Did you notice the sweater in the closet?
It’s like one of those Irish sweaters, it wasn’t there before.
Maybe your Dad left it.
No, it’s not his.
Well, I’m sure it’s someone’s.
The sweater was cream colored and only a little scratchy. It looked like it would be warm and keep you cozy on a damp night.
Leah wanted to wear it but felt a little conflicted.
You’re not mine, she whispered to the sweater. But she slipped it on anyway.
There was something off about the fit, but she threw it on over her fall dress and with her dark tights she looked more East Coast than West. She liked this coastal disconnect.
To say it was a reflection of how she felt wouldn’t be exactly true, because she didn’t feel disconnected. Sometimes she’d make Chris laugh by unplugging her hair dryer and saying, “what happened to the spark?”
She felt connected to a lot of things: her need for coffee in the morning, her need for a walk in the afternoon, smiles from the people at the bookstore where she worked.
The sweater felt like a disguise and a revelation. Leah was both herself and someone she was pretending to be. She kept wondering if she’d bump into whatever friend must have left it at her place one night over beers and nachos or whatever they’d had for dinner.
At the bookstore, Leah was on the register for the first four hours of her shift then stocking for two. It was quiet but humming. You could secret yourself away for a minute if you needed to. Sometimes she did. Because she did need to.
There is something about a bookstore with matte black walls that makes you feel you’ve entered a club and a tomb and a place of worship. That’s what Leah had thought when she came in with her resume.
She looked like she fit in at the bookstore. Beautiful and complicated in a serene way. She had evident quirks, eyes that flashed curious, a healthy figure, nice hands. It would have been too much for her to be gap toothed and she wasn’t, her teeth were just regular in that way that most people’s are now. Her smile was frequent and toothy.
She rode her bike to work and under the sweater she sweat and thought – is that why they call it a sweater? Like that time in the airport when she’d exclaimed – I’m tired of lugging this around! And realized just how hysterical it was to call it luggage.
She wore a helmet mostly because of her mom. If anything ever happened (God forbid) she did not want somebody saying, your daughter was seriously injured riding her bike on the way to work. No, she wasn’t wearing a helmet.
It was the same reason she always wore her seatbelt. And didn’t drive after drinking. And tried to keep up with regular pap smears. The guilt would have been too great, but just enough of the guilt kept her on top of a lot of stuff in her life.
The sweater made her feel like she could get sleepy and comfortable just about anywhere. At lunch she wanted to make it into a pillow and close her eyes for a few minutes. She didn’t do it, she always felt groggy after a stolen nap. If she had thought to go to the park, maybe it would have worked, just stretching out on the grass is different.
Leah thought about The Red Shoes. She almost took the sweater off. She was hot, and now freaking herself out thinking, what is this going to make me do? Who am I anyway? How can I knit myself out of this?