks down it, as he always does, imagining the comfortable couches that must be inside. Then he remembers that those people aren’t his people, they are near worthless. And he accepts the fact that his mentality doesn’t make sense, because the most worthwhile person in the world is of their blood. He supposes, with little distress, that most of the things he has been taught do not make sense.

There is an unfinished house somewhere along the road. He stops to gaze at it. He thinks the foundations don’t look strong enough to support such grandeur as that it will be expected to display. Something glitters on the grass. He looks over, takes a few steps closer and notices it is a mound of broken glass. He imagines a thick window must have broken. He thinks that, as the light shimmers over the transparent pieces, they can be mistaken for diamonds. He smiles. He likes the idea.

The glass continues to shine as he steps stealthily over the grass, eyes darting around to make sure no one is watching. He bites his lip excitedly and quickly takes a handful of the sharp broken pieces. He puts them into his pocket, heart beating, and bends down for another handful. He runs away, glancing over his shoulder, pockets full of his diamonds, mind full of fantastic daydreams.

A month later the boy with the cryptic eyes gets up once more from his place at the sidewalk once the girls have already turned the corner, headed for school. He takes an excited breath and walks briskly away. It is going to be a great day.

His feet take him to the cobbled street two blocks down that, despite the morning sun, does not seem to him to hold any brightness. She is all of the brightness in the world. She is his only proof that life is not always dull and gray. He wishes he could give her the world for her to brighten.

Ragged old shoes walk over the uneven street and the boy looks around at shriveled shrubs around unwelcoming doorways and peeling white walls. He can smell neglect and dulled gloom in the meager breakfast scents escaping out of shuttered windows. The tree leaves don’t dance with the sunlight. It’s all in his head, but he doesn’t know it.

He turns into the lawn of an unremarkable, indifferent house. They had not even attempted to grow flowers. He yanks at the rusty knob and steps inside into the dust and the unhappiness. He has always thought that it is never daytime inside of this house, no matter how much light is seeping in through the broken blinds. And it is always winter. There can be no warmth where there is no love.

A woman with an unattractive curved nose sits at the little kitchen table. Her black hair hides her face from view and her hands lay on the smooth wooden surface. She turns her head when the door clicks open, then closes and two empty black wells stare back at him as the boy shuffles forward. There is nothing left to be taken out of those eyes. And he knows it. He has tried.

“Take off your shoes,” she commands in her listless voice. “They’re dirty. Try to be a little cleaner, Severus. You know how much he hates a mess.”

“Sorry,” he mumbles, and he is ashamed of their careless acceptance of an ordinary sad life. He slips his shoes off and tries not to make a sound as he walks toward the closet to hide them in. He has learned that there is nothing wrong with unpleasant things, just as long as he doesn’t let people see them.

He picks his way carefully over the stairs that creak, up into a mould-smelling hallway. He walks into the room to the right. His door is open. That is never a good sign.

Anxiously, wondering what to expect this time, he casts his secretive eyes around the small bedroom, looking for something out of place. The drawer of the desk in the corner is open, and there are papers on the floor. Breathing heavily he makes his way toward it. The drawer is empty. His heart sinks beneath the ground.

On his way down, he is not careful to step on the stairs that make the least noise. He is angry, scared and desperate. And that makes him reckless. He will regret it at night. He knows that. He has regretted one too many times.

“Mum!” His voice is not still and hushed as he rushes up to her, with uncharacteristic life in his eyes and voice. “Did he clean out my room? Where did he put the stuff? Was there a necklace? Did you see a necklace?”

As he waits with rapidly beating heart, she gazes at him in confusion. She is not accustomed to being the victim of need. “What are you talking about?”

“The necklace!” Severus exclaims. “It’s made of see-through pieces, sort of shiny. They look like diamonds. Did you see it?”

She hears angry grumblings from upstairs and heavy unworried footsteps. She stiffens, and her face is a mask. Her eyes look to her son threateningly. For once, he doesn’t pretend to care.

“What the hell is all the screaming about? I’m trying to sleep, kid. I’ve got work this afternoon.” The man’s face is resentful and stony. He is tall and much too thin. He is driven by anger and sullenness.

“My necklace! You cleaned out my room. It was in the drawer; where did you put it?” Severus is screaming at him. In a burst of passion he has forgotten the rules.

A heavy hand hits him hard on the face. He is knocked back upon the bare floor. He lies there with his mouth open, surprise in his now readable eyes. His mother has half-stood up, but now she sits again. She will make herself not care. She will try, and fail, but she will never let it show.

“Don’t address me like that, boy. You took my working scissors; I took them back. And I cleared your pigsty a little while I was at it.” The man stands over him, waiting for his son to cower.

Severus braces himself, and reminds himself that the red bruise across his face doesn’t really hurt all that much, considering. He takes a deep breath. “You threw away a necklace. I needed that.”

The man laughs, because it is the only thing he ever thinks to do. He squats down upon the boy’s level, and says maliciously, “What you need is to learn a few things, and learn them good. That wasn’t a necklace. That was just a bunch of glass. Don’t bring things like that into my house again. I don’t need any more trash in here. Now get out.”

The look he gives the boy says it all. It says, ‘I hate you and what you are. I hate even the part of you that is me’.

He has no choice but to obey. He has learned that it is not worth anything to fight. He will never get what he fights for. All he will get is an empty feeling and a sore face. He leaves obediently, bitterly, tears of rage and disappointment stinging in his eyes.

The street is darker, colder and uglier than before. Every sound is awful, and every door is shabby and sad. At the end of the road there are trash cans. Something glitters in one of them.

He runs toward the trash, and sure enough, pieces of glass that he inexpertly attempted to smooth and polish hang from a torn string. He takes them gently. Only half of his diamond beads are left. The necklace he has made out of broken pieces of glass that he has spent hours on, perfecting and cutting and splintering himself, is ruined. Once more he has nothing to give.

As he walks back up the hated road, as he turns left onto the street of the bitter rich people, hope is as fragile as pieces of glass. Diamonds are hard; his necklace could have never looked like diamonds. None of the things he has are unbreakable and shining, and she deserves too much more.

He sits on his spot on the sidewalk, and he holds the glass in his hands. He wishes he could have left a necklace there, on her doorstep, with a note. Not this necklace. He has learned his lesson; he was wrong in assuming he could have made it seem like more. He wants to leave her a necklace that everyone else looks at in a shop window. And instead he sits on a sidewalk with a red face, disproportionate clothes and a shattered handful of glass.

But his little impossible dream makes him stand, and makes him walk toward her front yard. He is unsure. But he decides that he will never one day be sure, so it is not worth it to wait. And he walks away, leaving a broken glass necklace and a little paper with her name on it in front of her door.

He hopes that maybe she will see that it is all that he can give. He hopes that maybe one day he will not be embarrassed to sign the note with his name. He hopes that maybe, when she first notices it, his necklace might look to her as if it were made of diamonds.

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This article has 2 comments. Post your own now!

TSLH said...
Feb. 20, 2009 at 4:48 am
Let me guess-influenced by Harry Potter? Its good.
LaLalover said...
Aug. 29, 2008 at 5:20 pm
Beautiful, is it fanfiction?
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