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…
Melinda stops dead in her tracks. Her hand clenches around Daniel’s. He doesn’t even feel my hand, she thinks to herself. As his hand goes limp in hers, she loosens her grip gently and moves her hand away. There is clearly something in his past that he hasn’t told me about. Is it something so painful that he hasn’t been able to share it with me? We’ve only been involved seriously for the past six months. There’s a lot I don’t know about him yet. There’s a lot he doesn’t know about me, either. Some of them are none of his business–ever!–and others we just haven’t gotten around to sharing. Nothing we’ve talked about so far has given me any clue to why he would respond this way to seeing some old woman knitting.
Carefully, Melinda leads Daniel to a bench a little farther along the park path. He sits blindly, staring straight ahead at a hedgerow of wild rose bushes that block whatever scene is behind it. He wouldn’t see anything even if the hedge weren’t there, thinks Melinda, as Daniel’s sobs wrack his body. How could anyone see through the storm of tears falling from his eyes like a waterfall? She puts her arms around him and pulls him toward her, afraid to say a word, but wanting to comfort him from whatever demons are playing with his memories.
Diana, The Old Woman
Oh, the poor man! thinks Diana, knitting the Christmas sweater for her newest great-grandson without even looking at her work. Years of practice let her count stitches in her head as the working needle picks up the next stitch from the other needle. She comes here to knit because it’s quiet, and she loves to be among the greenery. Such a difference from the stuffy old apartment that she can barely stand to be in since Charlie passed away two months ago. She watches the young man thoughtfully as his young lady sits him down on the next bench down the path. He must have just received some horrible news. I wonder if his young lady has just told him she wants to break up, or that she has some dreadful disease. Or that she’s pregnant. Maybe he’s stepping out on a wife and doesn’t know how he’ll handle this. Well, I imagine he’ll adjust or figure out what to do. Poor man, sobbing like a child who just lost his mother at the mall…
Oh my God oh my God oh my God… Where did that memory come from? God, I miss her. She was the only person I ever knew who understood me so well–better than I did myself, and better than my parents who had seven other kids to worry about. I was the youngest, and an surprise birth at that. My oldest sister was twenty-two and had just given birth two days earlier. Granny had been knitting a Christmas sweater for my new little niece when the heart attack took her. The sweater was red, just like the one the old woman is knitting. And it was as tiny and cheerful. Another sob wracked his body, even though the tears had slowed to a few drops. He felt safe with Melinda’s arms around him. What must Melinda think of this crying jag that came out of the blue like that? But she’s not asking any questions. She’s waiting for me to explain. She probably thinks I’m crazy, and will think twice about accepting the ring I have for her in my pocket.
The convulsions that wracked his body as he cried have stopped altogether, replaced by a few hiccups. He stares at the wild roses, just beginning to open their buds in the late spring. They will bloom only once this year, he thinks to himself. That’s their way–one glorious display of pink-tinged white that will fall like snow after a few days, and begin to turn brown the moment they drop, completing the color change within two days. A groundskeeper will rake them up and cart them to the ever-present mulch pile in the part of the park no one is supposed to ever see. Eventually, all that mulch will become part of the fertilizer for the domesticated shrubs and the perennials that pop up all over the rockery and formal gardens elsewhere in the park.
With a final sigh, Daniel slides his arm around Melinda. “Thank you for being here for me, he begins. “I’d like to explain…”