On a Saturday in early June 1997, Michele and I picked up our wedding rings from the jeweler. Two plain gold bands, their newness shiny and their import heavy in our hands. Naturally we both tried them on, and then we left them on for we considered ourselves married, the upcoming wedding was just a formality.
A few days before our wedding in July we took them back to the jeweler so they could be polished for the ceremony. By then I had started to grow used to this bright band of metal around my finger, I liked the way it looked and I was pleased with what it indicated to myself and to the world around me. With the exception of one or two subsequent polishings, and time spent in our pool, my ring has never been off my finger. The skin there is grooved, an impression of the band, all around the digit. There is a slight callus at the base of that third finger, where the ring rubbed my palm. It is safe to say that in the eight plus years since I first put it on that ring has become a part of me.
On the inside of each ring there is an inscription. Mine reads, “In Love Truth M+M 7-26-97”; hers, “In Truth Love M+M 7-26-97”. We both liked the phrase, “in truth there is love, and in love there is truth.” It was pleasing to us to have it inscribed across our rings.
In time we saved our money, and with the gift of her mother’s engagement diamond, we were able to buy a beautiful ring set made of filigreed gold. Michele referred to this as her big ring, and only wore it occasionally for special events. The plain gold band was the real wedding ring to her, and to me.
Her ring was returned to me in a plastic bag. I’ve kept it in the bag, and in my pocket ever since. I could reach in and hold it any time I wanted. Today the constant worrying tore the bag open and her ring popped out. For the first time since she wore it I held it in my hands again. It felt cool and still to my touch, but warmed quickly as I turned it round and round my finger. Both rings are dulled and scuffed with little marks of everyday wear. They are well lived in, like the marriage they represent.
I have both of them on a chain around my neck. Sometimes when I turn they clink together reminding me of all the times we clinked them together holding hands across a table. Clinking our rings was but one of the ways we said, “I love you.” Hearing it again is bittersweet, perhaps slightly more sweet than bitter.
My hand looks empty and odd to me, without the gold band I have worn so long. In my mind I am still married, my heart still belongs to Michele, but the world considers me a widower now. The club of married couples I joined in July 1997 has left me behind. Before marriage I was single and after marriage I was a part of something larger than myself. Now I am not a couple and not single either. Not really. I suppose I am part of a new club, the club of lonely, lost people whose love lives on while their loved one does not.