“The Rings,” by Jennifer Woodworth

“The Rings”

My husband was a carpenter with hands so big he could wrap them all the way around me. Since I had put off getting my husband’s wedding ring until the day before the wedding, the artist made it for me in one day. He was not a jeweler. He made art with metal and stone. He made my husband a thick, wide, rounded ring.This ring will always feel good on his hand, even when he’s working.

I inscribed it in my own hand. I made bronze sculpture, so I understood the crafting of metal. I watched the artist turn the little gold bar into a circle, join it together, and polish it to hide the weld. I wanted to remember the heat that made this ring, so I asked him not to hide the weld on the inside. My inscription began there and ended there.

The weld inside is also the joining of lives.

The ring was heavy and warm like a ripe peach in my hand.

I made the ring with soft gold. When he gets old, it will tell the story of his life.

We were married in my husband’s house in the winter. He was an excellent hunter. He was proud of the huge antlers he hung on his walls. They were scarred and sometimes broken—courtship, clashes, close calls.

The only heat came from the woodstove my husband had built. It seemed strange to me that he had hidden and polished his welds on his stove—I loved the jagged scars welds made: I sought them out; I created them; I wanted to see the mystery of proud flesh healing in my work.

I uncurled my fingers when my husband said, “With this ring, I thee wed.” I was afraid to look at his face, so I watched the two cats sleeping under the woodstove instead. It occurred to me suddenly that my husband wouldn’t have hidden the welds underneath the stove. He made his vows while he nudged a lacy antique ring over my knuckle. The ring was elegant and unusual. I thought it was perfect for me.

I stared at my new ring. I was silent. I looked up, searching for my husband’s face, but all I could find were the antlers. They had grown wild and twisted. Turns, forks, splits, scars, broken places. I lost my voice in the thicket.

When I could speak again, I said, “With this ring, I thee wed,” and made my vows. I slipped the heavy ring on my husband’s giant hand.

Whenever I saw that wide band on his hand, I remembered that we were just married, and I took him to bed.

Is that why you married me? just to get me in bed?

Of course.

My own beautiful ring hit a bone in my little finger, hurting me, so I took it off and my hand was bare. My husband still wore his ring.

A few months after the wedding, my best efforts to get him in bed began to fail because things had gone so wrong between us. We got a divorce.

But I couldn’t leave. The day the papers came, we sat silently at the picnic table in the back yard. As soon as it got dark, we began to make love, making love on the table, in the grass, in the kitchen, in our bed. Our marriage was better because we were no longer married. We made love all the time. We stayed together .

He had never taken off his ring and I was glad because I still loved him very much.

One summer day, walking hand-in-hand, we stopped to look in a jeweler’s window at a display of wedding bands. I wanted a plain, gold band. Simple and small and rounded at the edges so that it would always feel good on my hand. Let’s get a wedding ring for me. Then we’ll both have one. I showed my husband exactly which one I wanted, and I asked him for it.

After the waiter brought the dessert to our table, my husband took a ring from his pocket and put it in my hand. I stared at the ring in my palm. It had a strange shape—it was round and elegant on one edge, sharp and square on the other. The ring was all wrong; the composition was unbalanced. I couldn’t understand why anyone would make a ring that way.

I went to the jeweler where we saw that ring in the window. I asked him to cut my ring half—one for you—

I only knew one way to cut a ring in half like that: the jeweler cuts the ring at the weld and opens it. Without changing the thickness of the ring, he straightens it so that it looks like a little gold bar again. He slits the gold down the thick part in the middle. Then he bends the two new bars into two circles and welds them closed again.

I looked at my husband’s wonderful hand and I saw that what he said about his ring was true. But I let him put the ring on my finger. The sharp edge of the ring and my half of the inscription cut into my skin. We walked around out of balance for a while until I left the misshapen ring on his kitchen table and moved away.

Printed with permission by Jennifer Woodworth, copyrighted by Jennifer Woodworth @ 2009.

Author: A Room of Her Own

Share This Post On