I can deal with it all except that goddamn ring.
He still wears his. Always has, I guess. It's on his pinky finger, a silver band with markings that don't mean much, unless you recognize it for what it is. They're used for wedding bands, for God's sake--I didn't realize that until I Googled the image. Song of Solomon. Calling me his, and him mine. That has to have been weird even at the time.
He wears it, he says, as a self-referential joke. The ultimate narcissism, and a sign of his sense of humor. He is his own beloved. And even though I get it, I don't think it's all that funny.
I still have mine. I could pretend I don't know where it is, but if I stretch my mind out, I can see the envelope it's in, the box of mementos. I remember where it is. What I don't remember is wearing it. I have no memory of which finger it fit, or of the day I decided to take it off. I scan through old pictures and finally spot it, on the middle finger of a clenched fist. Even with the visual prompt, it seems wrong. When I close my eyes to imagine it, I see it only on his finger, his hands always in motion, flipping a pen around in a way I tried for years to copy and have never been able to emulate.
More than anything, that's what I hate. Trying to remember this piece of my own past and being able to see it only through the lens of him. I don't have any idea how I felt when he gave me that ring, if I was excited, if I thought it was romantic. I don't have any idea how it felt to wear it, or to take it off. All I know is the irony he's turned his into. My history is erased.
Our entire interaction is like that, really. I listen while he talks, and I watch that ring flash, and I feel the pieces of who I am slip away like they're in low gravity. Nothing that comes out of my mouth sounds right, and it's like I'm watching myself, watching this scene between these awkward people. Why are these people having dinner, a drink? What do they hope to gain from spending this time? Are they telling themselves they are friends?
Every year, I forget a little more about the time we were "together"--whatever together meant then. I don't want him back; he's not the one who got away. Seeing him doesn't bring any of that up. It feels, instead, like I am an amnesiac being introduced to someone who was important in her life once, provided with objects that should prompt memories, and coming up blank. As if all I really know about that time--what should have been such an important time--is what he's telling me. And I should believe it. He still has that ring on. That proves something, right?
If life had easy cinematic symbolism, it would mean something that he still wears that ring and that mine is in a box. But it doesn't, and I believe him when he says that he wears it because he likes the way it looks, and the joke it makes. After all these years, it shouldn't bother me that the joke is at my expense. It underscores, though, the strangeness of an evening spent with him. While he's in front of me, I'm amused, smiling and laughing until my cheeks ache. Afterward, I'm cold. I can't remember anything he said, or even tell you how he looked, how he's aging. All I can see is that goddamn ring, and the only memory I can call up is a brutal one, ending in my rejection. I was sitting on a washing machine, in what I only now realize is a bookend to the washing machine I sat on the night we got together. I feel again as if this is being staged, and I'm walking ignorantly through my part, bumping into stuff. I search for a word for this feeling and can come up only with inadequate.