Stitches

He started to crochet again a few months ago. He was unapologetic about it, not only for it being a traditionally “feminine” hobby, but because he would most likely leave this project to gather dust after a few weeks or so, like he always does.

Crocheting, however, at least came as a recommendation from a medical professional. It will help you manage your anxiety levels, his therapist said. It made sense to him: perhaps a mindless and repetitive task like this would prevent him from overthinking. There were times when the mental illness gripped him so strongly that he couldn’t breathe. So he followed the advice and picked up a crochet hook for the first time in twenty years.

Even after so long, he didn’t need to adjust too much and let muscle memory do the work. He crocheted small patterns at first, like a tea cozy and a coaster, but was soon able to produce larger tapestries. He had no use for them, and so gave all of his finished pieces to friends who were more than happy to accept.

It’s good that you are being creative again, those friends said. They have been walking on eggshells around him ever since his partner died, like he was a bomb that would explode at the slightest touch. In any case, they saw crocheting as an improvement from his crying and sulking and general silence, as if the yarn he stitched together acted like strings that made him cling to life.

They didn’t know that every stitch represented his grief. That every knit and every purl constituted a mute cry for help that went unanswered. He worked his patterns religiously, the bright colors hiding the sinister gray in his thoughts. The end product always belied the desire to end it all, to cut the figurative string as Atropos did. He had thought many times how easy it would be to grab several pieces of yarn and chain it into a noose. Surely, it wouldn’t be that hard. But he was a coward, too weak to carry these plans to fruition.

His wish almost came true one January, when his electric vehicle careened off a cobblestone path. He broke an arm that required surgery. The morning after the operation, he marveled at the blood and plasma emanating from the twenty or so stitches he got. He wondered how a few inches of black polydioxanone thread could mend him, like stitches of yarn cradling his destructive grief within. He relished the love he received from his family and friends while in recovery; he had a glimpse of the world he would have otherwise left behind willingly. It was beautiful, he thought.

It took him a couple weeks before he got enough strength back in his arm, but soon he was crocheting again. He used a gray palette of multicolored yarn this time, stitching a few inches into a granny square.  What are you making this time? One of his good friends asked. He didn’t know what to answer. He wasn’t sure himself.

I don’t know, he said truthfully, smiling. For once, he thought, uncertainty wasn’t such a bad thing.

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