Wednesday, August 04, 2004


Picture a man, barefoot, shirt unbuttoned, standing in a hallway in front of a door. A woman comes down the stairs with a suitcase and a coat. She reaches for the door and he stills her hand. His fingers unconsciously rub back and forth over the rings on her finger. Not angrily she pulls her hand from his grip and looks him pointedly in the eye. He tries to speak and finds that he can’t. She looks away and then looks at him and breathes in as if to speak but decides against it. She lifts her suitcase again, skirts the man and exits the house shutting the door firmly behind her.

I hate flying. It’s better if I have someone to talk to so usually I travel with someone. But sometimes that just isn’t possible.
“Those are beautiful.”
So I have to go on a recruiting mission.
“I’m sorry?”
This woman is pretty, not beautiful or drop dead gorgeous but attractive, well put together, even though she’s not flashy, all monotone clothes and small earrings, short hair. The only thing that stands out about her are her rings.
“Your rings, they’re beautiful.”
“Thank you.”
I probably would have talked to her anyway. I really need to talk to someone. Did I mention that I hate flying? But the rings gave me a good way in. There were maybe 6 or 7 of them winding around the bottom of her left ring finger. All silver, or maybe platinum, what do I know? All plain, rounded except one in the middle that was flat with a deep blue sapphire channel set into it.
“Are they all wedding rings?”
She looks up. I might snag her.
“No, just one.”
Monosyllables, not a good sign.
“But my husband did give them all to me.”
She’s falling! I need to be creative here, keep working.
“Are they all from special occasions then?”
She puts a finger in her book to hold her place.
“Yes, he’s been giving them to me for 8 years now. Says they’re like rings on a tree so you can tell how old the relationship is.”
“That’s sweet.”
“Actually it’s kinda sappy. Fortunately he’s cute when he’s sappy.”
I run out of steam so we sit in silence looking at the rings on her hand, which lies on her book. She finally flips the book open again to read.
“How do you tell them apart? Which one for which occasion? Which one he gave you when?”
I am not making a good impression.
She doesn’t look up for a moment. Waits, takes a breath and then moves her bookmark and stuffs the book into the seat pocket.
“It’s on the inside. Here.”
She starts to tug the rings off 2 and 3 at a time, working them back and forth over the knuckle until she holds them in her right fist then she drops them into my palm.
“Go ahead, you have to hold them up to the light.”
Each ring has a word engraved on the inside in simple block letters. STRENGTH. PEACE. LIGHT.
“Which one is your wedding ring?”
“Guess.” She smiles.
Even though I figure it’s gotta be a trick question I pick the one engraved LOVE.
“Tell me?”
“Oh. Wow.”
She chuckles.
“Where were you married?
“On a beach in California. Right out front of our favorite restaurant.”
“You rented the whole restaurant?”
“No, it was only us and our parents. We’d been together a long time by that point. A big wedding seemed kind of silly and none of anyone’s business, really.”

Picture a man and a woman standing on a beach. The setting sun over the water washes them in soft light. She wears a simple, ankle length white dress. He wears a deep blue suit and white shirt, no tie. They are barefoot. She slips a ring from her thumb and slides it onto his finger. He reaches into his jacket pocket and removes an identical platinum band. Before he places it on her finger he holds it up for her to read the inscription. She holds his hand in hers to steady it and her eyes tear as she reads the word. After he fits her with the ring their fingers lock together and he pulls her close enough to kiss her forehead and linger there breathing her in.

