Look at me. I am full of soft edges, the occasional sharp angle. I am muscle and fat. Tendon and bone. Skin and blood. But part of me – part of me is made of glass.
My ego – relatively strong – is surrounded by a delicate glass case. “In case of emergency, break.” I would run down the street naked to save my children. Ego be damned.
But my heart. My heart. There are parts of my heart that are impenetrable, that even I cannot reach. Walled off in high school with my mother’s cancer diagnosis. Reinforced a year later by her death. Intricate buttresses starting at my belly button and arcing up to my beating heart. Feats of architecture.
The early knowledge that those who mean the most to you are not invincible, that your love is not enough to save them – it turns the heart not to stone, as stories would have it. Stone is too stolid, too resilient to the occasional battering ram. No, it is glass. It is stone battered so often it has softened to sand, struck by white-hot pain so intense it has rehardened, transformed. Now delicate. If it is pushed too hard, it will shatter. I will shatter.
After my mother’s death, my heart was all glass. A wisp of a smell could cause it to tremble alarmingly; the hint of her long-shelved perfume. Nearly invisible cracks would appear, threaten to branch out, when encountering unexpected evidence of her; an old woolen sweater found in the back of a closet. Even dreams could chip it, sending dangerous shards through my bloodstream; too personal, twenty years later, to recount.
My heart has grown around the glass, enveloped it. With my marriage, with each child, with time, I have created a pillow of warm blood, a thick comforter of squeezing muscle. The glass core is nestled deep inside, safe. It has become difficult to reach; too dangerous to try.
My daughter, age three, is not made of glass. Not a single part of her. People speak of children being moldable, like clay. But not this child. Clay is too lifeless, too pliable.
We recently went to a dance party for my son’s school. A gymnasium was rented out and a DJ hired to play the chicken song and the hokey pokey. As children flapped their featherless wings and pointed their fingers to the sky, my daughter moved. She ran without destination, feeling the joy of movement. She stopped to do a little twist, to touch the floor, to lie down and spin on her back. Then she was back to running, to moving. She was confidence. She was fluid. A raw tangle. I could not stop watching her, so sure of herself, of the world.
Look at her! Can you see her? She is lava. Her path seemingly random but preordained. Her spirit wild and dangerous and beautiful. She is bubbling. Steaming. She is unstoppable. Shatterproof.
Part of her will turn to glass. Her flow will quiet with age. Her edges will have a chance to cool and harden. But for now – for now: She is unbreakable.