Back then, her knives were blunt and her pillows soft and she lived in a small apartment with her husband.
The apartment had a blue carpet, a wedding gift from her mother, which had been laid down as the focal point in her living room. It was an expensive carpet, Indian silk and too bright for her own taste. It dwarfed the view to the nearby park.
Her mother was a chromotherapist; she knew her colours.
"Blue will calm you," her mother said.
She nodded and kept her gaze straight.
But she looked even paler in that room. The blue hue tinged the veins on her hands purple. She'd examine them when she sat on her grey couch. Little worms they looked like; maggots, burrowing their way under her skin.
There were other rooms: a tiny green kitchen where she prepared her soups and tea, a bedroom with yellow Venetian blinds, a narrow office space with her old oak desk and the husband's black chair. Her hands looked whole there. She could read and cook and think like other people. But too often she found herself on the sofa, warily watching her bulging blood vessels.
When the husband moved out, she offered him the carpet. She rolled it up for him and tied a rope around it. The knot she made with the rope was hard, her hands strong. She had, up until that point, always left her belongings abrade on their own—but there was something to be said for tying things up neatly. The tighter the knot, the looser she felt inside.
This thing she knew: the tighter the knot, the looser she felt inside. Her fingers lodged between the fabric and the string, a red groove forming above her knuckles, she started descending the stairs. She still obeyed the silence of the house and softened her steps the way she always had. But her gait was freer as she carried the bundles of linen down from the second floor and placed them in the dumpster. Each step she listened for signs, echoes of old yelling, the smell of stale dread, but there was nothing but bareness and a crimson crease inside her hand.
She had found the first moths when she had opened the linen closet to find clean sheets a few days before her mother had passed. Her mother had filled her house with bedding to be ready, but in her last days, with mountains of bed changes and towels just to keep things clean, she had reached the bottom stacks. First, just a tiny grey butterfly hidden in a pink bedsheet. The next day, she found two white pillowcases perforated by tiny holes. There was no time to do anything about it then. Her mother had expired the next night.
When she opened the closet again, there was a flutter of grey wings. She remembered the mothballs she had removed during the winter the year before. Their stench had been too overwhelming when she spent hours at her mother's bedside.
After her final descent, she flung the last tightly wound bundle of bedding into the garbage pail. It soared for a moment, then landed with a thump. She was surprised she didn't feel a thing.
It was only next spring, during a long stretch when she couldn't sleep, that she thought of the moths. Trapped by the cloth, held down by her tight knot. While she waited for dawn, she wondered about her own hardness and searched her hand for scars.
She often wondered about her own hardness and searched her hands for scars. The loom was now empty, save for a few warp threads hanging from the wooden frame. She pulled at them and felt how they gave in to her right away, limp now that the frame was no longer holding them in place. It was odd to see her legs through the empty handloom. All those hours she sat there weaving, it had been all about the hands. She had never thought about her thighs and feet. Had her left knee always veered to the right, pushing her right thigh off center? Or had the years of hard work bent her? She would never know.
The movers would soon arrive. She should check that all the boxes and furniture still had their labels. Only she knew what to keep. There were red post-its for 'save' and blue ones for 'let go'. She opened every door to take stock of boxes and bundles. Methodically she circled the edges of each room, then she sectioned them through the middle, walking straight across spaces that had been occupied by tables and lamp for too long. As she walked, her right hip uttered a slight murmur—not quite a pain, maybe a warning.
She sat on one of the kitchen chairs. It had a blue label, so this would be a goodbye. The seatback was too straight, and the glue old—she wouldn't miss it. In front of her, the rolled up tapestry, freed from her loom, with the waves she had woven and then undone, over and over, until the weft broke and she had to start over. Her hands had been smaller then, her movements weaker, and the textile wouldn't keep its shape.
The tapestry, too big for her new, smaller home, would overpower any room, so it too had a blue label attached. And why would she want a reminder of all those wasted years? All the weaving and waiting? All the sitting and silence?
She had folded her hands, her strong, marble fingers braided into one block. She liked these new hands; these hands that she had made, that the tapestry had made. She leaned back in the chair and heard it creak. Maybe she could make room for one more red label.
She remembered her supple body, her silken fingers back when her knives were blunt and her pillows soft and she lived in a small apartment with her husband.
Hege A. Jakobsen Lepri
is a Norwegian-Canadian translator and writer based in Toronto. She returned to writing in 2011, after a very, very long break. Her writing has since been longlisted for Prism International nonfiction prize and the Peter Hinchcliffe Fiction Award, Shortlisted for Briarpatch's 'Writing in the Margins' contest. She's been publishedn J Journal, Saint Katherine Review, Monarch Review, Citron Review, Sycamore Review, subTerrain Magazine, Agnes and True, Forge Literary Magazine, Fjords Review, Grain Magazine, Typehouse Literary Review, The Nasiona, WOW! -Women on writing, Burning House Press, The New Quarterly
and elsewhere. In addition to her website, you can find her on twitter at @hegelincanada