The Ring

My left hand is ringless. The wedding band lies on a tray on the dresser in our bedroom, along with assorted jewelry.  Is this the sign of a marriage gone south?  Hardly.  The only thing that would be going south right now is my wife and I.  Because outside the wind howls and the temperature is dropping like the broken seeds of the sunflower mixture in our bird feeder.  Mariam reports from the kitchen that it is currently 14.2℉.  By 2:00 am, when I make my first trip to the bathroom (it’s a prostate thing), it’ll be -6℉.  It’ll bottom out at -12℉ in the wee hours.

So, what’s the deal with the ring?  In truth, I’m losing weight and a few weeks ago I tested the ring by lightly shaking my hand on the bed cover.  It slipped off.  I had a little clamp thing on it to keep is snug and safe on my ring finger but it broke.  For now it will rest, in security, on our dresser.

I have rarely taken it off in our 25+ years of marriage.  Why should I?  If I were out to ‘get lucky’ at the local pub…and I slid it off my finger, it would leave a white, unweathered ‘ring’ on the finger in question.  That would a dead give away for any twenty-something who had mistaken me for George Clooney (refer to my Facebook profile photo).

And I would never do such a thing anyway.  I can barely comprehend life without her.  She gets frustrated on her computer, but she’ll sit in my office for hours and we will read aloud the drafts of a novel I would be working on.  (A novel that will sell approximately 43 copies.)  Mariam will drop anything to help me with something that is beyond my ability.  She saved my life by locating the best hematologist in New York City, in 2003 when I was diagnosed with a rare leukemia.  She slept on a cot while I went through ten days of chemo.  She stayed on the phone (while she was working at Mount Sinai) for hours until we secured tickets to see the Rolling Stones.  She never denies my need to see Bob Dylan whenever he plays near us.  She lets me roam at will in a Barnes & Nobel…and even tells me which credit card to use.

[Mariam in 2017]

Twenty-two years ago, when I turned fifty, she asked me what I wanted.  I humbly suggested a 28″ sailboat or a 1952 MG TD (with wire wheels).  That’s when I think she started secretly stashing away money for one or the other.

We’ve traveled a great deal, especially since she finally retired after over fifty years in health care.  We’ve been to Paris, London, Belgium, Alaska, Istanbul, Ireland, Germany and countless other places.  And, we’re about to spend the winter in England and returning home aboard the Queen Mary 2., for the second time.

She is my wife and my best (and sometimes I feel my only) friend.

So, why this post?  Why now?  It’s not her birthday nor our anniversary.  It’s not Mother’s Day.  It’s just another day I wake next to my wife and feel that I could write a simple blog to brighten her day.  In the middle of a snowy and cold winter, she needs a lift.

After she reads this (which she will proof) I’m counting on her being a tiny bit happier.  So, now is the time to quietly mention the sailboat and the MG.

[In Istanbul. Circa: late 1990’s]

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Confessions of a Reluctant Portal

People either hate me or love me.  I wish they would decide and stop being so fickle.  People are so fickle.

I can’t help being what I am.

Well, maybe that isn’t totally true.  Perhaps I am paying for some long-forgotten sin or just ‘doing time’ while I wait for the cycle.  But, don’t think I haven’t entertained the idea, dare I say it, that I am actually being rewarded in this heaven for a good deed that no person on earth can recall?

People look at me and see a simple mail slot.  But, I am much more than that.

I can be a savior and allow a person’s day to be the happiest they’ve had in a year…or a decade.  Or, I can be bearer of the bleakest news.

As the savior, through me can pass the post card from a foreign land, a note from the girl (or guy) down the hall asking a favor…or a date, a tax return to help with the rent, an invitation to a party or a letter declaring everlasting love and forgiveness to the one who sits in a tatty chair and watches and waits for a signal from me that something is about to drop to the floor.

As the gate-keeper for sadder stuff, I can let slide a sympathy card, a Dear John letter, a post card from a missing child that says they will never come home again…”thanks, but no, I’m happy here in Mexico”, a notice of overdue rent, a summons, a shabby piece of junk mail, a phone bill, an electric bill or the newspaper that carries the obituary of one’s childhood sweetheart.

People fail to realize that I can see two worlds at once. On one side, I see the indifference of the letter-carriers as they amble down the hallway.  They might glance at the return address; holding up the hallway light, but only to smile, frown or simply shuffle through their fist-full of mail.  Looking inward, I can see the loneliness, grief, misery, the bottle and the gun on the table, and the chin of an unshaven man or the mascara stained cheeks of a bottle-blonde who put on too much lipstick on a Saturday night …again.  I may even be witness to a happy couple, she in a polka-dot dress and he in a stained white undershirt, playing a game of canasta on the kitchen table, two bottles of long-neck Pabst Blue Ribbon at their elbows.

I am also the revealer of dark secrets…as seen when a pencil pushes my lid up and a pair of wet panic stricken eyes peer through me to witness acts of betrayal and lust.

But always in the background is the faded gardenia wallpaper, a dresser with a yellowed doily and a vase of plastic flowers.  In the outside world of the hallway, a fresh coat of tan paint is added every year.  My door is slathered with a chocolate brown high gloss enamel. Someone, though, takes the time to apply gobs of Brasso to me and makes me shine, for awhile.  This inside room changes little over the year.  Same set, different cast.

So, what about my fate?  In another time I may have been fashioned into a knocker on a stately manor house, the brass knob of a bordello in Memphis, a germ-covered handle on a schoolroom full of frightened and sickly children.  This building will eventually fall or get razed and I’ll be recycled into something else entirely. A key maybe, or a tap-dancing cleat, or a hub nut on a New York City taxi.  One way or another I will exist indefinitely…unlike those whose lives play out on either side of me.

I just wish people would decide if they love me or hate me.

I’m just not used to swinging both ways.Image