I saw her first sitting in the corner by the door on the first day, but the fantasies did not begin until two weeks later. She would sit there with her yarn in her bag and needles in hand every day. My shift got out at noon, and I had a half hour break before I returned, but each time she was sitting on that bench, knitting or crocheting, and she would remain there until my break was over. I would sometimes grab my coffee and lunch from the nearby store and instead of returning to work, would take a seat at an adjacent bench and casually share my meals in the same space as this stranger. It was a public space with sidewalks, stores, so it was not likely I would be noticed as anyone with intentions other than to sit and eat my lunch. Rainy days were the only days off, the days when I actually found myself crestfallen because she would not be sitting out in her usually spot. Days like that made me not want to return to work. It was unsettling in that the sight of concentration relaxed me and I relied on it for relaxation.
She would sit there with her yarn in bag, needles in hand. There was a sense of joy upon sitting in that spot every day. The sun shone most brightly on that bench, with shade falling in patches all around. As long as she worked, she would not break her concentration except to take a moment or two to pause, rest her needles, and stare at the people passing by. Her eyes did not register particular interest, at least not to me. And even as she stared it was always for an allotted amount of time, so as not to fall to distraction. Never once did I see her talk to anybody. Never once did I see anyone try and engage her. This was her method.
She would sit there with her yarn in bag, needles in hand every day, alone. Except Tuesdays. On Tuesday afternoons, a young girl would arrive, shortly after I would arrive from work, to sit next to her. When the girl came again the following Tuesday, my curiosity only grew. There had never been a visitor to the knitting woman before. But this girl would come every Tuesday and just sit beside the woman. This Tuesday, she was eating ice cream and it appeared she was telling the woman a story. It was a story that involved something large because the girl stretched her arms to their farthest bounds to represent the enormity of the thing. Then the girl dropped her ice cream. She looked sad but it passed and she reengaged in her story. The knitting woman was not phased it seemed. And as far as I could tell, as long as the girl talked, the woman would continue to knit without saying a word. The girl would leave before my break ended. She hopped up from the bench and started to walk away. A passing thing, this girl. Barely a breath in the crowd, but here she was representing the most climactic part of this woman’s week. I found myself amazed by the young girl.
She would sit there with yarn in bag, needles in hand. Today the yarn was a sage green. Yesterday it was the color of dark cherries. The week before: goldenrod yellow, bubblegum pink, an ashy grey. The range was ever changing. I could never tell what the finished products were. Either she finished them at home, or there was a huge pile of unfinished projects lying around somewhere. But the colors, color can be significant on its own. She brought color to my pale hour of the day when I had no responsibility to anyone. She brought color to my future, for indeed I looked forward to what color she would bring. In my books, you can find lists of them, for I would scribble down the color she was working with each day. Looking back on those lists now helps me recall the time of year.
I’ve moved on now, and I have come to really miss the knitting woman. The woman had an accident a few years before I met her. She did not see color. She did not have memory. What she did have was the ability to knit, to play with those colors she could only touch but not see, and she had a daughter who loved her but did not know how to show it.