Gabriel Dawe (b. 1973). Plexus no. 34. Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Gabriel Dawe (b. 1973). Plexus no. 34. Courtesy Amon Carter Museum of American Art.


How to Knit Your Own Boyfriend

and Other Easy Projects

by Amy Emm

There's always someone crying. We've all got dead pets and awful dates and sad TV news with planes that won't stay up and missing Alzheimer's patients for days on end. We've got no-show grooms and we've got crushes on married people and we've got bad breakups (that’s my tragedy and like ten thousand other people's). If there's not someone sniffling at their desk, someone is running to the ladies', dodging the potted palms, tissues in hand. All the upholstered little walls in the world can't hold back the kind of heartbreak we have.

Oh, and what about last spring when our baby elephant died? If that doesn’t break your heart than you are probably safe from everything. It’s not like it was even my elephant, I don’t own a circus or anything, it was the city's elephant, so it was everyone’s elephant, really. So a whole city’s hearts were broken then, everyone, at the exact same time. Every morning a news reporter stood in front of the elephant enclosure and reported on the pregnant elephant's progress, so we were all like, IN IT together. But then one day I came home from work and the tiny gray elephant had drowned in its own zoo-approved water feature.

So why all the reporting, all the attention, the naming contest, the viewing party, if the zoo people weren't going to keep an eye on the damn baby elephant? I’m trying to think if bad-breakup broken heart feels worse than dead-baby-elephant broken heart. Right now it feels the same.

Let me just clarify, too, that it wasn’t even a breakup, really, it was the slowest of dissolves. I don’t even remember the inciting incident, either—we probably got into a little disagreement about whatever, it was always something. So I didn’t call him and he didn’t call me, and two Tauruses never should’ve been together in the first place because we are SO damn stubborn and blam—breakup.

I’m fine with it. It’s been three months and I have already repurposed his toothbrush for scraping the lint from my dryer screen. It’s all good.

Actually it's pretty great, because now I have Ed who smells like Code Armani. I tore the cologne sample out of a magazine in the breakroom and when he wasn’t looking I put it in his pocket. He is very calm, which is a good quality in a boyfriend. When I spill ice cream on him, he doesn’t even get mad. Like last night when the phone rang? My arm jerked and flipped the spoon out of the bowl, got him right on the leg. I wet a washcloth while I talked to my mom, blotted out the chocolate stain. Didn’t do a great job, but it’s ok. We’re just pretending it’s a birthmark.

But you go over and over it, right? The breakup? Don’t you? I do. Because women go over things. Like a car on a bridge, commuting to work: to the office, home again, over the water, to the office, home again, over this conversation, that dinner, the details.

Like what did it mean when he gave me for Christmas, a high-stakes holiday—if there ever was one— a fat lime green candle? It wasn’t even a good Yankee Candle. This was some off-brand, nobody candle. Other girls were probably unwrapping glittering necklaces, diamonds, hell, even sweaters. It didn’t even have a smell, that candle. And what was with the color? Lime green is fine if you live in Miami, or even if it was summer. But who gives the person they supposedly love a lime green Christmas candle? After driving over the bridge of that Christmas, to work and home again, I figured out what that candle meant. Here it is: I do not know one thing about you. You are not a priority to me. I want you to be prepared for electrical power outages or impromptu patio parties, whichever comes first.  So here is a gift I could give my eighty-year-old neighbor or my workplace Secret Santa.

I cried Christmas night after he left. Who cries on Christmas? Girls who receive one dusty lime green candle, that’s who. Those girls unwrapping sweaters didn’t know how lucky they were.

So obviously it’s not a desperation thing or a rebound thing, me and Ed. In college I was only one class away from a minor in women’s studies, so I know I don’t need a man, but sometimes it’s nice to have someone around to block a draft on a cold night. I like that Ed's legs are extra-thick, just for this purpose.

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Everyone had advice. Go to a bar, meet my cousin, join a kickball team. Here’s where I go: to work and to the grocery store and every Wednesday I go to knitting class.

And believe me, I tried hobbies for the under-sixty set. Yoga was appealing. An exercise that necessitated bare feet and lying down? Sign me up! I got a pedicure and some new tights and felt like a different person until I pulled a groin muscle during the first class.

I looked elsewhere. Sushi was expensive, why not make my own? Because I also need the tips of my fingers and knives are sharper than you think. Kickboxing? Too bone shattering. Wreath-making? If messy egg-shaped bird’s nests are in, I’m your girl.

I settled on knitting. It’s quiet. It’s calming. I need that, people tell me. The class meets in a tiny warm room above Sheep Thrills, a little shop in a blue house. The knitting classroom walls are lined with the shop’s extra stock, hunks and hanks and balls of yarn snuggled in floor to ceiling. It’s safe and cozy and colorful. But there are no men at the knitting shop. I know because I’ve looked, even in the scratchy wool section, where you might expect them to be. We don’t even knit on the porch, where one might happen to walk by.

