|Jul. 7th, 2013 @ 12:27 pm The Pattern of Eternity|
I lost my engagement ring this weekend. My husband threw it into the sea.
Ingrid Michaelson - Turn to Stone
We went down to the beach for some sun and sand and relaxation, which we enjoyed; after all, we don't get a lot of summer vacations anymore as adults, so we made the best of them. I grew up in an extremely landlocked state and have never really been thoroughly swimming in the ocean, so we spent an hour or two out in the salt, John trying to teach me how to avoid being swamped by breakers and becoming increasingly exasperated by how short and therefore drownable I am in regions where he is normally tall enough to just sail on through. I spent most of my time trying to swim back to him, because every wave and current moved me off down the beach while he stood there, unperturbed and unable to figure out why I kept disappearing into the distance. I'm afraid of the sea and always have been, but for his sake, I braved the grey and briny deep. I have the burns on the soles of my feet to prove it.
After a while of this, with salt lining my lungs and nose and my vision vague and swimmy, I was losing my adventurous spirit; swimming is fun, but swimming farther and farther out, asking to get my face pounded in by ocean surf, is a little bit less exciting. But John, when he's excited, is a dynamo of activity who will not take no for an answer, and he kept urging me on - if we just get past this line of breakers, there'll be a sandbar where you can stand! If you hang onto me, I'll get you through the next big wave above water (spoiler: this was a lie)! If you just keep moving, I'm sure the current can't make you go anywhere, even though you weigh half what I do!
And in the midst of all this, he exuberantly threw out his hand to grasp mine and drag me further into the water, and the slick spray made him unable to hold on without sliding away, and he took my engagement ring right off my finger without even realizing it and consigned it to the watery depths. It took him about thirty seconds to figure out what I was even yelling at him about, because he hadn't noticed. To his credit, he then tried to troll the bottom of the sea for it, which was doomed from the start but a valiant thought.
(Of course, this is all extra insulting because he'd taken off his wedding ring before even going in; it's a little bit too big for him and occasionally slips off. I didn't remove my rings, which fit and have never slipped off ever, but I wasn't counting on someone actually pulling the darn things off. He started a foray into "well, if you'd just...", then realized that under the circumstances it was perhaps not the most politic direction to pursue.)
I put on a happy face, but to be honest, I took it pretty hard. I still have the extremely pretty extra engagement ring, of course, that John secretly got from my jeweler bridesmaid Jennie and slipped on my finger with the wedding ring at the ceremony itself, but this lost ring was the real deal. It was the one that matches his engagement ring, the one I used to clumsily propose to him after months of agonizing waiting, the one I carefully chose for us for its shine and durability and delicate key pattern. I love the other ring, of course, but this was the one that actually sealed our agreement to say vows, that I wore from that first day that he said yes until he hurled it invisible into the waves.
I miss it on my finger, on my right hand where I wore it so that my left hand wasn't three rings deep. I often turned or touched it, while I was talking, waiting, thinking. It's only been about a year and a half, but my hand feels light and naked without it.
John, who was aware that something potentially emotionally destructive had just happened but who was at a total loss as to how to fix it, did his best. When he couldn't find it in the endless tracts of loose sand at high tide, he said we would get a new one, and tried not to look guilty at the idea that it would still not be the ring that was the original twin to his. When I didn't look happier, he said I could wear his engagement ring, on a chain around my neck since it's enormous. When that didn't work, he said we'd use the money the ring had cost and get me something else, something nice, whatever would help. When that didn't work, he resorted to one-armed awkwardness hugs. "I still love you, you know, right?" he said, looking forlorn and sunburned. "We're still married. It doesn't actually change anything, does it?"
He's not really entirely right; it does change things, but only in the tiniest of rippling ways, and only because it's now a memory that attaches to the daisy chain of our lives. I'll always remember wearing the ring, feeling it and remembering all the joy that it represented and brought with it every day, and I'll always remember losing it in a moment of panic, half-blind with cold water. But he is right in other ways, that the love between us was not carried in the ring like some metallic vessel, that our union did not wash out with the tide, and that, unspoken but still clearly carried in his anxious voice, it is not entirely fair for me to blame him for throwing something away that he had no idea was going. It's a powerful symbol, a ring, but it is not a thing itself. It is a reminder of a thing that cannot be worn.
So instead of being upset about it, I've decided to focus on the positive. Sure, I may no longer have a piece of symbolic jewelry that declares my love for my husband, but that's just above the surface. Like the sea, there is much more below that.
