If Time is an Illusion

by | Dec 15, 2022 | Creative Nonfiction

If Time is an Illusion By David Luntz

“Then you can paint tomorrow any color you want,” Uncle Kev tells me in Chartres, circa 2004, walking below the flying buttresses and stained glass windows of the Cathedral, when he points to the tolling bronze bells and says, “Watch first the sounds of light shimmering off them, then listen to the screams frozen into the stained glass and you will see the hairline cracks spreading through the colors, each filament an echo of pain, loss, and regret,” and I do my best, but hear and see nothing there, but with Uncle Kev it’s always a toss-up whether he’s being serious or fucking with me, and, anyway, now we are passing by a window that depicts the binding of Isaac (but maybe this was at the Basilica of San Vitale, it was so long ago), and I remember him saying how Isaac got his name יצחק, which means “from the laughter,” because Sarah, his mother, was ninety when God told her she would have a son, and, yeah, sure, I can hear Sarah’s disbelieving cackle at God’s news, but apart from that, I’m not sure why Uncle Kev has brought me here, other than his obsession with educating my “woeful teen ignorance,” because he knows I tune him out most of the time, which is when I remember him saying how “the Dark Ages weren’t that dark” because “this medieval Cathedral, and others like it, rivaled the engineering feats of the Egyptian pyramids and Roman aqueducts, which were built, too, without advanced mathematics and physics,” and I don’t know if he’s making some kind of oblique point or strained metaphor about how sometimes timeless things get made without knowledge of the underlying languages that make their existence possible, because with Uncle Kev it’s always a toss-up, but that’s not what concerns me, because I sense it was really wonderment and faith that created this semi-levitating, heaven-arching thing, which makes me feel all the shittier because I can’t connect to that lost world, and I know this is what Uncle Kev wants me to feel, that connection, and, to make things worse, not much later, when I find him in the tub, his pale wrists like wisps of coral dangling in a pink scurf, the bathroom’s frosted glass window crowning late summer sunlight rainbow shards above his sunken head, I have no prism to pass that broken light through and make it whole again, or any other way to bring Uncle Kev back, which if I’d known was going to happen that day at Chartres, I would have stood below that stained glass window for as long as it took, until the glass exploded and the scream Uncle Kev wanted me so badly to hear carried us back to that world where it was first howled.

Photo by Jan Helebrant, used and adapted under CC.

About The Author


Work is forthcoming or appeared in Pithead Chapel, Vestal Review, Reflex Press, Scrawl Place, Best Small Fictions (2021), trampset, X-R-A-Y Lit, Fiction International, Janus Literary, Orca Lit, Ellipses Zine (V12), Rejection Lit, Atticus Review and other print and online journals.