Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | June 2, 2009

A Way Through

Issyk Ata, Kyrgyzstan. October 17, 2004.

old soviet resort tiles

Eggar’s fingertips drift over the broken shards, hover, then drop, lifting up a squarish piece and holding it against the wall. Perfect fit. His other hand lifts a trowel of fresh paste and slops it in behind. Then comes the delightful squishhhh as he presses and holds.

There. One more empty space filled.

But the wall is seemingly endless, and Eggar only has so many ceramic pots to shatter in the exact right shade of orange.

I know! An idea occurs to him. I’ll switch over to yellow slowly, then green, then blue… I’ll fill the wall with a rainbow of colors!

But he still wouldn’t know what was behind it.

That was why he chose this work. The closer he was to the wall every day, the more likely he was to hear something or see something that might be a clue as to what was on the other side. So he fit his tiles and looked and listened while passers-by laughed or stared.

Some said the wall needed no embellishment – leave it raw cement and naked wooden boards – but louder voices argued that the wall must be beautiful, for it was built by their ancestors, and to honor the wall is to honor the past.

Eggar sees it differently. “I honor the future,” he says, not really noticing that he is speaking out loud. Usually, no one comes up close to the wall but for the painters and tilers. “I honor those who will see this wall after me. If it is lovely enough, they will wonder. Perhaps one will find a way through.”

If there even is a way. Many have tried to climb over, and though the top is visible, the boards up high are slicked with some unknown substance as slippery as wet tile after rain. One tried to dig under, only to discover that the cement foundation had been poured down many yards into the Earth. And going around… even after hiking for miles in either direction, the ends have not been found.

“Why not you? You could find a way.”

Eggar drops his trowel, surprised by the musical voice. It belongs to a child. A girl no older than ten, and wearing half of one of his unbroken pots on her head!

“Um, I’ll be needing that pot…” Eggar reaches out to for it, but she steps back.

“What pot? You have so many here! Such beautiful colors. What a shame to smash them all!”

“I’m making the wall beautiful.”  He stands up and lunges for the girl’s ridiculous hat.

She’s too quick for him, and just giggles. “Silly. Why keep slopping tiles on the wall? You’d rather just go through.”

“Fine, then. You show me how, I’ll go through.”

She takes the pot off her head and holds it out to Eggar, eyes wide as her smile. “Okay.”

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