"If I stand at a window am I waiting?"
—Rosmarie Waldrop, A Form/of Taking/It All
Bill's forgetting began after the birth of his grandson and after the disappearance of his workers and after his glass factory was boarded up once and for all. His wife imagines it will continue, Bill's forgetting, like a ribbon of molten glass being stretched and compressed.
Bill would not describe it this way only because nothing, to Bill, has ever resembled glass other than time.
To most people the beauty of glass is how it looks like it is not there. Bill knows this. But unlike most people, Bill can look at a window and see the window. Not the world beyond it. Not out the window. Not through. Bill still knows the words for the different parts that separate the panes and support them. The muntins, the mullions, the sash. Bill can still predict, too, the map of a shattering that has yet to happen. Even though the breakage of glass is like a fingerprint. He can still explain this also. How no two panes shatter along identical lines.
In the glass factory, a layer of sawdust coated everything. After accidents with the diamond-tipped glasscutter, his blood would drip onto the sawdust. Bill still smells the smells of the factory: blood and wood and burning. Glass has no smell, or else Bill long ago stopped smelling it.
Bill does not wonder what happened to all the blood-soaked sawdust from years and then years and then decades of his minor mishaps. He does not think to think of the pools and pools of his blood and where they might be now, putrefying in pounds of decomposing wood-ash, this while his body is here, still alive, still with new blood inside it somehow and with words like hemacite still sticking like grains of sand.
Hemacite. A composite of sawdust and blood from slaughtered pigs and cows, once used widely in the production of doorknobs, buttons, roller-skate wheels, jewelry, cash register keys.
Amazing, Bill's wife thinks, that Bill has lost everything except this, the language and history of the material world.
His wife is pressing the calloused pad of his left thumb like a heart she makes beat for her. She knows he does not feel it. When she looks at Bill, she misses Bill. When he looks at his wife, he sees a window.
The difference between a door and a window is one of perspective, Bill would tell his workers. A window frame can also be a threshold if used that way. This was meant to give his workers some notion of what they were creating, the grandness of it. How a window can be a possibility of possibilities. Bill always tries to inspire them, his workers who are no longer his and who are no longer there.
There is a small puddle of rain on the sill. His wife drops his hand. When she closes the window, it feels like—what to him? A small shatter? Or like shutting his eyes?
Glass is not water, Bill would tell his wife. She can hear his answer before she asks him the question, so she does not ask it. She only whispers it in a fog on the window: why does clear water cloud when it freezes to ice?