Monday, January 05, 2004

There's a bronze ring on my the middle finger of my right hand, a Valentine's gift from Christie. It's only recently that I've been wearing it regularly, because it's only recently that I've decided it's worth the occasional green circle to be able to look down and imagine the life of its previous owner. He might have been a soldier, drawn by duty or desperation to defend the Roman republic, then sent off to war. Or he might have been a farmer, drawn east by the promise of land, then driven by fear to bury his few valuables as war reared its head. All I really know is that it was found in what used to be Macedonia, in surroundings that suggest a date of around the first century A.D.

Of course, that's not all I think about when I look down at this ring. The woman who gave it to me is, not to put too fine a point on it, amazing. She's got the quickest wit of anyone I've ever been lucky enough to cross swords with, and mind-boggling stores of wisdom, knowledge, compassion and intelligence. She's also sexy as hell, but there are rumors that her mother reads this blog, so I'll just leave it at that. If she and I ever do break up, she'll be the ex- all my future girlfriends would hate hearing about. As I understand it, though, break-ups are not necessarily inevitable. Apparently there's also happy ever after (followed by death, of course, but that's another post).

Why am I telling you this? If you really want to follow the chain,Aubrey quoted Miss Brown as saying "almost every single person on the planet believes that if this one sentence was said to them by the right person at the right place or at the right time or with the right words, everything the person longed for would come true". That struck a chord with me, but not an immediate "that's me" kind of chord. I'd expected to be the speaker, not the one spoken to. I'm awfully good with words, so over the years I came up with a few pretty good candidates for life-changing sentences. But, strangely enough, none of them actually changed anything. No matter how often I said them.

I kept trying, though, because that's what you do. And if the magic sentences never worked, it was just because I hadn't found the right one. Occasionally, the sentence seemed to do the trick. I'd say the words, and she'd melt into my arms, and things would be wonderful. For about a week. Cuz people are stubborn and words are cheap, and no matter how hard I tried to completely give myself over to a relationship, some part of myself would hang back, feeling lost or feeling pissed. And that, my friends, cannot last.

So, when what you're doing isn't working, what do you do? Well, if you're a Republican, the answer would have to be either "Tax cuts!" or "9/11!", but for the rest of us, it's "Do something else." Thus I find myself, at the pleasant age of 33, realizing that "me" and "we" are not an either/or choice, that trust does not require certainty (quite the opposite, actually), and that patience is infinitely more important than finding the right words.

I really meant to come back to the ring here at the end. Maybe something about writing, or how it's changed the way I think about furniture, that I try to build it for somebody's grandkids as much as I'm building it for today. Or maybe something about the blur of centuries disbursing the good and evil that we do into so much background noise that is all but drowned out by the cries of generation after generation of newborns who care nothing for the struggles of those who came before them until they themselves are fed and warmed. But how some pieces come through whole, like a fragment of a wall in London, a cheap bronze ring, or a few words thrown together, "da basia mille, deinde centum", and we're transported into a world that could no more envision our lives than we could guess at the lives our grandchildren's children might have, let alone those 2,000 years hence.

But that's a lot of words about a third-place band of metal beaten out of round by the years. And coming back to the ring takes the focus away from the woman who gave it to me, and who is patiently helping me to trust life enough to again make plans, a process that is, I admit, helped when I step back and view my life from 2,000 years away.

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