I have a gold ring on my right hand, sort of a wavy line with a small ruby, set between two little silver dots that are incised to look a bit like tiny diamonds -- they glitter, but are so small that one has to peer closely in order to see they're fakes. It's the engagement ring I was given when I was sixteen years old. My boyfriend Tony -- my "First" -- was about to leave for California where he would be finishing high school in Carpenteria. And he made me promise to wait for him -- he promised me we'd marry -- and he gave me a ring. It was very sweet, though even I recognized that marriage was pretty unlikely. We were young. He'd forget about me soon enough.
I was wrong of course, or at least I didn't wait long enough before breaking his heart, but he was pretty friendly about it in the end and let me keep the ring.
Though I'm suddenly assailed by doubt -- because in fact, I have another engagement ring, one with a sapphire and two cubic zirconium -- and I can't recall if that sapphire came from Tony, and the ruby from another boyfriend, Dirk -- or if it was the other way around.
I think I'm mistaken here. I think the ruby was from Dirk. Which I would have received in about 1993, when we were living together in south Minneapolis, in a last-ditch effort to be a Successful Couple as opposed to two people who were easily bored. Boredom won out, and Dirk married another friend of ours as soon as her divorce was discreetly mourned and dispensed with. I instigated the last break-up, though; and when my third and final engagement conflicted with their housewarming party (I had a little wingding of my own), Dirk and his gal decided I was too awful for words and refused to have anything to do with me from then on. Awkward, since we shared numerous friends. Nothing that couldn't be fixed by running away to Athens for five years though.
All of this is more interesting for me to write about than the shit that keeps me up all night nowadays -- the dwindling checking account and terrifying budgeting process at work, the question of whether I'll have either a job or a church home this time next year, the anxiety over long long lists of unknowns -- the problem of my kid having been assigned half-day kindergarten next year when we can't afford after-school daycare -- the problem of my mother and I not speaking -- the problem of my best friend and my husband being in the middle of a terrible standoff that prevents me from having them both in the same room -- and on, and on.
I'd rather think about the hearts I've broken, and lay awake on the couch while my husband rattles the windowpanes with his snores, imagining happy endings to lives I'm not currently leading.