Assignment: A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write the scene from three different points of view: the man, the woman, and the old woman.
The man: They were in the park because she wanted to be here, his bride of ten years. In light of what she had come through, the surgery to remove the tumor from the base of her spine and the other forms of treatment, out of pure gratitude to have her still with him, he would do whatever she wanted.
It scared him to think of how close he came to losing her. How careless he had become in expressing his affection. How he had teased her about getting old when she told him of the pain she had felt in her lower back for months. How, regardless of his attempts to minimize her feelings, she insisted on going to her doctor and that he accompany her to the appointment. The fear he felt when the doctor called them in days later for the results of the “exploratory” tests she had ordered. “Exploratory.” At first he had thought, “This is just another way physicians try to rip people off. Ordering unnecessary tests to give patients the impression they knew what they were doing.” But the somber expression on the doctor’s face that afternoon slapped those thoughts out of his head. He remembered the time she give them the news, 2:00 p.m. He remembered what she was wearing. A red sweater. A color that would later seem incongruous to him given the devastating news she had to share. “The pain is being caused by a tumor on Anne’s lumbar vertebrae and I have every reason to believe that it is cancerous.” He remembered thinking of the similarity between the pronunciation of lumber and lumbar and feeling that he had been cut off at the knees. It had been so difficult to focus on what was said after that but he heard Anne asking questions about options and prognosis, and the doctor’s attempts to be reassuring. The biopsy that confirmed the presence of cancer. The surgery. The wait. The doctor’s tired but satisfied face when she came to him in the waiting room. Seeing Anne with eyes closed in the recovery room. Months of chemotherapy. Her weight loss and then her slow recovery. Her gentle request earlier, “Can we go to the park today? I know you have not played golf for months and planned to do so today, but I really miss being there.”
Yes. They were here because she wanted to be here. And as they walked pass the old woman, knitting a small, red sweater, the color of the doctor’s sweater, his fingers tightened fiercely around Anne’s and he began to cry. His first tears since the ordeal began.
The woman: The park was where she had run every morning for five years. Two miles from their home to the entrance. Five miles along the walking path that circled the park and led back to the entrance. Another two miles home.
She remembered when she first began feeling the pain in her back. She had just run pass the empty swings and attributed the pain to over lengthening her stride. She slowed her pace and pushed through the pain, made a mental note to be more diligent about warming up and cooling down, and did do. But when the pain seemed to accompany every movement and was present even when she was sitting, she began to suspect something was dreadfully wrong. Stephen had teased her about getting old but she saw the traces of worry in his eyes when she could hardly get out of bed one morning, and he helped her rise. That morning, there was no teasing, although she did have to insist that he accompany here to the doctor. He had this strange aversion to doctors. Something to do with the illness of one of his friends when he was a child.
She remembered how she seemed split in two after Dr. Adams, give them the news. One part of her was in full panic, two words reverberating inside, “Oh God. Oh God! OH GOD!” The other part kicking into problem solving mood, asking questions because gathering information had always been her way of taking control over what was scary.
As she limped through the park these many months later, the surgery and everything associated with it seemed like a horrible nightmare. Anne’s therapist had helped her cope with her myriad reactions to what she had gone through and create meaning from the experience.
She was limping and knew she would not make it completely around the park. Oh, but it felt deep down good to be outside. To hold hands with Stephen. She felt his fingers tighten around hers as they neared and then passed the old lady sitting on a bench near the entrance, knitting a small, red sweater. She looked up and saw the tears running down his face and felt her own tears surge. It was the first time he had cried since that afternoon when the doctor give them the results of the tests. She turned toward him and keeping her right hand in his, hugged him around the neck with her left.
The old woman: The park was two blocks from the senior citizen community center where bingo was available every Tuesday night, and shuffle board and other games available Monday through Friday mornings. There was also the occasional “field trip.” It still was funny to Hannah when she heard the term; it seemed more applicable to school children than to women and men at least six decades past childhood.
One afternoon, on a whim, she decided to sit in the park she had noticed the first time she got off the bus in search of the community center. It meant she would have to catch the 3:00 p.m. bus and arrive home about 30 minutes later than usual. There would probably be several calls from her daughter, with increasingly frantic messages. “Ah, well,” she thought with a smile. That will be payback for all the times she stayed awake at night when her daughter was out past curfew. Hannah sat in the first bench she saw; it give her a clear view of the road and was also near the swings.
She gently settled on the bench and took the small, red, almost completed sweater attached to a ball of yarn, and her needles out of her bag. A month before, Sarah, one of the four activities coordinator at the center, a tall, slender, college student, with an infectious smile, had told them of babies in the AIDS ward at a local hospital, the “Yarns of love project,” and the goal of having 50 hand knitted sweaters for the babies by the start of fall this year. It had been years since Hannah had knitted a sweater but the thought of helping those babies in some small way, was all the incentive needed to seek and find her favorite knitting needles. Sarah had given them a choice of the yarn she provided and Hannah chose the red.. Red, the color of life she had read somewhere, seemed fitting for a sweater for an infant with AIDS.
She did not notice them, the couple holding hands, until they stopped just as they passed her bench. She saw the tears on his face and watched as the woman, one hand held fast in his, hugged him close with the other. Hannah felt that she was witnessing a sacred moment. Closing her eyes, she whispered a prayer for them.