© 2005 - 2008 Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas.
And someone will fetch Ianto Jenkins a coffee in a cardboard cup with two sugars. He will sit on the ground for he is old.
See then, under that blanket of dust there is a man as sure as there was a man in her bed. Meggie runs those wild cherry leaves down his thighs in their rough trews all transparent, and sees the town through those thighs, the houses, the streets, the shops; the men and women coming back from the graveyard. And through his jacket she sees boys playing again in the street.
But it is his face that really matters, for what does Meggie see, as she wipes it clear of its dust? His cheek, unshaven. A hollow where he bites the inside of that cheek for fear. A bruise all purple over his cheekbone. She raises her fingers to his face in the glass, and the glass is warm. She runs her fingers over those lips and feels his breath against her skin.
And that is nearly the end, except for one thing. That if you have love to give it has to go somewhere, for it cannot go nowhere. So little Meggie Jones gave her love to a window. Her man is dead under the mountain and another man comes to her in a window, and who is to say she is not right after all?
So she looks after the windows then. Proper, all tidy. But whenever the wild cherry trees drop their leaves, she takes them and cleans that window with those leaves like they were the softest of cloths. And her child does the same.
And her child is Judah Jones.
And the cinema goers will sigh
Aww there’s lovely
and make plans to go maybe now and maybe later to the chapel to see the window. They will ask if Judah’s leaves are letting the window breathe and become warm under his touch… and the beggar will sigh, and not reply.
And today, this very day, Judah has pushed his bike through the park and collected leaves dropped by the tree near the gate; leaves that glint like old coins.
Leaves for Judah Jones, is it?
Maybe this very day the miracle will happen. Maybe today the man might move in the glass, a muscle moving under the painted cloth of his shirt. Maybe the fingers will flex to send blood to the tips. And maybe the chin will tilt, the head turn and the eyes gaze straight at Judah.
So Judah has taken the silver leaves, and he has gone to the High Street, cleaned the windows of the shops, he has leaned his bike against the stone bench in the chapel porch. Now he is in the chapel and is gazing up at his window. And over time it has grown more beautiful, the face shining in the half light, glistening as if it had pores and sweat. And he reaches up to touch the man’s cheek and wonders whether today there will be warmth under his fingers.
But Judah has cleaned that window with his leaves every year for so long that the glass is as thin as a thought. Every part of the painting transparent, delicate. Every flower, every stone on the hills. Light as a small shell on the beaches, the nail of a baby, the membrane inside the egg of a wren. And the miner. So full of beauty in his transparency that Judah is crying.
Transparent? Delicate? Is he fading then, the man? Does Judah see that and stop? He does not. The leaves brought the man to life for little Meggie Jones and they will do so for Judah.
And soon his leaves are brittle and crumbling, falling to the flagstones in silver rain. The painting is so faint that he can only see his man if he moves from side to side and catches the light exactly.
Could this be the miracle starting? Must there be nothing before there is something? For now he can barely see him, the hands of his miner square and strong, his feet bare on the grass, and the flowers of the Beacons that were bright with colour are ghost flowers below two silver merlins tumbling in a silver sky.
Something is happening as Judah always knew it would. He shuts his eyes and brushes his man with silver leaves, and dreams of being held just once by those arms.
He shuts his eyes and runs his fingers down the arms of the miner, to feel the muscles tauten under the skin. And the thighs, he feels them tremble as his own are trembling now. He moves his fingers to the face, and feels the chin, the lips, the nose, the fluttering of closed eyelids, and back to the mouth, and Judah sighs, for the glass is warm at last under his fingers. The lips have parted. There is the beat of a pulse, a moth caught in the light.
Judah opens his eyes. To emptiness.
No flowers, no trees, no merlins tumbling ghostly in a pale sky. No wild cherry trees on the hills. No cliffs of coal.
Judah puts his hand to the window and it is warm, as though it is fed with veins running in spiders’ webs through the glass. He stands on his chair to turn his head from side to side for there must be the shadow of a man, a trace of his breath in the chapel air, the indent made by a single hair.
But there is not. Judah rests his forehead against the window where the face of the miner was. And where the mouth of the miner was, Judah rests his mouth.
Judah presses, thinking maybe, deep in the layers, the man is there… but the window is no thicker than the membrane inside that wren’s egg. It can no longer bear the weight of a kiss. It shatters.
And all that is left is a window cleaner standing on an old chair in a chapel, a window broken. The breeze lifting his hair, tender as breathing. He has not noticed yet, but his lip is cut, and down his chin is running a thin stream of blood, living, bright and perfect.