Still playing catch-up on the Writing 101 thing. Honestly, I may skip Wednesday’s prompt, as it’s an old trope of creative writing classes that I’ve probably done a half dozen times before and I don’t feel that it would challenge me in any meaningful way to write. But Thursday’s prompt is a fun one; albeit also a trope of creative writing classes, it’s one that can be really fun to play with.
June 12, 2014 — A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.
Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.
I like part of this twist. You see, it all depends on the order you tell the stories in; but I don’t like the idea of telling the old woman’ story last. The most interesting thing about this prompt, to me, is: why is the man crying?
The Little Red Sweater
She hadn’t meant to disturb anyone, sitting there on the park bench with her knitting in her lap and the remnants of her sack lunch littering the seat next to her. It was just a beautiful day, not too hot and not too humid, and anyways her doctor had been adamant that she “get out of the house more.” The doctor hadn’t said what he wanted her to do once she left the house, so sitting there on the park bench with her knitting in her lap had seemed like a fine change of pace from her normal routine of sitting on the sofa in her home with her knitting in her lap. Today, her project was a little red sweater.
She was knitting the sweater, as always, for Danae. She enjoyed knitting for Danae — coats, hats, booties, jumpers. She had even knitted the girl a stuffed hedgehog with black beady eyes one time. She knitted for Danae a lot. One might argue that she knitted too much, and that Danae already had enough coats, hats, booties, jumpers to last a lifetime. Her doctor certainly did; in fact, he called her knitting “unhealthy” and had urged her to “find a new outlet for your grief.” But what did he know? He hadn’t held Danae; hadn’t loved Danae; hadn’t suffered from her loss. How would he know what was the best way to grieve?
He had been right about getting out of the house, though. It really was a beautiful day, and the bright sunlight made the knots at the ends of her kitting needles much easier to see than in her dim little living room. She would have to come out here more often. What harm was there in that?
And so she sat, lost in her work, knitting a little red sweater for Danae and barely registering the couple passing by.
* * *
Char wandered aimlessly though the park, hand in hand with the man she’d sworn to have and to hold until death did they part. But she wished that she wasn’t.
When Char and Mark had met, they were both idealistic graduates of prominent East Coast colleges with high-demand degrees with the promise of corporate success. They were a power couple with the potential to rise quickly in society. And they had. Char, especially, found her niche and commanded it, climbing up the corporate ladder and shattering glass ceilings in the process.
Success demanded sacrifice, however, and next year always seemed like a better time to start a family than this year. Now in her forties, that constant decision to delay a family was wearing on the marriage. Mark wanted a family, wanted a child, and heir to pass their fortunes on to when they were gone. Char wanted that too; but every step she’d made up the corporate ladder had made it harder and harder to step away from it all; and besides, there were health concerns at her age.
Was she selfish? Mark thought so. He’d said as much to her face during one of their late night rows after he refused to fuck her with the condom on.
That they were walking together in the park was just one of the many ways they’d wrapped themselves in lies. That was what their marriage had become of late: a parade of white lies meant to keep them both blissfully miserable together. They were lies that kept the peace — like the lie she told herself when she insisted that Mark wasn’t cheating on her, that there hadn’t been that time when she’d come home to find a tube of lipstick on the counter and the air smelling faintly of perfume.
Her mind had wandered, as it typically did when she was with him, but she was jarred out of it as Mark suddenly stopped in his tracks, pulling her to a stop with him. She glared at him, ready to say something mean, but she kept her silence as she looked at him. What he … crying?
“Mark, what’s wrong?” she asked, dreading his answer.
His eyes seemed to be fixed on a nearby bench, where an old woman sat frittering away at some yarn. He refocused on Char and smiled. “Oh, nothing, dear. Just some dust in my eye.”
She didn’t believe him, not one bit. Something had stirred him, obviously. She nearly pressed him about it, before realizing that she really didn’t care. All she wanted to do was leave.
“I’m starving,” she said, because what harm could one more lie do?
* * *
Susan hadn’t meant to cry when she saw the old woman knitting the little red sweater. But the sight of that tiny pullover just reminded her of everything she was not and did not have.
Susan had wanted kids all her life. She’d spent years dreaming of being a mother, a caretaker, a nurturer of a baby she could call her own. But she couldn’t have them — she was not merely barren but anatomically deformed. She’d been cursed with the wrong anatomy and poisoned by a lifetime of improper body chemistry. Her dreams of bearing a child had been dashed before she’d even come out of the womb.
So she’d done what so many women in her situation had done: she had buried her secret desires deep and tried to fit in. She played the part society demanded of her. She went to college; she got a degree; she got married; she got a job. She tried to be the man that society expected her to be. All of the money and power in the world couldn’t give her what she lacked, but maybe a wife could give her something.
But she’d fallen in love with the wrong woman. Instead of a mother, a caretaker, and a nurturer, she’d made the mistake of devoting herself to a woman who could bear children, but who chose not to. And that decision, like so many in her life, was beginning to ruin her.
When she saw the little old lady hunched over the little red sweater, pouring love into each twist and tie, she had a moment of weakness. All of the stress, all of the lies, all of the depression and dysphoria and doubt that was her life bubbled to the surface before she could stop it, overflowing as tears down her cheeks. Tears for what she wanted; tears for what she never had; tears for the woman she could never be.
She felt Char squeeze her hand. “Mark, what’s wrong?”
Everything, Susan thought, but did not say. “Oh, nothing, dear,” she said instead, trying to sound strong and detatched, the way a man would. She began to dry her cheeks. “Just some dust in my eye.” It was getting increasingly harder, this play-acting.
Char glared at Susan. “I’m starving,” Char said.
Susan wasn’t the slightest bit hungry, but right now any excuse to get out of the park was a good one. “We’re not too far from that Thai place you like,” she said, mustering the effort to care. She hated Thai.
“No,” Char said, pulling her hand from Susan’s. “Let’s just go home.”
Susan nodded, chastising herself for even putting in the effort. She turned away from the little old woman and her little red sweater, trying to put them both out of her mind, and began the long walk back to the car.