June 2018, the waiting room. All the staff in rubber shoes. Rae is knitting a cowl on circular needles. The green bulk of it tucked into her knapsack, sure to be tangling around some mechanical pencils, her wife, Joan’s, glasses, a tube of chap-stick, a broken crayon, a crumbling strip of birch she found last winter, her beaded keychain from a secret Santa Christmas eight years ago. Her first Christmas in high school. Brianna, a blonde senior from drama club had made it, painted the wooden beads herself. They’ve smoothed over now. The paint thin. The leather stretched. Rae hadn’t expected the leather to stretch this much.
Once when she was working at the boutique, she had a customer who was trying to return a pair of shoes past the noted exchange date because they had loosed around the ankle. Rae, new and inexperienced with the depth of customer demand, stumbled over a shocked apology. It’s leather honey, the customer said, it stretches, but this? The customer threw up her hands.
Rae pictures the keychain in her bag, the gaps between each bead, the soft bump of them meeting each other. She really should be rid of it by now.
A few people filter through the waiting room. A towheaded girl in unicorn pajamas. A red-faced boy jabbing his pointer finger at a durable-looking tablet. Parents hauling Pillow Pets to reception, then to the coffee bar, then to some sterile room beyond the swinging doors to wait. Swing swing.
Old people with their middle aged children.
Rae puts on her headphones and imagines her life as film. Scene: the ambulatory surgical center. Seven a.m. A few skipped stitches. A few holes in the scarf. A few incisions in Joan’s knee. Joan’s white face when the nurse hooked up the IV. The masked doctor.The overhead light. Those children.
She takes a moment to recount her stitches. She sees how badly she’s botched the job and tries to knit back to the source of the misstep, but the shape has gone.