I knew my husband for thirty long days before we married. He had a hard time dealing with commitment, but I was patient. He owned $230 in his bank account and a ten-year old Honda on the afternoon we exchanged vows. I am high maintenance, so I held out for a man with money. I was nineteen and no fool; I wasn’t going to be a bridesmaid forever.
Three years after taking the plunge, I picked out my wedding band at a mountain-side souk in Morocco. I posed as a stoic Berber fiancé to get a good price from an Arab jeweler, flanked by my mother in-law on one side, her sister-in-law on the other, and my husband behind me.
It was the best performance of my life — I didn’t say a word.
The ring has one row of platinum between two rows of 24 ct. gold, but it has a tiny wreath of fake diamonds along one of the grooves. I tried to buy a band without glitter, but every shop I visited, doing my best silent impersonation, was stocked with fake diamonds.
It was too big for my finger and I was about to have it sized down in Morocco, when a round Arab woman with plump, tawny lips, punctuated by a luring indent on the top crest, pulled me aside. She pinched my upper arm and said that “Insha’Allah,” (God willing) I would have babies soon and fatten up. If I sized the ring down I would have to wear it around my neck forever. She delivered her wide-eyed warning, without flinching- all the while holding onto my arm in a tight grip, in the same place that she pinched.
Four seasons later my son was born and required two surgeries before the age of one; I was also a law student and stayed so busy that I forgot to eat. I lost weight and the ring started flying off my finger every time I made a flamboyant gesture, which was often.
I had to take the band off and wear it around my neck on a gold chain, which years before held a crucifix in its place. A non-Muslim friend once told me I ought to take that cross and get it melted down for money. I wouldn’t wear it, but I’d as soon as given away my possessions than melt it for money. My mother had given it to me one year for my birthday.
Not long after, one of the sparkles on my wedding band plunked right out of its socket. It was revolting when a few months later a similar sparkle followed. I started to despise that ring. It was an eye-sore, and reminded me of one of the ugliest signs in my hometown, which belonged to a gas station.
I loved that store as much as I eventually loathed its sign. It doubled as a video-rental store. If we wanted to see the Karate Kid, our parents rented it from the gas station. I remember the thrill of watching a movie on our very own television with microwave popcorn from Jimmy’s Thriftway. At some point, that gas station erected a rectangular sign, smack dab on its forehead, outlined by a dozen or more balloon-sized fluorescent lights. It looked like a lighted make-up mirror for a grizzly giant in pursuit of an apocalyptic eyebrow waxing. Whenever a few of the lights fizzled, the sign went partially blind – just like my wedding ring.
On a return trip to Morocco, I tried to rehabilitate my ring by carrying it to a jeweler who only smashed another sparkle in the bare socket, and consequentially, made pockmarks in the gold. It was pitiful, but I continued to swing it around my neck. Occasionally, I would harangue myself over sporting a disfigured wedding band and swear it off for good. If ever I argued with my husband that band became symbolic for whatever that was the matter.
On another occasion I might be out and admire another woman’s sharply etched, glittering wedding or engagement ring, tailored to her delicate manicured finger. Then, my memories came back of our afternoon rummaging gold shops in Morocco, my acting stint, and the intense presence of the woman wishing me a full life, literally, surrounded by lots of babies. I’d go dig up the disfigured ring, put it on and feel happy. It looked on my finger as flotsam as it always had, or even worse because more of the sparkles went missing.
Lately I’ve been keeping it in a jewelry box between the beaded necklace my son made for me in kindergarten and my North Carolinian great grandmother’s wedding band, which I want to have restored. I don’t remember the last time I wore my disfigured ring.
A few days ago, I was driving down a one-lane road, thinking of what was in my refrigerator that I could improvise for dinner. My three kids were lost in some imaginings; I caught each of their gazes at the previous stop light, looking out at the dirt-tinged snow, on the margin of the asphalt, dissolving into puddles of running streams.
My four year old daughter’s small voice perked up.
“Mama, where is your ring?” she asked.
“The one for marrying. The one you used to wear,” she said.
“It’s put away. God willing, I’ll go home and dig it up again.”