I married a stranger named Bob. Bob doesn’t love me. Bob has never loved me. He threatens to divorce me, and he tells me over and over again that the accident was my fault—that I’m the reason he’s in this rehab hospital, that I’m the reason he doesn’t have a complete skull, and that I’m the reason he broke three transverse processes and can barely walk. Bob gives me a lot of credit.
Knitting doesn’t always help. Sometimes Bob is too distracting with his reprimands that I lose track of my pattern—I knit the purls and purl the knits. Sometimes I’m crying too hard to knit as Bob yells in the background that I’m a cunt, a whore, a stupid little bitch.
When I try to take Bob up on his offer of leaving, to give him some space, he freaks out even more, asking how I could live with myself if I abandoned a man so close to death. He reminds me that I’d be nothing, nothing without him. Bob is a bit of drama queen.
The entire seventh floor of the rehab building is for brain injuries. The doors lock at night to prevent escape. I take to walking the halls at night, too faithful to leave, too scared to stay in the room with him. There’s a family room where I often go to untangle the mess of my knitting, to ask how I could have gotten it all so wrong. I was following the right pattern, wasn’t I?
One night, a week into our stay at rehab, I head into the family room, desperate to get away from him. It’s dark when I open the door, but it isn’t empty. There’s a man sitting in the dark sobbing on the phone. “I don’t even know her. I don’t even know her. My own wife.” I back away, saving my unknitting for another night.
The stark realization that Bob was right, that I’m not anything, anything special, becomes clear. I’m not the only one who married a stranger. I’m not even the only one who married a stranger in this rehab. I’m not alone.
Bob doesn’t love me, but to be fair, Bob has never loved anyone. He can’t. He’s just a name we gave to a brain injury. I’m lucky, though, because Bob isn’t the only person I’m married to. I’m also married to someone who loves me, who tells me how I strong I am every day, and who thanks me every day for waking up when he fell and saving his life.
Learning to knit is hard, but no matter how many purls you knit and knits you purl, you can always unwind and start over. Nothing is ruined; you’re just back at the beginning with the same ball of yarn you started with and the same pair of needles.
This person I married, this man, he doesn’t come around as often as I’d like him to. Bob is there instead. I know, though, that he will eventually come back, and when he does we will be the same two people we were on our wedding day, just starting over.