Endings

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Endings

Post by John T Mainer on Sun May 19, 2013 7:31 pm

She had come to the pier with a stolen bottle of vodka, and her own bottle of pills. Fourteen years was enough. It was time to end things. The pier itself was dark, and the walkway down to the floating dock was treacherous; cold metal slick with evening damp and river mist. No druggies, young lovers, or fishermen waited below. It was dark and silent, save for the remorseless lapping of the dark waters of the Fraser.

No one understood her rage, her pain, her fear. Life was a trap, a cold dark box that pressed closer and closer, pushing at her until the walls left her no room to do anything but pound the walls and scream. They wouldn’t let her change schools, although, since her friends at other schools from dance had heard all about her troubles, probably everyone on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram knew every humiliating detail of her life. There was no place to run once everyone was against you, and no way out except one.

There were times in the past that she would come down here with her family, to make offerings to the gods her father talked about, and she rejected. She turned to her Grandmother’s God to ask forgiveness, to get him to take her pain away, and make it all better. She went to church, she said the words, she begged, she prayed, she waited, but her problems didn’t. For all her prayers, for all her tears, and rage and screaming, her problems ground on like some uncaring glacier, tearing her life like the bones of the mountain pass, ground to nothing beneath the uncaring ice.

She opened the cap of the vodka and took a gulp, coughing as the white fire burned and her stomach flinched against its fury.
“Not a good sign drinking alone” said the voice of an old woman sitting unnoticed beneath the ramp of the pier.
“Even worse drinking angry in the dark” the iron voice of the crone continued
“Gives a body all kinds of bad ideas”
Kate whipped around, her trademark fury only ever a heartbeat from the surface. She began to scream a demand the woman show herself, but her shout died as she turned and stared into the cold milky white eyes of the blind woman sitting on the pier. Her eyes were blue once, but covered now with a web of white cataracts. Her once blonde hair hung in a single neat rope of silver and gold, as she sat unravelling the half-knit sweater in her hands. Her face was strong and open, lines of laughter, pain, fear, loss, and love radiated from her eyes, while her brow and chin promised uncompromising resolve. This was a timeworn face, one that had outlived its fears, embraced its pain, and had all weakness ground away in the tide of years.
“You would be Kate.” The old woman said simply. “You can call me Oma”

Kate finally stammered a response, her anger dashed on the Oma’s calm sightless eyes.
“What are you doing here?” she finally asked

Oma held up the sweater, and yanked hard on the trailing yarn to unravel a row.
“Unmaking, ending, sundering” she chanted, each word a yank on the yarn
“Fabric is like family, every thread bound to every other, and a single weak one can ruin the lot”

Kate rocked back on her heels as if slapped, and tears burned in her eyes, spilling down her cheeks. They were there for the same purpose. Ending of threads, cutting out the unwanted.

“Are you drinking alone, or would you share with an old woman whose bones feel the cold more than they did at your age, girl?” Oma asked gruffly

Wordless she handed the bottle over and the old woman moved to pour it over the flowing river
Her mouth open to object, for she thought the old woman was dumping out her hard stolen bottle she saw instead the old woman pour out two small measures, as her parents sometimes did when they offered to the false gods her father talked about.

“Wights of this place for welcoming us,” she poured once. A pause, then again
”To my poor dead children, I carried you with love, bore you in pain, and buried you too soon. A mother remembers, forever.”

“Your children are dead?” Kate asked with a halting voice
“Two in the mound, including my first. Some still live, and grandchildren too. Life goes on, even in times we can’t imagine why it should”

“What about your husband?”
“Hah!” the old woman barked
“Look for him at the cenotaph, the old wolf’s name is written on there if you have eyes to see it. Of course, he only had the one, and it wandered enough when pretty little things like you were around. But he kept me warm at night, and made me laugh”

The old woman handed the bottle back, and turned to her knitting.
“This thread was weak, and when I knitted on it failed. Now I have to go back and cut it out”

Kate’s cheeks burned in shame, and she took a second pull on the bottle, and muttered agreement.

“No use for weak threads in this world, you may as well just cut them off before they wreck everything.”

Oma laughed, her voice suddenly warm and soft, like the feel of sunshine, or a mother’s kiss.
“They are all weak threads child.” The old woman said gently.
With a quick twist she knotted the broken yarn and took up her needles. As the soft clicking of the needles worked with the lapping of the waves to lull the crying teen into a daze.

“Families are like this sweater, made of imperfect threads born in one place, died another, touching each other a thousand times a thousand ways, each pulling on each other across the whole of the sweater, even if a dozen breaks are between them, the line is unbroken. Families are like this sweater, maybe not so bright and perfect as you see on the shelf, but grown strong in the broken places, warm and comforting, with each thread together stronger than any could be alone.”

Kate’s eyes grew strangely heavy as she slumped to the ground, all strength fading with the dregs of her rage. She sat quietly with the tears streaming freely.

“Sit with Oma-Frig, little Kate” the old woman said. “Keep me company, for my children are long gone from my hearth, and it has been too long since anyone fell asleep on my lap”

Too proud to speak to anyone about what was hurting inside her, and too proud to accept help when it was offered, Kate was half woman-to-be that must stand alone, and half child-that-was needing to be held. Nothing to prove to sightless eyes, she curled up beside Oma-Frig , placed her head on her lap, and wept silently.
She fell asleep listening to the lapping of the waves, the clicking of the needles and a lullabye sung is a language she did not know. Hours later, she woke up to the old woman drying her eyes, and wrapping her in the warm cable-knit fisherman’s sweater.

“Here child, to your own hearth you best be getting, before folks get worried enough to ask questions you don’t need to be answering”
The old woman laughed gently
“Since I’ve gone and finished that little bottle to keep me warm, I will leave you this sweater to keep you warm in turn. A gift for a gift is the way.”

As Kate walked back up the pier, she felt along the sweater looking for the broken thread. The blind woman must have heard her hands sliding along the wool for she called out to Kate.

“If you are looking for the broken place child, you won’t find it. Sweaters are like families, they grow stronger in the broken places. We are all weak threads child, knotted and tangled, torn and broken. “

She rammed her needles into the yarn like a swordsman sheathing a blade.

“You tie off at the break, and knit on”

Feeling her way to the guardrail with Kate’s help, Oma continued

“No matter how far apart the threads have grown, time will pull them tight again, and the rough spots are what gives the pattern form. When you have been knitting as long as I have, you trust the weave. Even your two good eyes can’t see what hasn’t been woven yet.”

Kate turned towards home, as the old weaver, Oma, turned the other way. When she turned to say goodbye, the old woman was gone. Hugging the sweater tight, Kate made her way back home. None of her problems were gone, the tangle was still a tangle, and she still saw no way out. Sometimes you just have to trust the weave, and learn to grow strong in the broken places.

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Fiat justitia ruat caelum
"Let justice be done, though the heavens fall."
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John T Mainer
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