portion of the artwork for Kevin Spaide's story

The Sweater
Kevin Spaide

My wife knitted a sweater for her father, but he died, so she gave it to me. I tried it on. Her father had never worn it, had never even known about it, and still I felt like I was wearing his sweater.

The first time I wore it, my wife cried.

“It looks good on you,” she said. “Don’t take it off.”

“I don’t want to upset you.”

“You’ll upset me if you take it off. I worked hard on that thing.”

“It’s the best thing anyone’s ever made for me.”

“I didn’t make it for you.”

We went to a party. It was in the house of a friend of ours who was more my wife’s friend than mine. My wife told me to wear the sweater. She wanted to show off her knitting skills.

I put it on. I looked at myself in the mirror in the hallway. Why aren’t I famous? I thought. Why aren’t I more well known?

As we were leaving the house my wife started crying.

“I can’t do this,” I said.

I took the sweater off.

“Don’t take it off. It’s nothing.”

“I don’t even know who I’m supposed to be in this.”

“You don’t have to be anyone,” she said.

“That doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“I’m sorry, did you say something?”

“God, am I just background noise to you?”

She wiped the tears across her face and said, “Do you actually expect me to listen to every word you say?”

I wore her father’s sweater to the party. There were a lot of people there. Everyone was smoking and drinking and talking about whatever flew into their heads from God knew where. I wanted to take the sweater off. Sweat rolled down my spine and soaked into the waistband of my underpants. I was suffocating - but I didn’t want my wife to start crying again.

This was the first time I’d ever been afraid to take off an article of clothing for fear of wounding someone.

We were sitting around a table with some other people. I knew them all, but they could have been anybody. My wife did most of my talking for me.

She said, “I made that sweater for my father.”

Everybody had known her father. They’d all loved him. He’d been slightly famous.

“Fits him perfectly,” said someone.

“It’s funny,” said someone else. “Your father was a lot bigger, wasn’t he?”

“No, he just looked bigger. It was something about his personality.”

“He was loud,” I said.

My wife stood up and went into the bathroom crying.

“Jesus, why are you wearing that?” said some guy I hardly knew anymore. “She made it for her father!”

“Don’t you have any common sense?” said a small woman wearing glasses. I’d already forgotten her name.

“No,” I said. “And neither does she.”

I got up and opened a window.

By the end of the night I was feeling drunk enough to think I was having fun. And just as my wife decided she wanted to go home, I finally decided I wanted to be there. But I went with her. I didn’t want to wake up there in the morning. That would have been awful.

At home, after we brushed our teeth, she pulled me on to the bed and kissed me. I lifted her skirt and kissed her knees. She had really beautiful knees that night. I started to take her father’s sweater off.

“Leave it on,” she said.

“I’m dying of sweat in here.”

“It’s so soft.”

You wear it,” I said.

She started crying.

“What’s wrong?” I said.

“Nothing, nothing. Take it off, if you want. Whatever you need. Just fuck me.”

She had never said anything like that before. Not to me, anyway.

“You want me to fuck you?”

“You think you can handle that?”

“Maybe if you stopped crying.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Ah, I don’t know. It’s no big deal, I guess.”

I took the sweater off and we had sex. I didn’t know if we were fucking or making love. Maybe we were doing both. We hadn’t been married all that long. A year or two at most.

At some point we rolled on top of the sweater. I thought I’d tossed it on the floor, yet there it was. It seemed to be trying to work its way between us. I got hold of it and flung it across the room.

“Don’t stop,” said my wife.

I didn’t. Not for some time.

In the morning I found her walking around the kitchen in her father’s sweater and a pair of my boxer shorts. She looked good even though the colors clashed. I tried to drag her into the other room.

“Hey, leave me alone.”

“Last night it was all fuck me fuck me and today it’s leave me alone.”

I put my hands under the sweater and felt her breasts.

“Just give me a moment,” I said.

Out the window the sun was shining on the hood of the car in the driveway. It made me want to get in it and go somewhere, but there was something wrong with it, something I didn’t understand.

“What’s wrong with the car?” I said.

“I don’t know. Smoke comes out of the engine.”

Of the two of us, she was the mechanic.

We were eating breakfast at the kitchen table. We ate breakfast together every morning. Breakfast was toast and coffee, sometimes a scrambled egg. We pretended that’s all we wanted out of life—and maybe it was true.

“I wish we could go somewhere,” I said. “It’s such a nice day. Hey, maybe we can use your father’s car.”

“I couldn’t drive his car. Not yet.”

“Why not? It’s a perfectly good car.”

“I can’t even look at it. A car is such a personal possession. When you’re in someone’s car, it’s almost like you’re inside them.”

“No, it’s not.”

“You don’t even know how to drive,” she said, and that was the end of that in America.

We finished eating breakfast. I washed the dishes, then I had another cup of coffee. Halfway through I started to sweat and tremble, so I set it down. My wife opened the newspaper on the kitchen table and sat there reading it as if that’s all she planned to do for the rest of time.

After a while she said, “You know, I feel good in this sweater. I don’t know why you’re always so eager to take it off.”

“I’m not eager to take it off, but I can’t wear it without feeling like I’m dressed in your father’s clothes. He never liked me.”

“He liked you,” she said.

“He thought I was strange.”

“Yeah, but he liked you.”

“Wearing somebody’s clothes is like borrowing their skin.”

“He never laid eyes on the thing. It smells like you,” she said.

“What do I smell like?”

“Just like this sweater.”

She held her arm out, and I sniffed the sleeve. It smelled like the party.

She read an article from the newspaper out loud. It was about salmon in the rivers of Europe. We talked about it. We argued. The sun went behind a cloud. A fire engine raced past the house, sirens blaring. The cat sprang into my lap and nudged my chin with his dry cat-nose. A lawnmower began to whir somewhere down the street.

“I’m never eating salmon again,” she said.

“Fine,” I said. “More for the grizzly bears.”

“There are no grizzly bears in Europe.”

She folded the newspaper. Then she went into the bedroom. She took the sweater off and tossed it on the floor. She got into bed and cried.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 30 | Fall 2010