by Kristy Kerruish
In the old days, panes of glass were fairly small and filled with impurities. If you look through these old panes the surface appears rippled, like the wind on water, and whatever you see through them is distorted. Compared with the clarity of modern glass there is something far more pleasing in the old.
I was reading in my rooms on Blattgasse, a narrow street in the centre of Vienna. Nowadays only service traffic has access to this narrow cobbled alley, lined with fashionable bars and boutiques. In the past it had been a thoroughfare, the haunt of vendors, craftsmen and whores. I heard an unfamiliar sound and going to the window I saw somewhat indistinctly, due to the imperfections of the glass, a young man walking down the street towards me. He wore a thigh-length waisted coat, half boots and a wide-rimmed hat thrown back across his forehead. As he walked he glanced up and threw me an airy smile. I shifted to the other pane of the window where the glass was more modern and less flawed so I could see more clearly. The scene outside that I had seen through the old window had been obscurely different: from this modern window the street was clear and cluttered because the café opposite had moved its tables to catch the late afternoon sunshine.
I returned to the old window leaning my brow against the rippled glass. It had started to rain steadily and the young man hurried to take shelter in a doorway opposite. The rain set streams running through the narrow street. The roof above him sent a cascade of water which caused him to step abruptly back; he caught my eye in laughter.
The man stayed in the doorway as long as the rain fell and while he lingered he met my eye with a steady look. It was as if we were not strangers. As if we knew far more of one another than a lifetime’s acquaintance could bring. All the while the drips careered off the brim of his hat and fell to his feet. I saw him look towards the sky searching to find the tattered blue fragments that foretold the end of the shower. I prayed the rain would never pass — that he would linger. The rain grew gentler and passed, vanishing into a burst of clear sunshine. He glanced up towards me and, tipping his hat, he left. I saw him turn the corner of the street but then I could see no further.
I cried out and flung the window open and strained to see down the street, but all I saw were the patrons of the café across the road. Shutting the windows once more I saw that in flinging the window open I had cracked the pane of glass and the world I had seen from it was lost, forever, never to be recaptured.
Kristy Kerruish was born in Edinburgh with Scottish and Manx roots. She is an independent historian and publishes non-fiction and fiction. She has short fiction and poetry accepted for publication in Bunbury, Spelk, Octavius, Gold Dust, Dawntreader and Dream Catcher, among others.