At first glance, the fundamental quality of glass is its transparency. All that’s required to gain that impression is to look through the pane and to take in the illusion that brings continuity to the space it divides. Yet it’s when focus drifts to the edges, as the glass meets the opacity of a frame, wall, or ledge, that the eye sees through the deceit. It then comes to confront the harsh reality of the barrier, and its own relative blindness to the hidden implication.
That night the lights in the ward were harsh and bright. I stood on one side of the glass cubicle and she was within, on the examination couch. A glass door separated us. The designation of within and without was implicit, evident to both of us without much consideration or thought. Perhaps that’s when I realised that for all its transparency, the true essence of glass is the unmistakable power of division, made more acute by its subtlety. At least, that was one of the scattered thoughts that arrived in my mind that night, among all the rest.
If I’d been able to borrow that quality of glass, to have looked at myself through its unbending lens from her perspective, I would have seen just the suggestion of a person. My shoes were wrapped in blue covers, my body beneath a gown of woven fibres, and my face covered by a misting visor and a mask, both sealing my expression away from her and muffling and warping my voice. The only way for her to glean any information about me was from my eyes, framed by this homogeneity that once only existed in popular culture and imagination, that once was only associated with abstract plague and nuclear disasters.