Man Made Window
By Patrick Harper
I think I’ve fallen in love with red stop lights. Or at least the way that those lights give me
those moments spent waiting. Spent waiting for him to call or for the rain to commence or for
that song that reminds me of that afternoon, spent in that park with him, to play with static laced
around it from my car radio.
Sometimes I wish I could live within these moments. For these moments just exist for the
sake of existing and commence when I’m sometimes not ready for the bittersweet ending. I’m
not ready to leave this comfort no expectations or no real destination in mind.
I lose myself at these red stop lights.
There’s that one near his house that catches me with him in the car. It’s usually raining,
as it should be, and the windows seem to be glued down when he’s here waiting with me.
Waiting for this next destination we’ve set and that stop light ahead of us basks my car in my
favorite shade of red and I look at him. I look at him and I wish I could stay in that moment of
existence with him for a time not constituted by the amount of seconds or minutes deemed
satisfactory by the light in front of us. For that red light has evolved his Pacific blue eyes to a
Although lately, I seem to be pushing through these lights. Hitting the gas and getting as
close to escaping as I can. Red lights have become this state of rushing. Rushing towards him
and rushing away from myself at the same time. Rushing to prove to him that something,
anything, and everything he is is worth running these lights for.
But I constantly find myself at the yellow. The yellow that is too stale to taste but just
enticing enough to rush. Rush once again to this, there, and him.
I was afraid if I wasn’t rushing. If I wasn’t constantly rushing those lights, he would find
someone else to call. Find someone else to pick him up on those rainy days.
Someone else to rush these red lights with.
I think I’ve fallen in love with these red stoplights once more. I’ve become content in
waiting again, existing again. Waiting for him to swing open that passenger door, waiting for
him to exist next to me,
And waiting for this light to turn green.
I take the bus now when I can make it forty feet out of my house without screaming at the
sun. I find myself doing this quite often. Not because of steadily rising temperatures that have
turned my winters into summers too soon but because it keeps shining on this Earth even with
him gone. I look at it like a date between the sun and I, neither of us want to be on it but for the
sake of our sanity, it must continue.
No one has to believe me, but I always, always told him to wear the seat belt. Not that it
mattered because he always refused. I found myself hearing a different excuse every single time
we pulled out of school. It was that it either cuts him or that he’s allergic to the polyester or that
it’s too constricting or that it was stuck in the door.
But I can’t tell you that I tried to keep him safe because I didn’t. If I really tried or cared
about him, then I would have reached over and yanked that damn seat belt across his body, not
taking any of his bullshit excuses.
We talked and argued about everything, about what made us happiest in this world and
how we were so ready for college. We talked about who we hated, and who we loved. About the
future. Life itself. He couldn’t wait to go off to college and find a blonde girl at the bookstore,
waiting for him with The Book Thief in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other. He was ready
to fall in love with this girl at the bookstore. He always checked the cafe of any bookstore we
He found joy in the smallest of things: in clouds, afternoons, the smell of bookstores,
rainy days, yellow jackets, coffee shops with orange walls, and the corner booths in small diners.
He always surprised me with his new favorite things. He was the type of person that noticed
every detail. Especially in murals around town, like the one on First Street that he walked by
every Sunday to get to his favorite coffee shop.
He painted me a picture of this mural every single time I met him there. The afternoon
sun laced itself around our homework and his eyes and the blue sweater framing him. The colors
of this First Street mural changed with the days, with the forecast. He said it was at its most
vibrant during the cloudy days when it was about to rain. The colors changed each time he told
me. The oranges faded to greens and the blues to reds. I never protested his retelling of this
mural. It was a masterpiece just watching his eyes light up.
He opened my eyes to the beautiful things around me like this First Street mural and to
the beauty of a rainy day. I never visited that mural after everything. Too much of him rested
there. It became a morgue filled with past conversations and confessions. I imagine the colors
aren’t changing. They aren’t swirling around the wall as he once described. It’s faded to grey
His existence reminded me of clouds. Especially those afternoon clouds that stroll and
drift across the sky. They don’t scream about their significance like a sunset does, but instead,
these clouds dance in the sky like they don’t give a damn about who’s watching.
It’s pretty fucked up that I killed the most beautiful thing in the world.