For example, maybe our ring will be washed out with the receding tide, to tumble down through the murky depths until it lands in the mouth of an oyster. She will have to be a huge oyster, gigantic, so large that a heavy metal ring is no more irritating to her than a grain of sand, and she will swallow it down and brood on it for years, maybe even for decades, surrounding it in soft white tissue, burnishing it in her own iridescence. Maybe she'll guard that pearl, huge and luminous, as if she were a pregnant mother, for all the years of her indeterminate oyster life; or maybe it will be found by some pearl fisher, who reverent with awe of its huge size places it in his home, where it makes him happy to see such a thing, glowing white and marvelous from an accident of nature. Or maybe he will sell it for its enormous value, so that he can retire and live his life in happy, carefree seaside luxury sipping fruity drinks and spending time with his children, and the pearl will go to auction at Sotheby's for millions and millions of dollars, and the rich elite and the movie stars and the museum collectors will sigh over it and wish they could touch it, just once. They will all want to hold the physical proof of our love, just once in their lives.
Or maybe our ring will sink until it strikes not sand but lands with perfect dignity on the head of an unremarkable blue crab, crowning him squarely between the eyestalks. The other crabs will be awed by the glimmering silver sign of his sovereignty, and he will go on to build the most incredible crab kingdom ever seen in the Atlantic, with crabs coming from all over the waters of the Americas to bask in his radiance and admire his majesty, building him opulent coral palaces and presenting him with salvaged shrimp and treasures from the shore, where they venture to prove their bravery and worth to their king. And maybe when one day the king meets his demise in a fishery net, bound for a succulent plate on a shoreside crab shack, our ring will tumble from his head and onto the head of the next king of the crabs, and so the dynasty will continue, building a crustacean civilization that endures as none ever has before. Or maybe our ring will not land on a crab's head at all but rather in between several of them, and the ensuing battle will be sung in fluting, crusty crab-songs for generations to come, and every young crab will grow up searching for the fabled Crown of Sovereignty, and our ring will become a legend.
Or maybe the ineluctable motion of the tides will carry our ring across the Atlantic, through riptides and gulfstreams and currents and trenches, in the deep waters where only living creatures create movement in the dark stillness or on the soft-white tips of the marching waves. Maybe it will wash up in Spain, where a young girl will find it and wear it on a chain around her neck, saving it to someday wear when someone loves her, and then her love will be part of our love. Maybe it will wash up in Mexico, where a young boy will find it and sell it to a pawnbroker for a quarter of its value, and he will use that money to buy a bicycle so that he can travel and see his country, and he will become a famous world traveler and journalist and cyclist and our love will have shaped a life. Maybe it will wash up in Greece, where an old woman will find it and think wistfully of the key pattern on the hems of dresses she wore in her youth, before her lover went away to Mussolini's war and never came back, and think that it looks like the ring he promised to give her when she was the kind of young that no person can look at her now and believe in, and maybe she'll wear it until the end of her days and our love will have brought a dead love back to life. Maybe it will wash up in India, flowing all the way through the bay and to the mouth of the Ganges itself, where it will be found by an old priest who recognizes it as the lost piece of faith that it is takes it to his temple, to join the offerings sent to him by believers and chance and the universe itself, and our love will become part of the great shared love of a people for their god. Maybe it will wash up in Australia, in the scorching summer heat of the Northern Territory, and it will gather all the radiance and warmth of the sun into its salt-burnished silver sides and brand some unlucky beachcomber who steps on it, and our love will be carried in an indelible shape on the skin of another human for the rest of his life.
Or maybe our ring will do none of those things and go none of those places. Maybe it will fall into the sand and be buried, and the slow movement of the water will pull it farther out to sea until it passes the shelf and falls into oblivion. Maybe it will sink into the ocean for mile after dark mile, ignored by fish, unimportant to seaweed, invisible to the eyes of surface-bound humanity for the rest of time. Maybe it will sink until it finds the bedrock of the sea itself, and maybe the motions of the currents will move it unhurriedly for years and decades, making its slow and unremarked journey across the ocean bed even after we are only memories, and maybe it will finally fall into an ancient trench, where it sinks to depths that no human has ever seen and where things live that the mortal mind has not yet imagined. Maybe, at the absolute deepest point of the deepest trench in the deepest part of the oceans of our world, it will slip into a crack that leads to a volcanic vent, and it will fall into the magma of the center of the planet and melt, spreading out to churn forever in the final furnace, and our love will be the love at the center of the earth, and it will support every living thing that walks our planet until the end of time, and when the sun burns out and the planet itself crumbles and all life on it is gone, our love will be the last thing that burns in the cold vastness of space.
This weekend, my husband took off my engagement ring and threw it into the sea. I will never see it again. But even the sea cannot swallow anything forever.
We went out for ice cream afterward, played in a Magic tournament and went to a carnival. We fell asleep in one anothers' arms.