Irene painstakingly cleans the meat hammer. Aunt Irene taught her how to use dish soap and a brush on the weighted aluminum, without letting any soap touch the ancient wooden handle. She places it upright, into the old stoneware crock that Aunt Irene willed to her, together with wooden spoons, pestle and knife sharpener. It makes for an odd bouquet. Behind the crock hang the two cast iron skillets, one small and one large. These have been seasoned by the women in her family for generations. In addition to kitchenware, when she had her stroke, Aunt Irene left her namesake all of her knitting paraphernalia. But that story is not for now. That is for later.
Now all if her attention must be focused on the meal she is preparing. Like an experienced juggler she uses precision timing to insure all dishes will be ready simultaneously. The kitchen smells of baking chicken and dinner rolls. The table has been set with a red checked table cloth and white china. It’s Friday night and she knows he’ll bring home a bottle of Cabernet to pair with the chicken, so she chose the Bordeaux glasses. The candles are waiting to be lit.
It’s Friday night and she knows he will use her for sex, so has already memorized the repeat of a geometric fair isle pattern. She developed the technique from the books her librarian, Sylvia, had left for her. Some might call it self-hypnosis, or perhaps even reverse-mindfulness. Irene calls it “willed dissociation.” She has trained her mind to leave her body and steadfastly focus on knitting. For a half hour she will abandon her body and instead live within the crisp and symmetric grey and gold lines that her mind is knitting. When her body does react with pain or even pleasure, with near lightning reflex, her mind will again dissociate from her body and move back into fair isle geometry. She knows she's safe. He does not notice because he is not thinking of her.
But she's not safe because somewhere between the stitches, within the synapses, behind the story, Irene has known she is losing her self. The real Irene, the true Irene, the Irene that once threw her head back and filled an entire house with laughter. That Irene. Is disappearing. Gradually, day after day, she has been falling, slipping away, down into the black hole of her mistake.
Until this morning. This very morning Irene grabbed onto the edge of The Mistake’s event horizon. She’s dug in with her fingernails and hangs on for dear life.