He is like the jeweled light that dances on the sacred floors. I have tried to capture it before, the exact shade of his smile, the hue that sparkles in his laughter. I have tried to piece the glass together in a way that recreates the curl of his hair in the rain.
The most glorious window in the world would not do him justice. But that does not stop me from trying.
I form the feet of the crucifix first, always the feet, pinned to the deep brown shades of the beam, floating above my suggestion of Golgotha with a peculiar anguished grace. I form the feet first because that is where I imagine the color was the deepest, the shadow and the blood.
He does not check on my progress often. I have made a name for myself amongst the stained-glass artists, to be sure, and I usually prefer to be left alone to my work. But the workshop has an empty heat to it without him there, which used to feel like home but now scorches me.
I walk by the cathedral every day to watch as its pieces are maneuvered into place, to watch the vaults of his brilliance take shape. Each day, pale stones, carved and sanded by bloody hands, rise towards the heavens. The mechanics of it all astound me.
He stands and monitors the dance of the beams, or he climbs the scaffold with a muscled ease. He laughs with the masons and the laborers, or he yells that a stone must be shifted before the whole delicate monument comes crashing down around them.
I watch the empty places for the windows take shape, making note of the way they will catch the light.
He deals in wood and stone, in structures that defy the earth and wind. I deal in color and sunbeams, in the scorch of the furnace that turns sand to glass.
After I form the feet and the top of the hill, I piece together the sky. I am careful to follow the shapes I’ve traced, to mix the dyes into the glass with precision. This sky will be shades of violet and gold, interspersed with squares of deep, longing blue.
Some days it feels as though the cathedral has always been, that its skeleton long predated the clumsy homes around it. He took it over when the first architect died of old age. The first architect was a withered man who thought in squares and triangles and uninspired towers.
He thinks in arches, in the graceful shape of collarbones and the curvature of long necks bent into kisses.
The day I finish the last of the sky, he comes in and tells me to stop. There is to be another war, he says, and there will not be enough laborers or lumber or stone.