flash nonfiction

Unravel by Caitlin Matheis

Unravel | Caitlin Matheis

Blue–navy, royal, sky. If we were speaking in general terms, I would tell people that this is my favorite color because I love all the different shades that make blue, blue. Purple–plum, violet, a bright orchid color. His favorite. But he likes the bolder shades. I tend to favor the shyer, more muted, shades like lavender.

I pick up the spools, unwind the different colored strings, trying to make them even in length for the friendship bracelet I am about to create.

I cut seven strings. I group the blue shades together, then the purple. I take each pile, lie them in my palm to try and make them one. I run my hand over them. Smooth them together.

They meet. Sometimes they say hi.

I fold the strings in half, so that each end meets and a bend forms in the middle. I put the bend over a finger, pinch it below so it forms a loop. I twist the loop, point it downward, pull the strings left hanging through the loop to form a knot to make the loop permanent. Connected.


I arrange the strings and we start to weave. In and out, end, repeat.

Each movement brings them closer together, makes their paths cross purposefully. Starting the bracelet is exciting, optimistic–this was a good idea.

If we are being specific, my favorite color is periwinkle because it’s the color where blue and purple work together to form one, where the line between blue and purple blurs. I watch as the bracelet forms, the shades of purple starting to melt into blue.

The bracelet is a gradient. Purple turns to periwinkle turns to blue turns to periwinkle turns to purple. Blue and purple are still their own but they are one.

Stop. A knot. Take a needle to work through it, undo it.

The string tangles, more knots form.

Undo, redo, it’s okay.

Sometimes I wonder if forgiveness only gets harder. Or if it only feels harder because it feels like I am the only one working to fix it. Even though he says he wants to.

But I pick apart the knots. Because I care. The bracelet is no longer perfect, but nothing ever really is.

I continue to weave. It looks like a mess. I can’t see where things went wrong, but the last few rows are messy. I pick up the needle, try to unravel it so I can fix it again, but can’t find where things went wrong. Maybe it was a mistake from earlier in the bracelet–spots I’d thought we’d fixed but had only appeared as if they had been. The strings are scarred, fractured, bent from constant reworking. Reminders of how they used to be so close, so connected.

This is not as easy as it once seemed to be. I have to stop. I am frustrated, stressed. The string is frayed–weaker–from constant reworking. There is no hope of finishing the bracelet, of it becoming wearable, beautiful. I won’t be able to do this right and continuing to fight the strings will make them snap. And we are breaking up but we don’t want the strings themselves to break.

How much can I care about someone who doesn’t want to be cared about or someone who doesn’t want to care in return? Does it count if I do? But then, if you genuinely care about someone, can you ever really stop?

We leave the ends of the bracelet loose; we had only just begun weaving it. Loose ends. Only smooth where they hadn’t been woven. Unsure, but hopeful. Potentially dangerous.

Because it’ll end up being okay or I’ll have to throw it away.

I leave the bracelet, rolled up in the cupholder of the front seat of my car, where we had sat many evenings, talking. Right underneath where his palm would meet mine and our fingers would intertwine.

Months later, he would tell me he thought it was stupid that my favorite color was periwinkle. Stupid, he said, because it isn’t even real.

About the Author:

Caitlin Matheis is currently an M.A. candidate in English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she studies American Literature and Digital Humanities. Her current research focuses on the influence of archives, public libraries, and librarianship on women’s writing of the Harlem Renaissance. At UNL, she also serves as a writing instructor and as a research assistant at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.