Weren’t your friends mad?”
“Some of them but by the time anyone found out we’d been married almost a year so anger was kind of superfluous. My husband started saying, ‘What does it matter to you if we got married? You thought we were going to break up?’”
“He’s a smart cookie.”
“What’s LOVE for then?”
“I was hit by a car and he gave me that when I got home from the hospital.”
“Oh my god. That’s horrible.”
“It wasn’t my best day. The getting hit part. The coming home was pretty good.”
“I don’t mean to be nosy but how …you don’t have to answer if you don’t…”
“No, it’s OK. It’s my little Public Service Announcement. Always bring ID when you leave the house. No matter how short the errand. You never know. I went out to walk the dog. It was summer. I had on a dress, shoes and was carrying keys, plastic bags and a dog leash. That was it. I got hit by a drunk driver, let go of the leash and there I was. We live up in the hills and I walk the dog in some woodsy areas. A jogger found me in a ditch by the side of the road and called 911. They took me to the hospital but no ID so no one knew who I was or how to contact my family.”

Picture a door at the end of a hallway. Stairs to the right lead to the second floor. A living room opens off to the left. Hear shuffling and fumbling before it swings open revealing a woman in a man’s arms about to be carried over the threshold. The door bangs against the wall and swings shut again. Hear laughter. The door swings gently open and the couple steps awkwardly through the door. Now see bandages on the woman’s hands and face, her right wrist is in a cast and she holds a pair of crutches in her hand. He maneuvers her into the living room and onto the couch. While he arranges pillows for her she opens a bag and pulls out a prescription bottle. He takes the bag and moves toward the kitchen but checks himself and returns to perch on the arm of the couch behind her and present her with the velvet box from his pocket. She tilts her head back and winces. He leans down to gently kiss the top of her head and bolts toward the kitchen but she reaches out to grab his hand and pull him back for a proper, long, loving kiss. He runs his hand through her hair, along her cheek and his lip trembles slightly before going to the kitchen. She opens the box and reads the inscription before laying it alongside the other two.

“I’m sorry, I have to ask, was the dog all right?”
She laughs. “Yes, she was fine, got scared by the noise and ran home. She was sitting on the front step when my husband came home. It took him 3 or 4 hours to figure out where I was. Then he found me in a recovery room all stitched and bandaged and bones set. I think it scared him even more than it scared me and that’s going some.”
“He gave it to you then?”
“No, after, the day I came home.”
“This is fun!”
“Glad you’re enjoying yourself.”
What about STRENGTH?”
“That one goes with JOY. There. They’re for our daughter. I got JOY when we found out about her and STRENGTH when she was a month old.”

Picture a woman with bags under her eyes, wearing a tank top, sweatpants, hair disheveled. She carries a dirty diaper in one hand. She enters down the stairs and crosses into the kitchen. She re-enters and re-crosses the other way with a full bottle in hand. He meets her halfway, jeans, t-shirt, wild hair, untied shoes and open leather jacket. From behind his back he pulls a small black velvet box. She musters a smile but it doesn’t have much behind it. He opens the box and holds it out to her. She extracts the simple platinum band and peers at the inside, when she reads the word her smile deepens. She quickly slips the band on her finger and stands on tiptoe to wrap her arms around him and hold him tightly.

“Is her name Joy?”
“Oh god, no, I am the sap police. Don’t think he didn’t think of it.”
“How old is your daughter?”
“She’s 5. Her name is Delia.”
“Delia Joy?”
“No. I really put my foot down.”
“Must have been hard to stop wearing these when you were pregnant, swelling and everything.”
“I didn’t take them off then. I wasn’t pregnant. Delia is adopted.”

Picture a woman with a phone to her ear. She signs off with distracted thanks and holds the receiver to her chest for a breath, then hangs it up calling, “Honey!” He appears and she looks him in the eye, thrilled. He looks back, questioning. And she nods vigorously, grinning from ear to ear. He picks her up and swings her around while they whoop and laugh and grin. Finally setting her down he pulls open the drawer underneath the phone to pull out the red velvet box. She has a fresh bout of giggles while she opens the box and picks out the platinum band, holding it up to read the word inside which sets her to laughing so happily again that she can’t put the ring on. He steps behind her, wrapping his arms around her body, stilling her and taking her hands in his. This way they are able to let the ring slide down against the others on her finger and resume laughing with their lips touching.

