This summer, Dustin lost his wedding band in the Penobscot River at the base of Mount Katahdin. I give him credit for keeping it as long (12 years) as he did. A person who regularly loses just one shoe cannot be expected to keep up with a 5 mm piece of gold. Interestingly, however, it took only one month for Dustin to forget that he needed a replacement. I seemed to be the only one with “get new wedding band” at the top of my to-do list.
Once the kids were back in school, we made a date of it. Naturally, memories arose of our first time. We were living in Pensacola, Fla., and we bought our rings at a small, local jeweler downtown. We had always intended to have them engraved, but depending on whom you ask, that never happened. (Dustin feels certain his first ring was engraved. Not likely since mine is not. But I’m not diving into the Penobscot to prove my point.) I remember eating Mexican food for lunch afterward and strolling down Palafox Street hand-in-hand.
Our second trip was not so leisurely. Lindell would be out of preschool by 11:30 a.m., and Dustin still had to go to work. Going to buy a wedding band seemed more like a necessity than an event.
We walked into the jeweler and found the case filled with men’s rings. There, Dustin picked out what seemed to be the first thing he saw.
Let me backtrack and tell you that Dustin’s old ring was completely ordinary. Dustin, you could argue, is ordinary. His closet is filled with striped shirts in various shades of blue. He never wears anything besides plain jeans (always the same cut; always the same shade of denim) or khaki pants. He has had the same brown leather belt since he was 21.
Going to buy shoes with Dustin is a mild form of torture. He tries on every shoe at every store in the entire city, deliberates for weeks, then, ultimately, ends up buying a pair that looks and fits exactly like his old pair. And he never throws anything away (well, except for his wedding ring). Rows of identical, old shoes line our basement and garage.
Because “you never know when you might need a pair of old shoes to mow the lawn.”
Every Halloween Dustin wears the same costume: Where’s Waldo.
So forgive me when I tell you that I laughed out loud at the ring Dustin first chose. It was thick, with squared sides and modern etching. The model on the poster was young, hip and dressed all in black.
“What, you don’t think it’s ‘me’?” Dustin asked when he saw my shock.
I nudged him toward the style I knew — because I’ve been shoe-shopping with him — he’d ultimately end up with: The one that looks just like the old ring.
“Do you think those look like something I’d wear?” he asked.
“You wore one just like it for 12 years.”
The salesperson measured Dustin’s finger and slid the correct size onto his hand.
Beads of sweat formed on Dustin’s brow. His breathing was shallow. “I think it’s stuck,” he said.
He pulled at the ring, jamming it against his large knuckle, until the skin on his finger was red and swollen.
The salesperson assured him it was a good fit.
Naturally, I thought Dustin’s struggle — his panic — was symbolic. I watched him suffer.
Once he got the ring over his knuckle and off his finger, he laid the band on the glass counter and said he could never wear anything like that.
Should have thought of that 12 years ago, Dusty.
The salesperson looked at me thoughtfully. Then she gave Dustin a ring one size larger.
That one was too big. Dustin was afraid he’d lose it.
Size, it seems, does matter.
Dustin was completely conflicted: “If I get the smaller one, what if my finger swells in the heat? Or if I get the larger one, what will happen in the winter?”
I reminded him that I’ve worn the same ring through three pregnancies and multiple stages of larger- and smaller-size clothing. I took off my band and showed him that my finger has literally grown around my rings. Indeed, my ring finger is quite deformed. Ring or no ring, I could never pass as single.
True, Dustin’s finger has been spared the misshapenness that mine has endured. (Perhaps his old ring was bigger?) But it is contained just the same.
We bought the plain band and left it with mine to finally get engraved.
On the way home, I looked at my suddenly bare, disfigured finger. How long would it take for the skin to bounce back, to regain its usual shape? Probably never.
I looked at Dustin’s hand — his smooth, symmetrical fingers — on the steering wheel and comforted myself with this: His are misshapen, too — if only metaphorically.