Monday, May 4, 2009

Diamonds


During my senior year of college, I was dating someone (who has been referenced before in this blog; the person who came to visit me while I was living in Paris; a person who may someday end up in another post labeled "Jerks I've Known") who was nearly ten years older than I, and who was fairly serious within our relationship back then. I, knowing that my life path was about to take a giant, swerving turn after graduation, was floundering. It was a messy time, emotionally. And into the mess was brought . . . diamonds. I don't remember now if the gift was for my birthday or for Christmas or some other occasion. Birthday, I think. We were going out to dinner (probably to our favorite, cozy French bistro), and my guy drove his secondhand powder blue Beemer over to pick me up. I remember that when I opened the door to my apartment, he was standing in the carpeted hallway in his black-suited best with a cat-and-canary grin. I let him in. This is when he gave me the box—a box that screamed "diamonds" or rather (I mistakenly thought), "diamond!" in the singular. It was a ring box, and although I was never one to heap romantic expectations onto people or events, still . . . a kind of mental-emotional vertigo came over me. The scene—no, actually just the box—smacked of a marriage proposal that, at that moment in time, I could have felt at best ambivalent about. The box was a hard, square shell with hinges and rounded corners; it was covered in a pale gray velvet. When I opened it, my eye met sparkle. The box was lined with cream-colored satin, and on the cushiony bed there was . . . a pair of diamond stud earrings. I was immediately, internally embarrassed for my erroneous (and vain?) assumptions and also completely relieved that I'd been wrong. And I was delighted with the earrings. They were quite small, a fact I loved. Discreet and brilliant. They were the first and only diamonds that any man had ever given me—and this is still the case, since my true engagement ring of eight years later was a slim, solid platinum band, and my wedding ring has four just-as-small diamonds that I myself had mounted from an old setting that used to belong to my grandmother. I am not "into" diamonds. I love watching Marilyn Monroe do her number as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but I generally prefer these stones on other women. Although maybe, now that I'm turning forty I'll revise my opinion à la Holly Golightly from Breakfast At Tiffany's; they'll no longer be "tacky" on me at that age, and I've got enough white streaks in my hair to set diamonds off nicely! Anyway, these diamond studs: for some reason, I am meant to have them. Despite the break-up that came a season later, despite the fact that I refused to wear them for years at a time, for all sorts of reasons, and despite two near losses. Once, I remember, I was wearing them on a trip to Florida with my parents to visit my grandmother (the one whose ring I inherited), and when we arrived at her house, I noticed that one of the studs was no longer in my ear. I assumed it was lost for good—what were the odds that, on a journey of jostling transportation, it had not fallen out in a cab, airport, or in the plane; or that a tiny diamond stud would turn up anywhere at all? I did a search and at first came up empty-handed. Eventually, perhaps a day later, the earring dropped to the carpet at my feet, falling from where it must have gotten stuck in a cardigan and managed to cling there. The other almost-loss was not long after I got married. Maybe that's symbolic. I don't remember where it was when I found it, weeks after thinking that I'd just have a single stud to wear in that extra piercing I sport in my left lobe. But today, I have the two earrings . . . and the memories that go with them, the sometimes-guilt and sadness that the jewelry outlasted the feelings for the person who gave it (though I dispense with this guilt in accounting for the pieces of my antique furniture that he agreed to care for but utterly ruined about a decade after our initial split). Whether a woman should keep jewelry from long-dead love affairs is not really the point. Maybe there is no point at all; it's just a memory. Just a spark of fire in a stone, a flash of natural beauty, cut, that will outlast us all.

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