Memories of a Mitten
Several inches of snow had fallen, covering the ground and blanketing rooftops and car hoods. The tree branches groaned and ached under the weight of heavy fluff, and a dark sky stared blankly over the town with few stars and many streetlights hazily illuminating the parking lot. A winter breeze, whipping off hats and scarves, nipped at the soft, unprotected flesh of the people going here and there.
And there I was, literally frozen, a miniature glacier with immobile limbs, cemented to the pavement. A dirty leaf was stuck to my dark cotton, and the ground was cold and hard against my fibers. All I could do was watch as cars rolled by, their tires crunching over icicles and poorly plowed mounds of snow. The people jogged, wobbled, strut, giggled, skipped, whispered, chortled, dashed past, but no one ever noticed me. For a week, I was missing, and for a week I was not found. Such is the life of a lost mitten.
It was a late Sunday evening when I accidentally slipped from her pocket. For two hours, I had been snuggled comfortably within the warm of her folds of her coat, listening to the soft beat of the stereo and appreciating the warmth pouring in through the car's heating grilles. She had been busy making her slow journey back to her second home, having spent the weekend at her parents' down south. The journey was long, but still I was comfortable.
I knew we had arrived when the car suddenly came to a stop, the weight of her body pushing forward with her break. I felt her body make slight movements as she unbuckled her seat belt, put the car and park, and turned the car off. Her keys jingled as she pulled them out of the ignition. I was squashed against the door as she fumbled with the lock and could feel the chill of the air even in her coat pocket as we stepped out.
I was surprised she did not reach for me immediately as I got a sense of how frigid the air was. Her hurried steps indicated she was anxious to get inside. I heard the sound of her trunk pop open – kerlunk – and I was shifted forward as she fished inside for her luggage. The rustling of plastic bags, the shuffling of suitcases, the clasp of her cell phone after she made a brief call back home. She bent over to pick something up. And that's when it happened.
As she flung the giant laundry hamper over her shoulder, the angle of her body thrust me out of her pocket and toward the ground. Desperately, my little black digits reached out for her, but inevitably I plunged into the snow. How could she have heard the soft cry of my cotton as it sunk into that heap of swallowing white flakes? Before I knew it, her sneakers were crunching away, and I was alone.
Seasons did not change as I lay in the snow, but the weather was not so discriminating. Sometimes a warm spell would melt a few inches of the snow blanket, and I could peek out at the gray sky above. Sometimes a cloud would pass by, sometimes all that spread over the earth was a gray slate. Other times, the bite of January would return, and an icy breeze chilled me through and through. My little black fibers would prickle and stand on end, and all I could wish for was a warm hand to slip onto. Periods of warmth and cold would come and go until I had been frozen with the history of the parking lot. Forever was I destined to like, like a corpse in a grave, next to a Malibu's tires and a tired streetlight.
For the most part, people took little notice of me. They would come and go, leaving the dorms, entering the dorms, bundled up in their scarves, their hats, their gloves. I watched with envy as the scarves would swing smugly from their necks, as the little beanies seemed to bounce with joy atop their heads. Mostly though, I envied those mittens. Matching mittens, one never separated from its companion. Two red mittens, two blue mittens, two striped mittens, two polka-dot mittens—never a pair missing a friend. I sighed woefully and began to wonder became of my abandoned partner.
We were the best pair at Target. Five dollars for a set of cotton mittens. Sure, there were fancier gloves, like those snooty leather ones for nearly thirty dollars a pair, but only women who wore too much perfume bought those. We cotton mittens would snicker at the leather snuck-ups. Pretty soon, they would smell like too much perfume too.
Then, there were the waterproof gloves. They were made out of some sport coat fabric, boasting on the labels "micro ridge nylon" and "primaloft insulation." They also acted superior to us knit mittens, thinking their water-repellant material made them something special. They were so ugly though. Giant, chunky gloves that you had to strap on with Velcro. How were the humans supposed to move their fingers in those pre-curved mammoths?
We standard mittens truly believed ourselves to be the best. True, we weren't water resistant or very fashionable, but we were easy to wear and we kept fingers warm. Not to mention, we were cheap too! We got the job done, and that was all that mattered.
My partner and I were delighted, then, when our soon-to-be owner felt the inside of our fabric with her fingers. We could tell from the discerning look in her eye that we were the pick of the day. Gently, she slid us off the rack from all the other mittens. My partner and I smirked as they all started crying out; they'd have to wait another day to be chosen. As we were laid on the short conveyor belt and scanned by the red light, we both believed that, truly, we were the best pair of gloves.
Later, our owner removed the staple that had been pinning the two of us together for ages. Oh, what a relief it was to have that nasty thing removed. Nimbly, the girl slipped my partner and me onto her digits. A perfect fit. And so we assumed we would always be.
A few drunken frat boys stumble upon me in the middle of the night. I blush as the streetlight illuminates me; I can sense all eyes are boring into me. The boys are guffawing loudly, their voices too loud, too slurred, too obnoxious. There is a shadow above me and then the sole of a sneaker comes down. I am shattered. Shockwaves flood my knit limbs; I tremble and moan and ache. The assault continues; the boys kick me and laugh and cheer as chips of glittering ice fly off my body like frozen blood.
I am grateful as they tire of me. Their laughter dies down, the amusement wears off, I am lazily kicked to the side, back by the tires of the snow-covered Malibu. As the boys wobble away, I wail for my partner and my owner to return to me. But to no avail. There are only the stars, the glow of an isolated streetlight, and the bitter winter wind.
My partner is listening intently as I stumble and stammer to give him all the details as quickly as possible. This and that, I say, then that and this. I am hanging over a drying rack, my partner, already dry, sitting next to me. For nearly a week now, I have been "defrosting." It took nearly three days its wet remains drip from my body. My owner wringed me out carefully over and felt me gently everyday to check if I were dry.
My partner told me they had both missed me. For a week, she had worn just one mitten, stuffing the other in her coat pocket—but it had not been the same. Her hand still felt cold, and she felt rather silly wearing only one mitten back and forth to class everyday. My partner assured me he missed me too. Nothing, he said, is more embarrassing than going out in public and not being accompanied by your fellow mitten. I was warmed to hear this.
It was after a week and no sight of me that my owner finally came looking by the car. I remember her surprised shout as she found me in the block of ice on the ground, much like fossil preserves from an ancient age. She promptly carried me inside of her dormitory and brought me up to her room. I remember the rush of warmth that filled me just as she stepped over the threshold of the door. Even as the ice was still frozen to my fibers, I was relieved to have been found. I let the warm air heal me day after day.
My owner is careful to watch me now. Everyday, she stuffs her hands in her pockets and gropes for the feel of this loose mitten. I am always nestled there now, careful to snuggle myself in the far corner of the fabric so I don't get lost again.
But in some ways, I don't regret being lost. I saw so many more people as a result of being out of my owner's pocket al the time. Usually, I was worn just from the dorm to another building, then shoved back into the pocket again. I suffered in the cold, yes, but I saw so much more. I only wish now that mittens could be worn during the summer.