Saturday

bad hat experience

I started knitting because everybody else did, but I never stopped. I started knitting a red hat. When I got to where I wanted the top of the hat to be, I couldn't get all of the yarn to close. It just kept going around and around, closer and closer; then, it went like clay on a potter's wheel, wonky and wobbling in ovals and protozoan shapes. Wider and wider and back out to the original width. A hat like a Chinese finger trap; a hat impossible as a Pringles chip; a hat in shapes far too familiar to be comfortable--a hat like a hat but closer to something only slightly different, which is so terrifying in subtlety that now I can't leave the house.

So the hat kept going. The first few weeks it was like a hobby, mostly; then more like something you would call a hobby to your friends but feel sick about, as you kept felting a tiny piece of red yarn in your pocket. The hat became enormous. We had to move the chaise lounge. We had to call bulk trash to pick up the old broken folding door so that the hat could go from the bedroom into the hall. Every time I tried to close the hat, the hole would re-expand even wider than before, making another intestinal shape out of yarn. Red sine waves. Sphincters.

The last hole expansion cost us the dryer vent, in the winter. I had to knit right through the opening in the basement wall and out into the yard. Right when I thought my last stitch had finally arrived--that the hole had finally come together, after the hat had captured all of the dead leaves, the recycling, one of our dogs, the hot water heater--the first robin of spring lit on the rain tree out back and eyed the end of the yarn.

"It's not a worm," I said, defiantly. Robins are bigger in person than you would think.

When you put the hat on, you start where I started, in the bedroom, head-first. You tunnel around the house, down the stairs. Some parts are so vast that you can stand up and walk through them, and some tubes so narrow you have to start with a finger. At times the hat encapsulates, and at times it avoids altogether. The hat digests piles of the New Yorker, and swallows rotten garlic, and empty milk crates, and the microwave. It forms a room around the kitchen table, set for four. It stretches between the banister and the wall. Its shape accommodates and contorts. By the time you get to the dryer vent, you have wriggled around the history of this house, caught up and snagged.

At last the hat is a chrysalis around your tired body as you squirm into the backyard, the world diffused, cadmium, colonic; your hands at your sides; the robin perched permanently atop the last stitch, his rubbery feet tied in, his sunken eye reflecting red.

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