Only weeks after our one-year anniversary, I broke my wedding ring. I’m talking a full-on, cracked-into-pieces scenario. It was one of those slow-motion disasters that took a fraction of a second but seemed to last minutes. And as I watched the symbol of our marriage shatter across the sidewalk, the one thought gnawing at the pit of my stomach was: How am I going to tell my husband?
It happened on my way out of the gym, where I always take my ring off and put it on my keychain until I can shower. I jumped on my bike and sped off to work with my keychain still in one hand. It slipped out of my sweaty palm and my ring, made of black industrial-grade ceramic, hit the cement in just the right way, sending shards scattering into the street.
Constantino isn’t sentimental about most objects; in fact, we joke that if something hasn’t been used in our apartment in the past 24 hours, he asks if he can throw it out. His sentimentality over things does exist, but it’s concentrated into only a few choice items, small enough to fit into a shoebox we have stored in our apartment. The only things he truly cares for are some letters, photos, and tiny mementos from throughout his life (and his iPhone, but that’s a whole other post).
Our wedding rings, I was sure, fell within the purview of those sacred objects. When Constantino broke one of the stone cross pendants he had bought for us in lieu of engagement rings, he had been distraught and on the verge of tears. How much more upset would he be by a broken wedding ring? My initial reaction was to revert to a childhood tactic that has never worked well for me: hide my mistake.
I hid my broken ring for the better part of two weeks, wearing the biggest intact piece around my finger with some electrical tape to hold it on. How Constantino never noticed my janky construction is a mystery to me. I had ordered a replacement ring, and before it arrived I knew I would tell him what had happened, but there never seemed to be a good time. He’s in such a good mood right now, I would tell myself; I don’t want to disrupt that. This was not one of my prouder moments.
During that period of subterfuge, I was so preoccupied by Constantino’s feelings that it took me time to discover how upset I was over the broken ring. I’m even less sentimental than him, but our wedding ring was something different. It was an object that had been present at our nuptials, and had been the very thing representing our commitment to each other. The replacement ring I had ordered would always be a replica, a counterfeit of the real thing. If I lingered too long on that thought, it was me who ended up on the verge of tears.
It’s true, though: my broken wedding ring was special and unique, but only because I ascribed value to it. My ring was not special to the factory worker who cut and polished it, or the ring merchant who pulled it out of a bin of hundreds of rings and mailed it to me. But to me, because of our shared experience, the ring was something very special.
It reminded me of a passage in one of my favorite books, The Little Prince (which, if you know me, is no large surprise). In it, a boy who lives on a tiny planet with a single rose travels to Earth and is horrified to discover that there are millions of roses on Earth. What he had thought was so unique was actually quite common and mundane. But he comes to the realization that the rose back on his home planet is still special, and he explains this to the other roses:
“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. … “You are beautiful, but you are empty. One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you—the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies) … Because she is my rose.”
That was how I felt about my wedding ring. It was uniquely special to me because of our shared experience and the value I gave it. And this understanding was what helped me realize that my new ring would be just as special. If my broken wedding ring was special only because I designated it as such, then there was no reason I couldn’t assign that same value to my new ring. My broken ring bore witness to my wedding and first year of marriage, but in time my new ring will see Constantino and me through other life benchmarks too: new jobs, perhaps, or a new home. Maybe even a child. The replacement ring will be just as special because it is my ring, a symbol of our marriage.
It is for this same reason that Constantino is so valuable to me. Neither of us is particularly unique; no stranger on the street would give us a second look. But we are special to each other because we have chosen to be. It’s not only that I love him; it’s our shared experience and a value I ascribe to him that is greater than what anyone else does. He is special because of me, and I am special because of him.
Eventually I did confess to Constantino. He was surprisingly zen about my broken ring, and only felt sad for me, knowing the feelings this had stirred. When the new ring arrived, we walked together to a park near our home, and under the cover of trees, Constantino slid it onto my finger repeating the words he spoke at our marriage:
David, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
He was not happy to discover that I had waited two weeks to tell him, but I am his special rose, so he can’t get too angry with me... right?
David Khalaf is a fiction writer living in Portland.
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