Today’s assignment: 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.
It was a pleasant morning. This would be easier if it wasn’t such a beautiful day. The kind of day where children were running across the grass in the park, kicking soccer balls around and playing exuberant games of tag and hide and seek. The sounds of their laughter pierced Dave’s heart, but he forced himself to maintain his composure. He didn’t want to be a burden to Maria any longer. The last year had been the worst of their lives. Their young son, Sebastian, had been born on a frigid winter day last February. They’d been parents for eight wonderful, devastating, anxiety-ridden days, and then he was gone.
Maria had been Maria, the fixer. She went home and robotically packed away the baby clothes and furniture, donating them all to a charity, she went to grief counseling, planned a small memorial service for their child. Dave had fallen apart. He spent everyday in bed, in the same bathrobe, ignoring Maria’s requests to accompany her to counseling, to help her plan the funeral, to get outside and get some fresh air. Maria did the best she could, tried to take care of him, nurture him through the dark times, get him to the other side, but it seemed impossible. She’d expended all of her energy on him, she had nothing left for herself. A month ago, she’d had her first panic attack, in the middle of work. She’d put her head on her desk and breathed her way through it, but it was the beginning of the end. Last week, Maria told him she wanted out. They both needed to heal. Being around each other was only making things worse in her mind. Dave had wished there was another way, but he knew she was right.
He glanced sideways, noticing an older woman with brilliant white hair sitting on a bench. In her lap was a tiny red sweater she was in the middle of knitting, her hands working furiously. It would have been just the right size to fit Sebastian, had he been here. Dave’s resistance faltered, and his eyes filled with tears.
Maria looked at Dave, saw the tears streaking down his cheeks and took his hand, feeling like a horrible person for the knot of annoyance beginning to form in her stomach. She was the one who’d carried Sebastian for nine months, given birth to him after 20 hours of labor, pressed his soft little body against her skin for only a moment before the doctors ripped him from her arms. She should have been the one to have the breakdown, not Dave. He should have been the one to plan the memorial service, to find the grief counselor, to get her out of bed every morning and make her breakfast, take her on long walks, hold her as she cried. She shouldn’t have had to sob alone in the shower each morning, for fear that Dave would hear her and start to regress, she shouldn’t have had to lean solely on her sister for comfort. It should have been Dave. Dave should have been her rock. And she couldn’t stop resenting him for that. Maybe if he’d agree to go to counseling, couples counseling, grief counseling, anything, it would make things different, give her some hope. But he seemed stuck, refusing to move forward. So now they were on their way to meet both sets of parents for brunch, to tell them that they were splitting up for good. She could see the cafe where they would meet up ahead. Maria was bracing herself for their cries of protest, the pleads to try one more time. She’d probably have to comfort Dave through that too. But that would be it. She was moving in with her sister tonight. She needed to be selfish, she needed her own time to heal.
The old woman finished the tiny sweater and admired it. Her grandson was coming for a visit this weekend. He would look adorable in it. She glanced up and noticed a young couple walking by. The man met her eye line, his eyes beginning to water. She recognized the pain in his eyes. Many years ago, she’d lost her own child, a daughter. She’d been two months old. The doctors had told her it was crib death, something that just happened, no fault of her own, but that didn’t make her feel any less guilty. For years, she couldn’t look at baby clothes or toys without bursting into tears. But the pain, though it never truly disappeared, had diminished over the years, and she had her wonderful son, and her grandson, whom she loved more than anything in the world.
“Wait!” The woman yelled, as loudly as her frail voice would allow. The man stopped and turned, his wife looked at him curiously, then turned to face her as well. The woman stood and quickly approached them with a smile on her face. She handed them the sweater with a wink, before turning and heading down the trail away from them.
Maria held the tiny sweater in her hands, and her heart seemed to burst. The tears came, like a flood she couldn’t control. She leaned her head on Dave’s chest. It was the first time she’d cried in front of Dave since Sebastian died. Her shoulders relaxed, she felt Dave’s strong arms around her, taking care of her, nurturing her. She felt safe. Dave kissed her forehead.
“I love you, Maria,” he whispered into her hair.
“I love you too.”
She looked up at him, wiping her face with her sleeve. “Will you come to group with me? It’s tonight.”
Dave nodded. “I’m here.” He squeezed her hand. “I’m here.”
They did a U-turn and headed back down the tree-lined path that led to their apartment building. Dave kept his arm around Maria and she leaned her body into his, letting the sun light their way home.