It happened on a Thursday. I remember that much because he had his dress rehearsal that
day. He finally got cast in some play the school was putting on. He came to my car in a fiddler
cap proclaiming his love for his little village in the south of Russia. He proceeded to swing open
the door of my 1998 Volvo. Unalarmed from the groan my car created, he threw his backpack
into my backseat, and I sped out of that senior parking lot. I never got the chance to tell him that
I had already bought my ticket for his play three weeks in advance, the first morning they went
We used to sit on my bed together, every simple touch or smile was an electric shock
through my body. My flannel sheets always bothered him because they were supposedly too hot
to sleep in. He was stubborn about his beliefs like that. He believed in the good found in others,
that there was such a thing as good people. He believed in the people he surrounded himself with
and in love. He believed in himself and in his drive to change this world that was clearly
undeserving of him, of every single part of him.
He believed in me, his best friend, and I let him down.
I look over my right shoulder to admire the beauty in my passenger seat. His window is
down, like always, and his dirty blonde hair escapes in the rushing air like a whirlwind. I’m in
awe of this person two feet away from me. He laughs at my next song choice but sings along
anyways. I flip my left turn single on to push past the slower moving car in front of me. I don’t
see the white truck in my blind spot.
I didn’t look over my shoulder.
I should have looked over my shoulder.
My head is throbbing when I register that the truck is in front of us, its passenger window
shattered and the pieces of glass illuminate the road in front of me. The glass catches the rays of
light and creates a mosaic of beautiful shapes. The winter air consumes the inside of my car as
well as my throat. I reach for his hand to reassure that he’s fine, that he’s still with me. My
fingers touch the ice cold leather seat. I turn and look out the windshield. But it isn’t a
windshield anymore. It’s a piece of glass with a hole on the right side. A man made window,
about the size of my best friend.
I’m not surprised. I’m not surprised that my closest friends have began to distance
themselves from me. I’m not surprised that I can’t wake up in the morning or that it takes hours
and hours of me staring at the ceiling to fall asleep. I’m not surprised I wasn’t able to attend the
funeral I caused. His funeral that took place on a sunny Monday morning in his favorite park
where he escaped to when he ran away from home. I’m not surprised that I can’t sit in a damn
car without bawling my eyes out or throwing up, quite often both. I’m not surprised that I hate
myself now, and I can’t even look in a mirror without wanting to rip it off the wall.
What surprised me was that the first dead body I ever laid my eyes on was the love of my
My mouth is open. I feel the gargle at the back of my throat, but I can’t seem to
understand the strange noise. It’s not a scream of fear or pain, it’s a scream of loss. Before I can
comprehend what I’m doing, I look at him. His face is drenched in blood and his clothes are
stained crimson. His blue eyes don’t look so blue anymore. They’re now a shade of grey. There’s
no more light in him, and I’m facing a blank look back at me. He is a flashdrive, wiped clean
with the best story taken to the clouds. The winter air intertwines itself into his hair, creating a
new shape with each breath it takes.
He’s just lying there on the side of this highway, and I find myself screaming at him. I’m
screaming at him to wake up, to help me out of this damn car. I’m still screaming when the
paramedics, police and firefighters arrive. I’m still yelling at him to wake up and keep on living.
To keep on telling jokes at parties that no one gets but people laugh at anyways; keep on talking
with me till the morning sun shines through my window shades; keep on laughing with me about
how we’re going to college together in the fall and I scream at him to live just a bit longer so he
can admire the oncoming rainstorm. He must wake up.
This isn’t real. I’m not this sad boy crushed underneath a car dashboard, unable to give
my best friend a final hug goodbye. I’m not this boy that just killed the most important person in
my life. This boy crying isn’t me, I’m still driving down the interstate in my Volvo where I’m
gonna tell my best friend of ten years that I’m in love with him. This isn’t me.
But then I realize that it is. That I am the boy that will continue to wake up in my flannel
sheets, but never feel warm again. I am this boy that will continue to hate the rain and the clouds
and the park that you ran away to when you were six because I took those things away from you.
I watch you lie there with no sign of life in your eyes. The wind has fallen silent now and
the trees have stopped swaying. The body in front of me is not my best friend. He has left but I
will continue to see him in every street sign, in the front seat of my car, the mural on First Street,
the park across from his house, in the rain that cascades down my face, and I will continue to
look for him for the rest of my days.
The air freezes the tears as they run down my face. There’s not a cloud in the sky.