Fiction by Janet Webster
Wabi-Sabi: An ancient Japanese philosophy that accentuates and appreciates the beauty of deliberate imperfection.
The Woman was the first to throw a punch.
Her fist hit his jaw; her knuckles were callused, his skin was soft. She smiled. There was a sick enjoyment in the sound. The Man, however, was not smiling. He pushed his palm into her chest and watched as her head bashed into the wall. No one screamed. No one called for help.
This was a typical evening.
The couple standing before me had always been untraditional. Their meeting and their marriage took place in the same week. I, myself, was a traditional gift at the wedding. A vase. Red and simple, ceramic and smooth. It is a tradition in the Japanese culture to give a vase to every bride for protection and prosperity. I am to watch over The Woman and give her means in which to harness beauty.
The flowers I currently hold have been dead for years.
I remember when I first felt her hands, gentle and light, take me from her mother’s arms. She cradled me as if I were precious and she smiled at The Man. “Who says I need protection?”
It’s hard to imagine that those same hands were now curled into fists. The silence broke as The Man stormed into the bedroom.
“COWARD,” she screamed, ramming her shoulder into the door.
“GET OUT.” His voice was coarse and angry, a tone I’d come to know.
“THIS IS MY HOUSE.”
“THIS IS OUR HOUSE.”
“THIS IS MY HOUSE.”
The Man hit the wood and The Woman jumped. Revenge in her steps, she ran at the door and crashed her body into it. Slowly, she slid against the paint, knees pulled in. She carefully set her palm on the carpet, brought her ear to the floor and peered into the room. The Man’s feet were dangling off the bed. He had kicked off his shoes but his muscles were tense.
“Babe?” She spoke quietly this time.
“Wanna come out here?”
They paused. After a moment The Man’s feet slowly touched the ground. The Woman scrambled to her feet and backed away from the bedroom. The door creaked as it opened. The Man stood tall and hesitant in the doorframe. She smiled. He smiled. They walked to the couch and sat together, hands and feet intertwined. They didn’t talk or read or turn on the television. The quiet was haunted, like it had fingers to cover mouths, sustaining the silence.
I had learned over the years that there were two outcomes of this quiet: The couple could fall asleep. They would seem perpetually peaceful, and even if there were a fight in the morning, they would wake up smiling. Their words soft and their hands kind, even if just for a moment. Or it could be the eye of the storm. The quiet could be feeding the fury of their fists, waiting to explode.
The latter occurred.
There was a torrent of punches and shouting and chaos and passion. The Man screamed and The Woman tore pictures off the walls and The Man emptied the kitchen cabinets onto the floor and The Woman wrapped her fingers around me.
This time she was not gentle.
* * *
These humans had edges. The Man and The Woman were shards, sharp to the touch. Yet somehow, these fractions of people, who scar anyone who touches them, fit together. Just jagged enough to be whole.
Like a vase.
Traditionally, pottery in Japan is purposefully shattered and repaired to show the flaws in its past. Only then is it beautiful. Wabi-Sabi. A concept that lives in the veins of clay and the skin of this pair.
I was put back together with gold glue, my cracks now my defining feature. The lines on my shell match the scars on hers. I sit on the same shelf. I watch the same man and the same woman.