I’ve never been a romantic person.
Not in the sense of roses and wine and love songs.
I’ve always found the notions of traditional romance unimaginative and forced. I was not the kind of girl you gave flowers to, which was unfortunate for the husband who was the kind of guy who wanted to give flowers.
I was also not the kind of girl who wanted to be proposed to.
There’d been no formal proposal, so I don’t own an engagement ring. My husband kept insisting that he was going to buy me a diamond ring as an anniversary present one day, but I dismissed that idea time and time again.
Was wearing an engagement ring a declaration of love and a symbol of romance or was the lack of such a ring a judgement about masculinity? That blurred line was not one I was interested in exploring, so my unromantic finger was content with a simple wedding ring.
My wedding ring was functional, the thing I was supposed to have because I was getting married. It was purchased at the mall, at a random store, with little forethought. We each picked out a ring we liked, the decision made in less than an hour, in time to go to dinner.
When I got married, I didn’t see the ring as tangible proof of the love between my husband and I, of the commitment we’d made. It was just a piece of jewelry that looked nice on my hand and served its purpose.
For thirteen years, that ring has rested on the fourth finger of my left hand. For thirteen years, that ring has declared to anyone who cared to notice that I was married.
When my husband died, it was the sight of his ring, presented to me by the officers who informed me of his death, that shattered me.
The ring he never removed, no matter what he was doing.
His ring, placed on the table before me was the irrefutable evidence, the tangible proof, that he was gone.
For the first months after his death, I wore his ring on a chain around my neck. Holding it was a way to calm myself and root myself in reality when I felt the world slipping away.
One day, I tucked his ring into my jewelry box where it has remained. Some days, I pick it up just to feel its weight in my hand. The days when my life, his death, seem surreal, those days touching his ring reminds me that my life before, and after, are both real and not the hazy dreams they sometimes feel like.
But my ring, the ring that has been on my finger for so long that it has become a part of me, that ring remains right where he put it.
Am I supposed to remove it, I wonder sometimes.
I’m not married anymore.
But I still feel married.
Five months after his death, I had a rare night alone and I was at a loss at what to do with myself. I ended up at Barnes & Noble. Being alone in a bookstore to browse at my leisure, without little ones to concern myself with, is a luxury. One I looked forward to.
As I parked my car outside the store, my hand rested on the steering wheel and my eye stopped at my wedding ring. Filled with a bitter a force that seemed to rise up out of nothing, I decided to remove it. I slipped the ring off my finger and dropped it into the bottom of my purse.
I walked the short distance through the shopping center until I reached the bookstore at a faster pace than normal, walking with the urgency of woman burdened with a secret.
Inside the bookstore, I instantly felt eyes in the crowded store burning into me. They glanced at my ring-less finger, glanced at my face with disapproving eyes.
They all know.
I felt the panic rising in me as I rounded each aisle, sweat beading on my forehead. I refused to make eye contact with anyone and kept my left hand tucked at my side, palm up, a desperate attempt to hide my naked hand. Finally, unable to pick up a single book because the anxiety was overwhelming me, I fished the ring out of my purse and twisted it back on.
The relief was instantaneous.
Recently, I dropped the ring on my bathroom floor. I have always removed it before I shower, always afraid however unrealistic and irrational, that I would lose it down the drain. After I picked the ring up, I noticed one of the small diamonds had popped off from the impact with the ceramic tile.
My modest wedding band has eight diamonds on it, diamonds so small that I don’t know they can be rightfully called diamonds. One of those tiny diamond chips was now gone and the attempt to find such a tiny thing on my bathroom floor proved to be in vain.
I stared at my chipped and imperfect ring. I could probably have it repaired. It would be an easy fix I’m sure, but my imperfect ring seems more fitting for my imperfect life.
How much longer will I wear it? The ring that has wrapped around my finger for thirteen years, that became a part of me without my noticing it.
The ring that became a weight,
keeping me tethered to this earth.
It’s the thing that holds me in place, that keeps me from spinning off into despair.
One day I know my heart will find it’s own gravity,
it’s own way to keep from drifting away.
One day, this ring might find a home next to my husband’s. It could be tomorrow, next month, tonight,
or maybe never.
In the end, the ring I took for granted,
the thing that I spent as much time considering as I did the air I breathe,
that very thing
became the part of me that I cannot let go.