The recipe for love was etched beneath the fuchsia windows, but nobody could read it. No one could remember the language anymore. Was it hieroglyphs or Spanish, Cyrillic or Masai? The mason who inscribed it was a passing vagrant with a chisel, an old man wrinkled with a veil of spider webs.
Our village is an ancient place, well-used to marvels. Still, we wondered why he chose such fleeting colors for the glass, all that pink and purple, lavender and heliotrope, rose and amaranth.
Soon enough, the colors changed. They shot toward ochre and raw umber, bloodless tan and burnt sienna, a single twist of sage. Deep in upper shadows, there are panes of greyish-blue wedged beside a bleached-out powder. Some frames are darkened earth. Mostly, there is white, a blank exsanguination.
We began to argue over traces in the stone. Some saw letters, “CAS,” or “H” or a calligraphic “R.” The librarian pointed out a sideways fish where the mayor saw a monster’s eye. My neighbor, Mrs. Henry, claimed to see a truncated roof, but she’s as batty as a welch.
Isolated or in aggregate, the symbols made no sense. The recipe was lost.
We are far from towns and cities, just beside the End of World. Even at this distance, we hear stories of love crumbling like a stale, embattled cake. Time has a loose and liquid hold on us, but that is no excuse. We were lax, frivolous with our attention.
Now we volunteer for quests. There are rumors of a shaman, a fairy cliff, a haunted glade, each harboring a key ingredient. We are eager for redemption. Soon enough, there is no one left inside the village but children and the ancients, old women just like me, hobbling our uneven gaits.
I walk past the wall each day. One morning, there’s a child of six, mesmerized by swirling dust motes. They’re nothing but a trick of air and detritus and light, I know. But the child, she claps and laughs as if this were a miracle. I bend down to see.
At a certain angle, on a certain day, in very particular and certain years, the light that spills over from the Edge of World can pierce the heart with its refractions. As I crouch beside the girl, the light hits hard, and I am blinded. Reaching forward in a panic, my fingers graze the wall, the stones. Letters burn against my skin. I grope and snatch the child’s hand, run the flesh across the stone, will her to remember.
“Love,” I say, rushing, “is this and that, a trick of light, a color inside blindness.” I can hear the pounding of my heart, preface to full-stop. This glass will fade and shatter, the bricks will crumble, the child will someday pass into the earth. The recipe is lost, lost and found, and lost again. Still, inside that slanting, slipping moment, I have held it, warm like fuchsia in my palm, extended.
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