Thursday, May 16, 2013

the case of the broken glass

The first year that I went to college, art school, Parsons School of Design in New York City, I lived in their "dorms," a few floors in a high-rise on Union Square. The understanding was that by the end of the year students would need to find other accommodations  to make room for next year's influx of art students. I looked at a few places over the summer, but nothing was working out, until I lucked into a place in Park Slope, sharing it with a girl who modeled in one of my art classes. The real bonus was that as nice as she was, she spent a lot of time at her boyfriend's place, so for the most part, although it sometimes got lonely, I had a large, railroad apartment to myself. During that sophomore year my roommate eventually moved out, and when one of my classmates found himself out of his latest digs I was more than willing to share my good fortune, telling him to come and stay until he found his own place.

I was a bit of a stray collector in those days. I never intended to have my classmate become my permanent roommate, but if that had worked out, I probably would have been fine with it. But that's not how things worked out. It's always hard to live with people. We all have our quirks. I had grown up with a brother, so I was used to hair left in the shower, or the toilet seat being up. Those really weren't  a big deal. But being sneaky or dishonest was a deal-breaker.

"A Broken Glass," by Kit Umscheid

So what happened? 

We were living in Brooklyn, but we both would also still go home and visit our families on the weekend from time-to-time; my family in New Jersey, his in upstate New York. I had returned from such a weekend to find a sink full of dishes — again, not exactly a big deal, just a small annoyance. I didn't have that many glasses or dishes, so would have to wash what was in the sink to be able to use them. I turned on the water and grabbed a sponge and some dish soap and started washing the plates and forks, my mind drifting. I then reached for a juice glass, putting the sponge inside, and turning it, twisting it, to get the suds over the inside of the glass. Suddenly I glanced down into the sink and wondered why it reminded me of the shower scene in Psycho. Blood was swirling down the drain. I looked from the bottom of the sink to the glass and my hand. My hand was bleeding, between the thumb and index finger. The glass had been broken, perfectly, horizontally, and then put back together. Put back into the sink. As if done by a three year old. Maybe she won't find out. She won't know that I did it. What a jerk. Luckily, the gash wasn't deep enough to warrant stitches, but I still have a scar.

I gave him until the end of the week. I never really got angry with him, or scolded him, or told the story (much), but we were never really friends after that incident. Understandably. A few months later, as I was going through some of my books in a bookcase I heard something drop down to the floor behind it. I fished out the object. It was my grandmother's pinking shears, broken, hidden behind some pieces of trimmed cardboard. He had used my seamstress grandmother's pinking shears to cut thick cardboard for some project. And then apparently broken them and hidden them. What sort of infantile behavior would do crap like this? Twice?

Things get broken. It happens. But every once in a while I have to wonder how and why this brand of sneakiness, something that I have dealt with on occasion with my daughter  who's nine years old  had extended into adulthood. Granted, twenty-somethings are not as grown-up as they think they are, but to put a broken glass back in a sink instead of just throwing it out. It still boggles my mind.
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