“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about. I think things worked out just fine. She’s a great kid, the light of our lives.”
“Oh! So LIGHT is about her too?”

Picture a woman in a coffee shop. She is reading a book propped open in front of her meal, fully absorbed. A man enters and slides into the booth next to her. She is startled, looks up. She’s surprised and ecstatic, she kisses him passionately. When they break he steals a French fry with one hand while sliding a small velvet box across the table to rest in front of her with the other. Her eyes widen and she questions him with a look. He pushes the box toward her in response. She kisses him again before opening the box to reveal a single, simple, platinum band. She leans in for another series of mumbling thank you kisses while she fumbles the ring out of the box and onto her finger. He pulls away abruptly and takes the ring off her finger, putting it in her palm and admonishing, “Read.” She spins the ring, looking at the outside. “Inside.” He explains. She looks again, reads and is kissing him again before he can even see the expression on her face.

“No, sorry, just an expression I use. LIGHT was the first one. I met my husband in New York but he was living in Los Angeles. On one of his trips to see me he brought that. He probably used the ‘light of my life’ line too.”
“How did you meet?”
“We ended up at a bar where we each had friends with bands playing. Mine was finishing a set and he asked about them. I piped up from across the table and we started chatting. I e-mailed him about the band and the rest is history.”
“You moved to Los Angeles?”
“Yeah, that’s when I got FAITH, so to speak. Apparently I spouted off one too many times about how stupid it is to follow a man across the country. So I was admonished with a permanent reminder to trust him.”

Picture a woman entering with suitcases. A man opens the door for her, helps her in with her luggage. She is uncomfortable in the surroundings. He is showing her around. An empty drawer here, a closet there. He shows her a beautiful bed, big, open, made up but not taut. On the pillow, centered, a small box of deep blue velvet with a white ribbon tied around it in a bow. She smiles, checks with him and he urges her forward. She crawls onto the bed, up from the bottom and sit cross-legged to untie the bow and open the box. A single platinum band sits inside. She smiles and turns to find him kneeling behind her, looking over her shoulder. She grasps his face and kisses him deeply. He tries to press her back to the bed but she fights him with playful shoves working around him to slide the band out of the box and onto her finger with the identical one she wears. Then she locks her wrists behind his head and flops back, bringing him with her, laughing all the way.

I’m running out of things to ask. And rings. I run through them all. LIGHT, FAITH, LOVE, PEACE, JOY and STRENGTH. I’m done. Except for the one with the stone.
“What about this one?”
“Uh, he said it matched my eyes.”

Picture a man and a woman sitting at a small table in a dimly lit restaurant. One dessert lies between them with a spoon propped on either side of the plate. He hands a velvet box across the table to her. She smiles slightly and lays the box on the table to pull the bow loose. Inside is a flat platinum band with a deep blue sapphire set flush into it. She is surprised. Gingerly she slides it on top of her other rings then looks up at him. He smiles back somewhat uncertainly. She kisses her fingertips and reaches across the dessert to lay them on his lips. He kisses them lightly before they both reach for their spoons and begin eating toward the middle.

“So it’s a symbol of how your relationship has moved beyond words. Eyes as the windows of the soul and everything?”
“You know, he never said.”
I have to hand them back.
They pour into her open palm and she slowly slides them on her long finger one by one.
“Any particular order?”
“Lots of people ask that. No. Well, some days. Depends how I feel but usually I just try to get them all safely on.”
“Excuse me ladies,” the flight attendant breaks in, ”could you please fasten your seatbelts we’re about to taxi for takeoff.”
I hate flying.

Picture a man standing alone in an airport terminal. His shirt is untucked, his jacket is open. His jeans and shirt are wrinkled. His hands are stuffed in his pockets. He is waiting. He checks a monitor, he looks around. Then he reaches into the pocket of his jacket and removes a small velvet box. He squeezes it in one hand then the other then replaces it in his pocket before putting his hands back in his pockets and looking toward the gate.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:26 PM


    This one burst my heart wide open.