It was the last one. In the course of fewer than six months of living together I had destroyed the other three. I felt his resentment mounting. I hadn’t really known the names of any hockey teams when we met. I soon learned that the Penguins, whose logo was imprinted on each of the glasses, were his favorite one. And each of these glasses, with their yellow, black and white painted-on player was a special treasure.
With the first one, he had been understanding. After all, we had just moved in together. We were young and ready to conquer the world, to build our lives together. With glasses two and three he became less patient, and understandably so. He had had them since high school, or college? And in less than a year of knowing me, I had waged what must have seemed to him like an intentional attack.
I didn’t hate the glasses. In fact, I enjoyed using them, their sharp colors offering a respite from the clear glasses I had brought to our combined cupboards. I felt horrible with each inadvertent shattering. Each one mounting evidence that I was this klutz I didn’t want to admit to being or, worse, that I lacked some fundamental characteristic of a caring, concerned girlfriend. If I loved him more, maybe I wouldn’t have broken the glasses.
Tidying our tiny apartment on this gray February day, I felt quite domestic, quite grown-up in all my twenty-five years. I had this life thing figured out. This relationship thing was working. After straightening the living room, I tackled the dishes in the sink, the glass being one of them. I cradled it delicately, as if I were a papa penguin myself (the bird kind). I can hear the sound in my head even now of the glass hitting against the side of the sink ever so gently, almost like a bell — a full-bodied, rich sound. And I saw it there instantly: A hair of a crack running from the thin lip of the glass halfway down it.
I felt panic spread through my gut. I was devastated that it was broken in my hands, and I immediately began to dread the confrontation of it all. The explaining. The apologies. The hurt. And then I decided that it wasn’t broken. I, in mere seconds, convinced myself that perhaps the glass was just fine. After all, it was still intact. Maybe that sound that rang out and reverberated through the sink was just that: a sound, not the end of the set of hockey glasses. Not proof that I was a careless, unloving, klutz.
And this poor intact but scared glass must get cleaned still. I soaped up my sponge and plunged it and my hand into the glass. If I believed it wasn’t broken, it must not be broken. My hand forced its way into the glass in much the same way the idea that it was whole forced its way into my mind. Speed sometimes seems like certainty.
Just like I had refused to belief the brokenness of the glass, I, at first, dismissed the red blood spiraling down the drain, the flap of skin hanging off of my pinky finger, the glass now in two pieces, one the same exact shape as the edge of the skin flapping from my bleeding finger.
Super Bowl Sunday. Hospital. Four stitches. Confession that the Penguins had caved in the face of my offense. Admission, now, twelve years and a failed marriage later, as I stare at the half-smile of a scar still adorning my smallest finger, that if you see a fissure in something that can hurt you, it’s probably better to acknowledge it rather than plunging your hand (or your heart) in full force.