June 21, 2019 by The Citron Review
by Carla Scarano D’Antonio
Knit three, purl three: thirty three stitches for Peter’s jacket sleeve. 5mm needles. I chose dark blue for a boy. Derwentwater glimmers in the distance, silvery stripes of green, grey and navy.
Knit three, purl three. The apple of my eye, St John’s Primary year 5. Supersoft Aran: 75% acrylic, 25% wool. It’s thick but feels smooth on my fingertips. I’m not used to such thickness; I’d rather work with 3mm. But this is ideal for a jacket. Janet the nurse bought me five shiny leather-covered buttons for it. She always tries to help and make me feel at home. He’ll love it and wear it on Sunday when he goes out with Julie and Robert. She’s pregnant, a second child at last, due in spring. We hope it’s a baby girl. Use petal pink, peppermint and cream coloured wool. I’d die for that. Make all these tiny cardigans, leggings and bootees. Yes please, let it be a girl.
Knit three, purl three. The blunt polished points catch the wool; the stitches slide smoothly on the needles. Pass it from one needle to the other, work it, make it worthwhile, useful. From a yarn ball to a jacket, my valuable work. Because I’m of no use now, sitting in a wheelchair the whole day, lying on a bed at night. I can use only my hands, to knit dolls, scarves, mermaids, mitts, socks, hats and pullovers for charity. My mind works with my fingers. And the lake was ten thousand silver ripples trembling in my veins, brushing my sweating arms, when he whispered: you’re my only one.
Knit three, purl three, the stitches glide. When he died I felt relieved. No more of him, no more of him for the rest of my life. God be blessed. I could relax, knit in peace, go out when I could still walk, without asking permission, chat on the phone without being listened to, clean when I fancied it, cook what I liked. I don’t regret my life. Three children. All the washing and cleaning (no washing machine for more than ten years). The cold water like ice trapping my hands when I rinsed the clothes. The house had to be as clean as a whistle, tea always ready at six. And I worked three days a week at the school canteen.
Knit three, purl three, the needles ticking like an inflexible clock. Once cleaning the bath I found long brown hairs in the tub. I asked him; he shrugged. I didn’t ask a second time. Those hairs spinning a web through my brain, trapping my thoughts. They could at least have cleaned up afterwards. But I didn’t really care; it was too late to care. I’d had enough of him before he had of me. The children left and got jobs. Just me and him, the swine. I’d have killed him if I’d had the guts. He’d have killed me, too. But we carried on as if nothing had happened. Nowhere else to go, no one else to care for. I felt too tired for another love: frustrated, fed up. After sixty it’s a deal, not a love affair.
Knit three, purl three. I started a knit and crochet group at the library. I had my followers and fans. We taught each other: double crochet, treble, half treble, double treble. We learned how to increase, decrease, pick up stitches. We worked four to six hours undisturbed in a cold room once a week. Knitting kept us warm, words unravelling, tangled skeins loosening.
Knit three, purl three. Then Julie had Peter. Cable, stocking stitch: this is what I need to use for his jacket. It was like giving birth again, painless and more touching. He was there: small, defenceless, so tender my eyes welled up. I was ready to protect and cuddle him. I felt I was worth something again.
Knit three, purl three. At seventy-eight he started to forget the way home. I had to write the address on tiny pieces of paper and tuck them in his pockets. The police brought him home once: they caught him peeing at the entrance of Bridge Road Primary as the children were coming out. Fancy choosing a primary school to pee on! His brain was a rusted machine working at intervals. Sometimes I felt like flesh in his arms, a piece of meat he slashed. A piece of nothing.
Knit three, purl three. This is what is left of me: hands knitting in a wheelchair. Better now than before. Churned up, that’s what I’d felt, always slogging away. And they expected it; everybody did. I screamed inside, howled at them. But they couldn’t hear me. They turned their faces away. Now I can rest.
Knit three, purl three: twelve inches, almost there. I work the two sleeves together so I can’t go wrong. I make them the same. An old trick Lana told me. Lana the bitch, they called her. She had fun in her forties; they said she was hot. She said she felt it like pain. Where? I asked once. Everywhere, she said, even in my head. She needed a man to love. She was honest. She knew her own feelings. But men wanted fresh, rosy flesh. She had to dress up to make them stand up. Ah, her collection of revealing dresses and leather things, like toys and costumes for a masquerade. My cheeks were flaming when I saw it. Funny life, isn’t it?
Knit three, purl three. Eighty-five. On the water sails blown by the wind are like inflated balloons. The golden leaves of the maple tree fill my window. Maybe this is the last time I’ll see their yellow flames against the blue, most beautiful when almost dead. Oh, I missed a stitch.
Carla Scarano D’Antonio obtained her Degree of Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She self-published a poetry pamphlet, A Winding Road, and is working on a PhD on Margaret Atwood at the University of Reading. She also contributes as a reviewer for The Blue Nib, London Grip, Write Out Loud, South and The Temz Review. She and Keith Lander won the first prize of the Dryden Translation Competition 2016 with translations of Eugenio Montale’s poems.