Three years ago Hal bought me an engagement ring. The story may sound familiar if you were one of the twenty-six people besides my parents who bought my book - which ends with Hal on one knee in Archer's nursery, asking me to marry him two years after we already said "I do."
About a month before Hal and I bought me the ring I had called him from a SXSW to tell him I didn't love him anymore. That I was sure I was ready to end things - that I felt happier than I had in weeks, months, maybe even years. That we weren't meant to be together. Not as a married couple, anyway. That I was done trying to revive our dead relationship with blood transfusions. I was light-headed. We both were.
When I came back to Los Angeles via a "gather-my-thoughts-interlude" in San Diego with my parents, Hal and I spent a lot of time crying. Together. Apart. Together...
We shouted horrible things at each other before pushing hard in opposite directions. Bleeding all over the floor with uninsured wounds. Losing track of sleepless nights, we listed reasons why we should stay together then compared them to all of the reasons we should break up.
Finally, it all came down to our seemingly only common denominator. Archer. He was our overlap in the Venn diagram. He was our reason to wage war for peace.
"For Archer," we said to each other every time we fought. Doubted. Hated. Wanted to run away.
So we started seeing a marriage counselor - equally willing to do whatever it took to make each other happy again, because once upon a time, we were happy. We could swear to god we were.
We found the ring at a vintage jewelry store dot com. Hal was plagued by the fact that he never got a chance to propose to me...
"If your marriage is on the rocks, why ring shop?" people asked.
"I don't know."
Maybe it was because everything we'd done since meeting was backwards? It only made sense we would get engaged whilst contemplating divorce.
I knew it was the one immediately. A champagne diamond cut in half fused with black onyx: one stone made of two materials, darkness and light. The ring was a symbol of what our marriage had been and what it would always be should we choose to stay together: a balancing act of highs and lows, champagne and darkness - a reminder that no marriage is perfect least of all ours.
I wrote in my book about the day the ring came in the mail. I wrote about how Hal got down on one knee in Archer's bedroom, asked me to STAY married to him...
What I didn't write about was that until that moment came I didn't know how I wanted to answer. I didn't know if I was going to say yes.
The next six-months were just as precarious as the two years that came before them. Every day was a struggle. Us screaming and Archer crying and me hitting my head against the wall like an addict withdrawing from her past. So many nights lost, us sleepless with back facing back, staring at two separate walls.
Meanwhile, the ring, our ring started shedding diamond chips.
One fell out within the first week of the ring's life on my finger. We replaced it and then several months another one was lost. Then another. Six months = three diamonds out. Three diamonds in. Three hundred bucks = him: "why must the damn thing break so easily." me: "that's just life?"
That was until the ring finally broke broke - its platinum setting cracked down the middle after my dogs pulled their leashes against it one day on a walk. The entire ring would have to be reformed, its setting soldered back together. It was a six-hundred dollar repair and we didn't have the money to get it fixed so I put it in a drawer and waited...
We waited through the end of Summer as we began to communicate with one another without yelling. We waited through the Fall as we resumed saying "I love you" before bed. We waited through Thanksgiving, asleep on each other's shoulders on the airplane back to Los Angeles. We waited through Christmas when we held hands under the table and New Years when we spent the eve wrapped up in old blankets, watching home videos of Archer as a newborn. One month later we were pregnant. And then Fable was born. And then and then and then and thenthenthen two years had come and gone and still the broken ring sat in its box in my top drawer.
...Until this past Mother's Day when Hal gave me a card with a "coupon" for one fixed post-marriage engagement ring.
A month ago, I went to have the ring repaired. It would only take a week, I was told, so seven days later I returned to the jeweler, ecstatic to finally wear the ring after more than two years.
...A diamond was missing.
It must have fallen off en route from the jeweler's workshop. The man at the front desk was mortified.
"This has never happened before!" he said. "We'll replace the diamond free of charge. We're so very sorry."
I explained to the man that the ring had issues since the beginning - it was delicate and sensitive and prone to loose stones, repairs, patience, but it, this ring was a survivor. A SURVIVOR!
I came home empty-handed. It would take another week until the ring was repaired.
This time Hal and I weren't surprised.
"Eh, I figured."
"Yeah, me too."
The ring is back for now. It has its stones, its setting mended. And yet we suspect, as it so typically does, the ring will break again. One of the stones will fall out, need to be replaced, mended, its setting cracked a hundred more times during the course of our union.
I wear the ring every day. As a reminder, not only of our love and commitment to each other, but of our broken selves -- and all the times we wanted to leave each other but didn't, all the times we WILL want to leave each other but won't. The times we have before and will again threaten to divide - totally natural for two such incongruent forces, people, stones.
Marriage is as hard as love is easy -- a venture as romantic as an open wound, seamless as a patchwork quilt, fragrant as an alley after hours. And yet, here we sit, howevermanyyears later: side by side, stinky, bloody, inside out in love and every day working together to maintain that. Reminding ourselves that balance takes a lifetime to achieve. That we are a family by choice rather than blood ties and types, that sometimes the only way to find the vein is to make a fist...
In order to fuse well we had to first acknowledge the sharp angles and lines that separated us. That will always separate us. For us it took time and much war, but eventually we found our peace by missing piece.
Everything good and important and worthy must break from time to time. Otherwise, it would never know its worth. Otherwise it would just effortlessly exist, like heaven and other man-made ideas that lure with the hands of invisible salesman.
Some things must break in order to be appreciated for their repair.