I’ve been feeling a little bit awkward lately because my left hand is naked. The other day I started twisting my rings like usual and man, it hurt. They were weirdly stuck. Upon closer examination, I’d bent the hell out of both of them.
So they’re at the jeweler getting banged back into shape, and all I’m wearing now is my dented flesh. It’s a pretty serious dent, actually, because Cute W and I have been married for 21 years today. Woo, hoo! Someone asked if we were going on an anniversary date, but since Thursday is gymnastics practice (J) and soccer practice (M) and yoga (K), we are not. We will, sometime soon. I promise. We did manage to get new bedding for the new bed, though:
Although if you’re a longtime reader, you might be sad that I set aside the old duvet that merited an anniversary post 3 years ago. Oh, my gosh! Was that three years ago? Anyway, I’m not getting rid of it, of course.
The marriage nostalgia and wedding ring repair reminded me of one of my favorite ring stories, the time when I lost my diamond.
The year was 1999, and Cute W and I were buying our first house. Except that we lived in Brooklyn, so the “house” was actually a two-bedroom, fourth-floor walk-up co-op apartment. Notwithstanding its small size, it represented a sizable investment for us, especially since we both had graduate school debt already. We had decided that it was time to buy after Cute W had signed a three-year contract for a new job. We’d taken a look around our super-cozy one-bedroom apartment that had made one friend say, “Wow, you guys must really love each other!” and decided that three more years there was way too many. That was also the apartment where a mouse once ran over my bare foot while I was washing dishes. Incidentally, I think that colleges and universities are doing a real disservice to today’s young people by offering such comfortable and congenial housing. I don’t know how we would have survived the squalor of Manhattan and Brooklyn living if our middle class standards hadn’t been radically lowered by our years of cement-block-style college housing.
But I digress. The point is, on a lovely spring evening we found ourselves literally pacing around our mouse-infested apartment, hectic with anxiety over whether we were making the right choice to commit to a big mortgage and purchase a larger apartment in a sketchier neighborhood. And then we decided that the antidote was to take a bike ride.
We had just purchased a pair of bikes as a celebration of our impending apartment purchase. For years, we pretty much couldn’t own bikes, unless we were willing to lean them up against our futon or our kitchen table when we weren’t biking around. The co-op offered basement storage, which is exactly the sort of thing that means a trumpet fanfare if you’re living in New York City. We’d bought the bikes, but we hadn’t had a chance to ride them far. Why not distract ourselves with a little ride to our new neighborhood? Or, our new almost-neighborhood, because while we weren’t going to be quite in Park Slope, we’d be close enough that we hoped that the tide of gentrification would engulf us soon.
We set out in the twilight, and right away, I felt shaky. I hadn’t had a bike since high school (which is another story), and I was out of practice. I know, I know: riding a bike is a lot like. . . riding a bike. But just like in a car, I feel anxious and accident-prone. Cute W, on the other hand, started at a perfectly-normal-person clip, and I didn’t even get a chance to pant, “Slow down!” at him before I panicked and squeezed both the handbrakes. And went flying over the handlebars, smacking both hands and my head into the Brooklyn street.
Luckily, I was wearing my helmet. It could have been ugly. As it was, I was shaken up, but not hurting too badly. I’d hyper-extended both of my arms, and I tried to shake out my elbows, wanting to quit immediately. But then we’d be back in our apartment with feelings of failure and cowardice to compound the debt-anxiety. So I hopped back on and pedaled at Cute W’s newly-moderated pace.
But it wasn’t going well. Biking was alright, but my elbows were beginning to swell and throb. Each time we’d stop and start again, the pressure of leaning onto the handlebars made me almost cry. I was trying very hard not to be a wimp, so I kept pedaling, and we made it to the park. At which point I conceded defeat. I called out to Cute W, half -weepy, that my arms hurt too much and I was ready to head home.
And it was just after we’d decided to go back that I looked down at my hands and saw this:
The prongs of my engagement ring were squashed over like a garden plant that had been stepped on. And the diamond wasn’t there.
Here’s where I became a teensy bit hysterical. I started screaming at Cute W to leave me behind and haul ass to the scene of my recent crash. He refused to leave me biking alone and argued that for the moment the most efficient thing to do was to continue the torturously long circumnavigation the park (you’re actually supposed to bike one-way around the street that surrounds Prospect Park, or at least you were at the time) and try our best to calm down.
He was emergency-calm and I was emergency-freaked. At one point, he said, “It’s not a big deal. It’s just a material thing.”
And I half-shrieked back, “Yeah! That I inherited from my DEAD MOTHER!!!”
Which, you have to admit, is an unbelievably awesome come-back. I mean, if you want to get competitive about it.
So much for a throw-your-cares-away bike ride. We pedaled in near-silence through the dark streets of Brooklyn back to the crash-site.
And unbelievably, as we approached, there was a beautiful twinkling under the nearby streetlight.
My heart hitched with joy, and then I realized that the twinkling was way too unbelievably easy. I’d crashed right in front of a neighborhood bodega, and the street was littered with shattered glass bottles. If I’d bothered to look earlier, I would have seen the beautiful twinkles everywhere around me.
We paced the area. Parked cars had moved and new cars replaced them. We knew that someone could be speeding away from us with a diamond imbedded in their tire rubber, but we had to look. So we looked. And looked. It became obvious that we were hunting for something, and occasionally someone would offer to help. But we demurred. It would be too easy, we thought, for someone to pick up the diamond and slip it into their pockets. After a while, Cute W walked one of the bikes home and returned with flashlights. And we looked some more. Then he walked the second bike home returned with a broom and a dustpan.
We decided that we would do one final, thorough hunt, dividing the street into an imaginary grid to make it more systematic. Cute W swept all the debris from a small square into a pile, and then I picked through it.
At that point, we’d been searching for hours, so we’d become a bit philosophical. There was a natural disaster somewhere, and reminded ourselves that we were fortunate for the excellent weather. I’d started collecting the slivers and chunks of bottle glass. The glass really was lovely, and I imagined that I’d take it home and wash it and place the pieces into a small jar. The glass-filled jar would shine in the light from a window in our new home, and it would be a meaningful reminder of. . . something. That the everyday, left-behind moments that we’d collected together were more important than any single object . . . ? Yes, of course, I thought, eyes filling with tenderness. And then I saw the diamond, and I was like, screw that.
I yelled, “I’ve got it!” And Cute W, who had also noted the way that shattered glass can look like a diamond over the course of the evening, answered with a skeptical, “Are you sure?”
“Oh, I’m sure!” I crowed. “Now that I’ve got my diamond, I realize that all this glass looks absolutely nothing like a diamond!” He bounded over, laughing, and we hugged in triumph.
Part of me wishes that I’d kept the pieces of glass. But at the time we just wiped our hands and the diamond on our jeans and left the glass behind, twinkling in the dusty streets.