Short Fiction: The Needle
As a kid, watching her mother, she also tried stitching things together. When she fell and ripped a small hole in her dress, she could fix it herself. It wasn’t flawless. The fix was visible. She still loved that it wasn’t perfect anymore. She liked the contrasting red color of the stitch on the white dress. It turned the dress into something new. It wasn’t the same dress that everyone could buy. It was her dress now.
From her younger years, up to her adult life, she stitched the years together in her own fashion.
As a mother, she regularly had to attend parent-teacher meetings to discuss her child’s progress. Most of the time it was about her son fitting in. Even though he got along with the other kids, he just couldn’t always agree with the teacher. It became a source of frustration for his teacher Veena.
Veena: “Janice, your son believes his own answers too much.”
Janice: “I raised him that way. I hope you can see it as a strength.”
Veena: “It is a strength indeed and he is allowed his own vision but it distracts from teaching the other kids.”
Janice: “Don’t the other kids learn from the differences in viewpoints?”
Veena: “Janice, I get where you are heading.” Veena stared outside and let out a sigh. She continued: “It just isn’t practical. I have targets to reach.”
Janice smiled calmly. Not passive-aggressively but really calmly. She was used to people who ‘just had targets to reach’. She learned not to argue too much and just find some middle ground.
Veena: “I hope you understand. It is also better for your son’s future. I want him to function in the workplace too.”
Targets. Future. Functioning. Janice had heard these words so much throughout her life and never paid too much attention to them. She would rather replace those three words with interests, life in the present moment, and enjoyment.
“I’ll work it out with my son. Thank you for your time Veena”, said Janice friendly as she walked out of the classroom. As they walked towards the car, she looked at her son. He looked back at her with big eyes that were in love with this strong woman. She winked and smiled back: “I love you. I like how you think.”
Just as Janice would tell her kids to live life on their own terms, she would inspire everyone she met to do the same. Even when people got inspired, not all had the courage to live life as free as her. They knew what sacrifices she had to make and they were not willing to give up their smooth, yet mundane, existence to live like the free soul that Janice was.
Some would tell her to settle down. Not because they wished a calm and organized life for her. They said it because Janice’s not settling down confronted them with their own inability to live a life they would imagine would be their highest expression. Expression. Not ambition.
Janice didn’t judge them. She knew how security felt and knew that comfort was a nice place to stay. But she always wondered what this life was and what we were doing here. She wanted to know why she was on this planet in a solar system that floated between stars. Even though she didn’t have the answer, she knew earth was a magical place to be.
She knew she was on the only planet where, as far as we know, there was water flowing. She knew that the planet Jupiter kept us safe. Jupiter was so big that its mass pulled anything towards itself that could hit earth. She knew the sun was at a perfect distance to give us seasons from energizing summers to calming winters. Even through hardships, she knew all this meant that she was ‘lucky’ and alive to be here. She would use this opportunity on this planet to really experience life. All these cosmic coincidences weren’t present just to live a life of checks and balances.
Of course, she saw other people living ‘safe’ lives and not trying too many scary new things. She sometimes wished she could live such lives but wasn’t open to adding years of conformity to what she had already lived. Why would she try so hard just to get a few more years of boredom in? Why would she work so hard to do everything that she had already done, but now twice as much? Average life felt anxious to her. Why try so hard and put two more years of anxiety in? It made no sense to her. It should make no sense to anybody.
Even though life was harder this way, it was a life worth living according to her. A life of conformity was unbearable. Living this unconventional way, she collected so many loves and pains in her life. So many repair stitches that formed a beautiful pattern that only Janice could create. The patterns showed the deep lows and the highest heights in her life. Janice didn’t only exist. She lived.
All stitches reminded her of all the experiences she had. Whenever she would have a new piece of clothing, she felt it hadn’t lived yet. Something had to be done. A moment had to be lived. The dress wasn’t supposed to hang in the closet undisturbed. It was supposed to be worn. You had to dance in it. You had to run in it. Where most people treated a nice dress as something that should remain impeccable and clean, Janice treated it like a celebration. Not for a big important occasion but for every day. Not for that special weekend or birthday party. Every day was an important event to Janice. To her, every day was Saturday.
Only then would life qualify as worthwhile in her eyes. After her kids, she also played a role in the life of her grandkids. They always came to her for advice or just to hear stories from her. As long as she had lived, she collected so many stories. Not average stories either. Stories that would make you cry, smile, think, wonder, or leave you in disbelieve. Nobody knew how Janice lived through all that. They only knew that she lived through it all and had a story to tell.
Janice was the one that kept everyone together. In everyone’s life, there was a piece of Janice. She would find you broken, tore apart, and help stitch you up. Through everyone she met, there would be a red thread that said they were touched by Janice. In a world where everyone acted as fast fashion and disposable clothes, Janice left an imprint and made something unique out of the piece of cloth life gave you. She was the needle that would pierce through the fabric of life. If this life was a dress, she made sure she wore it on her terms even if it meant the dress would have rips from time to time. She would then stitch it up and fix whatever was still fixable.
Even though it was not perfect, it was always her dress.