the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,

  Authors & Artists


Faces & Voices 4
Faces & Voices 5

Broken Glass
Keston Jacob
Trinidad & Tobago - Biology

        I noticed something this afternoon. Walking across the elementary school yard to the Elm Street entrance, on a flagpole to the south side of the yard, there were two flags: one was the Star - Spangled Banner and the other was probably that of the District of Columbia. They were flying at full mast. I hung my head and walked slowly to Carver Hall, avoiding the ubiquitous broken glass. I was beginning to forget, which was inappropriate, for it was too soon.
        The alarm rang angrily, blinking 5:00 am. I pulled the covers over my head and swore through my morning breath. The air conditioning was on freeze as was the floor. I hid in the shower, letting the heavy, warm spray wash the sleep and cold from my body. Turning off the head, I stepped out and went to the washbasin to brush my teeth. I looked up to see myself foaming at the mouth, scoffed and spat.
        Tuesday’s roadmen were out early, fixing a street that seemed always in need of a fix. It was 8:03 am. Stepping lively, I shrugged off what the shower and “extra nap” had not. I was going to be late. Elm and 4th Streets brought no new surprises. Four Mondays—and the days between them—had passed since I came to Howard University. The robust ebony crows and little brown sparrows, the squirrels hiding nuts, the broken glass that told of drink and violence, they were all now familiar background noises. When the asphalt of 4th Street began to crest, I glanced at my watch again. The hands told nine minutes past. Knowing that I was definitely going to be late for my quiz, I swore through my teeth and crossed the street.
        About three hours later, class was ended five minutes early with a comment that would start a rumbling murmur of soon to be answered questions. The teaching assistant had announced that classes might be suspended for the rest of the day due to a Pentagon bombing. On my way to the Blackburn Center, I joked tastelessly enough about avoiding ticking boxes, hoarding food and starting an angry looting mob. From this point, things would begin to fall apart.
        There, on the televisions outside the cafeteria, I watched the buildings with wounds inflicted upon them by three planes and the blood of the innocents; watched as two of these buildings became unzipped, collapsing like puppets whose strings were cut; watched as hands with open fingers covered open mouths. I listened as a fourth plane was reported hijacked; listened as people tried to analyze and intellectualize the “theatric flair” of terrorism; listened to their paranoia and apocalyptic deisms. As I stood there watching and listening and tolerating, a line was beginning to form for 11:30 am lunch. Shaking my head, I put my hand on the railing, climbed the stairs and left. I had had enough.
        4th and Elm Streets looked no different, but seemed a lot longer and resonated with the dead silence of the background noise. Not the flightful birds, nor the industrious squirrels, nor the ghetto glass, but this day, this morning, these hours would come to define my freshman experience. But would it? In my room, I sit on my bed with the television volume on mute, not wanting to hear television news anchorman Tom Brocaw pronounce another ‘r’. Would it? I again ask myself. I grow numb to the fact that it may not. The washed sky outside my window holds nothing except an American flag, which sags in the wind.
I enter my room and close the door. The blinds are up, and I can still see the two flags flying in the school yard next door. I had been having normal days. My world had not been shattered. Evanescence, what a sad word.

© 2002 Howard University
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse, Prose & Art, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2002. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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