It was one of the few free moments I had all week. Between my three jobs and my attempts to get enough sleep in a house full of teenage siblings, I didn’t have much time to myself. Hell, I barely had time to shower. It was a miracle that I had even shaved my legs.
I opened my bag and pulled out my half-knit scarf hanging from a thick bamboo knitting needle and attached to a ball of thick purple yarn, and an identical needle to the one holding the work in progress. I settled into my chair in the break room of HomeGoods, a busy department store filled to the brim with the knickknacks, bed sheets, and cookware that nobody wanted the first time around at Bed, Bath & Beyond. I had a full hour off from ringing up anxious housewives and being rejected every time I offered twenty percent off of a purchase to the person who signed up for our super saver credit card. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. I guess.
I began to work the yarn according to a pattern I had memorized days ago. It was easier to just memorize the pattern out of the book than carry one more thing around with me all day.
Knit, knit, purl, yarn over, knit two together, knit, knit, purl…
I clicked the needles together in an almost steady rhythm, finishing row after row of the scarf that would keep me warm when I eventually paid off my tens of thousands of dollars worth of student loans and moved to Toronto to make films. Ha. I wasn’t even close. Three minimum wage jobs definitely weren’t cutting it, but it’s not like anyone in the film industry was hiring, or paying those they did hire for that matter.
My fingers started to sting. It was a good sting. It’s how I imagined athletes felt after a great practice: sore, but fulfilled. My mom liked to tell me that all the knitting I did would lead to early onset arthritis. I wasn’t sure if she was right or not, but it was worth it for all the peace knitting gave me. It was the only stable, rhythmic thing I got to experience all day, the only solace from my tornado of a life.
My manager walked into the break room, startling me and disrupting my rhythm. I slipped a stitch. Seriously, didn’t he have his own office to spend his break in?
“Hi Mark,” I replied with enough enthusiasm and ass-kissery as I could muster. “How’s it going?”
“Busy day, Andy, busy day. Can’t imagine what Christmas is going to look like,” he said with a sigh. He was trying to relate to me. He knew what Christmas was like, around here. Total shit storm. I could tell that he was about to say something we both knew that I didn’t want to hear.
“It’s getting to be that time again, I guess,” I said. It was November after all. Christmas in the retail season began the day after Halloween and didn’t end until the last little “Reindeer in a Santa Hat” collectible ornament was off the shelf.
“Right, right. Listen,” he said. “I’m gonna need you to come in on Saturday.” Great, my only fucking day off this week. “Looks like Alexa does have swine flu, so she’s being quarantined at home. Mary doesn’t work on the weekends since she’s a Jehovah’s Witness or whatever and we haven’t heard from Jack since his hamster died last week. So it looks like you’re it. Can I count on you?”
I contemplated this for a minute. I went back to knitting, attempting to salvage the stitch that got away from me. I could tell him no, but then I’d probably get fired. As much as I hated this place I needed the money. Quitting would give me the chance to stand up to my mom and tell her I’m moving to Toronto whether I have the money or not, though. I wanted out of that house.
But where would I be if I just packed up and left? Probably on the street. Freezing, hungry, and worse than that, unfulfilled. I’d rather be warm and unfulfilled than potentially dead and unfulfilled.
“Yeah, you can count on me,” I said reluctantly.
“Fantastic! See you Saturday,” he said cheerily. I probably made his whole month. “Oh, by the way, someone puked in the aisle five. Can you go clean that up?”
I nodded and knitted my frustrations into a beautiful, cozy scarf.