An excerpt from “TENANTS“
“When did you first learn to knit, Mr. Brown?”
“About two years ago,” his stony voice answered. And that was all. The Madam was waiting for some confession, waited for him to expand and explain so that she could explore. But, she got nothing back.
He was obviously on his side of the wall working a pair of socks from the skein that was on her side of the wall. And she, in turn, was crocheting a blanket from the skein from his side of the wall. Odd, yes, but this strange system worked for the two of them.
She pressed on with her questions. “Did you take a class? I mean, to learn to knit, or something like that?”
“I learned to knit as part of my therapy.”
“You might say that. It helps me to escape. Helps me forget about the world better than any book or TV show, or random radio program. I get to disappear, you see.”
“I started crocheting so that I might liven up my little home.”
“What home? You mean, here?”
“Well, yes, of course I mean here. Where else would I mean?”
“You think of it as home?”
“Oh, I’ve been here for years. It wasn’t ever a home. Well, not at first, not really. But, I had no choice. It was all I could afford. But, I started crocheting to make it more livable. The yarn is cheap, projects work up fast and I can have something finished and ready within a day.”
And to that Mr. Brown peeked past her, spying at her decor, at her little shell the world had pushed her into. Afghans, crocheted pillows, little doilies, little animals, her shawl, the ends of her dilapidated chair’s bruised and battered arms hidden by crocheted sleeves. The house was covered, decorated, and over run with crocheted items. So he had to ask her.
“Do you ever knit anything?”
“Oh, no,” she said with a little giggle, “I never learned to knit. I guess I don’t have the smarts or the dexterity in me to work two things at once.”
“To be truthful…”
“Oh, do tell!”
You see? She expected him to finally open, break free, heroically burst through the wall and share with her.
“To be truthful….I only know how to knit socks. I gather I have the skills to knit other things, but….socks are the only thing I’ve ever knit.”
She glanced at the brown yarn she had given him, the yarn that was being fed slowly through the wall into his hands, through the needles.
“Mr. Brown? Those are some awfully small socks for a man with your shoe size.”
“It doesn’t matter. It’s the action I’m looking for, not the result.”
“Besides, these socks were never meant for me. They’re for you.”
Just here, in a normal setting, in any good romance, you would hear orchestral music in gorgeous floats of soaring violin flood their little duplex, but alas, you don’t get such things from Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown wasn’t the sort to hand over emotion like that. His brutality, his coldness, his emotionless delivery to life and all of it’s inhabitants was meant to hide the hard truth that he had been hurt before and had no intention of being hurt again. There wasn’t even a smile on his face when he said it, but that wasn’t the point. His actions were showing his emotions. He was telling her through his knitting that she meant something to him. Whatever that may be….
She smiled and said only, “Funny you should mention that. I’ve been working up this afghan for you. Despite what the landlord says, it can get awfully cold in this building during the winter. I felt you might need it….”
“Well, then. I guess I won’t be getting rid of those horrid skeins and all their bright colors after all.” And went back to knitting his socks (her socks!) with a grumble.
Despite it seeming to be said out of spite, she smiled.
There was a long silence after that. Sometimes you don’t need to speak to say anything at all. She was on her side crocheting him a blanket from his yarn, and he was on his side of the wall knitting her a pair of socks from the yarn she had given him. Nothing more need be said between them.
It only takes a minute to look at someone and see that they’re sad, but it can take the length of an entire relationship to figure out why. He had been hurt by the world, she had never been loved by it. And somehow the two of them were saying the same through their hooks and needles:
Please love me.
“TENANTS” available on Kindle by clicking here.
If you don’t have Kindle, you can get a PDF copy here.