67- Broken Window | WBEZ
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99% Invisible

67- Broken Window

When Melissa Lee was growing up in Hastings-on-Hudson, a small town in upstate New York, there were only so many fun things to do. One was buying geodes and smashing them apart with a hammer. (You know geodes, right? Those dull-looking brown rocks that you break open to reveal crystalline structures inside?) One day, when Melissa was thirteen, she and her friend Liz bought some geodes. They didn't want to wait to get home to crack them open, so they decided to throw them against the wall of an apartment building. Liz's aim went wild, and the geode went through a window. Melissa and Liz tried to find person whose window they had broken, but they couldn't figure out which door in the apartment building lead to the unit with the window in question. Eventually they gave up. Melissa would have probably forgotten about the incident had it not been for one inexplicable thing: the window didn't get fixed. Ever. It was clear that someone lived there. Melissa would walk by the window and see the apartment lit up by a TV. Someone was opening the window in the summer, and closing it in the winter. But the hole remained. Melissa finished middle school, then high school, then went away to college. And when she came home and saw the window still broken, it had this effect of making her feel like the nervous, insecure thirteen year old she was when she broke the window. This became a pattern for Melissa: she'd leave home, do some growing up, come home, see the window, and feel like a teenager. Melissa traveled the world. She went to graduate school, She moved to Washington, DC, She got married. And every time she'd come home, she'd see the window. "As much as I was changing, this part of my past was completely frozen," Melissa says. "As soon as I saw the window I was brought right back to those middle school days when we had broken it." So in 2011, 22 years after the incident, Melissa went to go find the person who left the window broken for so long. She brought along a tape recorder.

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