And I have tried the man lure. I read it in Cosmo so I know it’s a real thing. All you gotta do is know what kind of man you want and then reel 'em in like a fish on a line. So if you like poetry guys, you get yourself a pair of big tortoise-shell glasses and wear dark clothing, long sleeved turtlenecks. I want the rugged type that knows stuff, a guy who can both bake me a cake and rewire my doorbell. So I would hang out at Country-Max wearing these knee-high pink rubber rain boots to signal that I was both fun and ready for anything, be it rainy-day window shopping or a day at the lake. Country-Max is a seed store and there’s country shit TO THE MAX in there. You know you are in the right country-man store when the smell hits you right in the face, fertilizer and leather work gloves. Anyway, the last time I was there, I strolled around, looking at the chicken feed and rakes, at the u-pick-a-length rolls of silver chains. I finally decided on a twenty-pound bag of birdseed, just so I wouldn’t look suspicious and like I was trolling for a date. The twenty pounder was the best price and I’m a smart shopper. I carried that floppy, heavy bag like a cranky toddler all the way to the register, the seed sliding and shifting around in my arms. I don’t even have a bird feeder. I left the bag in my trunk. It’s still there.  If this thing with Ed unravels, maybe I’ll get a feeder next time.

 
  Gabriel Dawe (b. 1973). Plexus no. 34 (detail), 2016. Gütermann thread, painted wood, and hooks. Courtesy of the artist and Conduit Gallery.

Gabriel Dawe (b. 1973). Plexus no. 34 (detail), 2016. Gütermann thread, painted wood, and hooks. Courtesy of the artist and Conduit Gallery.

 

But things with Ed have been going pretty well. What might surprise you is that Ed is very supportive. Like last week there was a snake on my kitchen floor. I mean, no one wants to deal with a snake in the kitchen beyond the WHY-is-this-in-here and HOW-is-this-in-here, but at some point, you just gotta deal with it. So I did. All Ed could do was watch. I don’t know if he was scared, or whatever, but by the time I repeated you’re ok, you’re ok to myself a couple of times, I had opened up a pair of pliers, crept up on the snake, pinched him behind the head and flung him out the front door, it was done. You’d think I had just run up a flight of stairs my heart was beating so fast. I raised the pliers into the air and yelled, “We did it!” and danced around with Ed. He was proud of me.

After the snake incident I knew we were a thing so I got us these big paperboard initials at the HomeGoods store. An E and an A for Ed and Audrey, sitting right there on the bookshelf to tell everyone who comes over that we’re a couple. I also got Ed a pair of brown slippers, size twelve. They look good there, next to the bed. Sometimes I wear them in a pinch, shuffle around until one falls off. I also got us this embroidered pillow from the Pottery Barn catalog. Shiny red thread spells out: Me + You, in cursive, the most romantic font of all. I love that damn pillow. If there is a fire I am grabbing Ed and that pillow and making a run for it.

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But then I saw you-know-who—Mr. Christmas Candle—at the grocery store, and all my new coupley bravado slid away. He was with another girl, tall and willowy, and I wondered if he thought of me on my birthday and then my vision blurred and I couldn’t hear the store’s sounds and the tickertape started: Did they see me? How convincingly can I pretend to not recognize him? Why do I always look like I have just mowed someone’s lawn? I dashed into the closest aisle, which happened to be Baby.

Mature me would have sidled right up to the cozy couple, calm as can be, all oh hi, how’ve you been and you’re looking good. Half of me relished the chance to trot out these stock phrases, like a movie actress while the other half considered throwing myself behind the meat counter, crawling through the Employees Only plastic-flapped door into the back parking lot, and hiding behind the dumpster until dark.

I want to know what age it is where you can sidle up to an ex in the grocery and just Be Cool. Whatever age it is, it is not the age I am now. I am at the age of huddling beside bibs and bottles.

As much as I want to avoid conversation I also want to pop out and warn this new lady. It’s like, my obligation. Hey there honey, take what you will from the Saga of the Green Christmas Candle, I’m just telling you like it is. For some reason I saw myself saluting her.

I heard their voices nearing my aisle, and so I shouldered a head-hiding pack of diapers and made a bee-line for the register, eyes on the cashier, as if she could pull me in and save me.

In the car on the way home I wondered what the hell I was going to do with a thirty-pack of diapers but at the same time I was also sad, like dead-baby-elephant sad, all over again. I parked in the driveway and tried to cry but nothing came out.  By the time I got all the groceries put away I was better. Calmer. Looking back on it now, my feelings for him were blinking out there at the end anyway, like a string of twenty-year-old Christmas lights your parents give you for your first apartment. Shake those old lights a little and they're on, let them go and they're out.

I sat in my living room staring at the lime green Christmas candle I can’t throw out. I keep it on the bookshelf next to my growing How-To library: Going Solo (Cooking for One), Karate for Defense, Home Improvement 1-2-3, Knitting Without Tears.

I hugged Ed. He was right there on the couch where I left him.

 

Published June 10th, 2018


Amy Emm received a MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.  She likes to travel, practice yoga, read, write, and cook vegan-curious meals. Amy lives in the snowiest US city, Syracuse, NY.



Originally from Mexico City, Gabriel Dawe creates site-specific installations that explore the connection between fashion and architecture, and how they relate to the human need for shelter in all its shapes and forms. His work is centered in the exploration of textiles, aiming to examine the complicated construction of gender and identity in his native Mexico and attempting to subvert the notions of masculinity and machismo prevalent in the present day. Gabriel Dawe: Plexus no. 34 is on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art through September 2, 2018.