Hieroglyphs – Schuyler Dickson
December 8, 2022
Some mornings, I would wake up to hieroglyphs on the glazed windows. Trails of clear glass in the condensation, loops like rivers and rivulets running through swamp. Something slender drags its body there across the night. I knew that then and know that now, but there was an in-between. When I believed the world was writing me messages.
It only happened on the one window, the one window where the sun rises. Where I sat on my couch and drank my tea and saw the colors spike through the watery murk, clear as sand but for the twisting belly-trail that arced and warped like a toddler-drawing.
One bright weekend morning, the hieroglyph blazed. Something whole delivered itself into me. I could feel it and still feel it, like a pregnancy.
My son came, which was seldom but for a dense, short weekend when obligation overcame his belief in career, the future, outsides. And in the wonder, though I’ve learned not to talk about it now, I mistakenly opened my mouth about the Wholeness Delivered as my son was sitting in the leather chair, derisively reading aloud the ingredients on a box of breakfast bars.
The sun was coming out and beginning to evaporate the condensation from the window. Whatever we were going to say had to be said quickly. In my mind, it was proof enough that the adjacent window had condensation but no hieroglyphs, while the one I stared through was marked and crossed.
He stood up and investigated the trails. “Why would it just be this window?”
“Because that’s the one that faces the sunrise.”
He looked at me like I were an ingredient list. “Only because you’re sitting right there. Sit somewhere else, and the sunrise is somewhere else.”
“But I don’t sit somewhere else. I sit here. And the sun rises there. And the hieroglyphs are written on the window between us.”
Some long-buried wrong provoked my son to disabuse me of my fantasies. The next weekend, between the glass and the sun, he set up a small camera on a small tripod that had the arrogance of an insect. That morning, when nothing appeared in the water droplets, no lines or shapes, he took the next day off of work and positioned and repositioned the camera, bought another set of instruments, booked an appointment for me to see a “therapist” who asked what the Wholeness Delivered revealed, to which I replied that it was all just too big to say.
The boy was always jealous that the world revealed itself to others, that it wasn’t a single-seated theatre that he chose not to attend because he was “over-prioritorized.” The Wholeness did not absolve me of my responsibility here. What’s done is done, as they say, and the greatest gift a parent can give a child is to let the child go into adulthood holding onto whatever resentments make life tolerable.
“Did the window tell you that?” he mocked. It didn’t have to.
Yes, there is material, but so too is there information. The world has long been divided into halves, and the great progress of man is dependent on us closing our eyes and cheering only what can be measured, forgetting that by measuring it we draw it into existence.
He opened his computer and showed me. Across his screen, in night-vision green, two worms crawled across the pre-dawn glass. That’s your message, he said. Worms.
All I saw was a mother and child. The water trickling down in a bead from the mother’s haunches. How nice it must feel, to have the weight fall and slide down. I couldn’t see his point.
“It’s just worms crawling on a window. No deliverance. No wholeness. Just worms.”
He was bating me, and I obliged. “Who’s to know a worm’s intent?”
“Eat and survive, mom. That’s all.”
“Or the intention behind the intention. That’s where the message comes from.” When I look at my life, there’s too much I don’t know. Cannot know. For example, how can one half see another half while still inside the circle?
“It’s just worms,” he said, and I watched him for an hour or two, mowing my lawn in anger. At one point, he had his sunglasses on, a weedeater in one hand and a leafblower in the other. I did not see him again for weeks, months.
When winter came, the worms disappeared, and the window stayed glazed until the sun came. And by February, even though I had learned to talk better, had kept up my appointments and sent text messages of ingredients labels to him, I found myself in a new bed in a small room, with an overworked nurse that seldom comes, eating sectioned plates of food where even the jell-o is measured. A new window that is so well installed that nothing condensates.
My son put a birdfeeder just outside.
We made paper butterflies one day, and I cut the wings off and taped their little trunks to my glass. Sometimes the birds investigate from outside, but inside, all is safe and slow. Slowness that stretches, gradual, like mycelium through cracks.
What’s outside can’t see what’s inside. The left hand can’t hold the right. Still, the whole show delivers. Inside the smooth stretch of a bare belly against bathroom tile, the body learns what can’t be measured. In every surface, something grows and calls to be whole.