baa baa black sheep

1.17.2007

Tuesday

7:31 a.m.

Late yesterday afternoon I noticed one of the rubies in my engagement ring was loose. Since I work with my hands all day, and the ring sometimes gets knocked about quite a bit, I immediately put down the frame I was working on and asked my boss where I could get it fixed. She recommended a small shop downtown, and told me to "go now!"

So I slipped on my coat, and clutching the ring in my left hand, walked carefully over the crunchy snowy sidewalks, crossed a few icy streets, to the jeweler.

The shop was tiny, cold, with huge windows and paintings hung precariously to the ceiling. Collections of mason jars and old brown and green bottles sat in the gray windows. It was dark, with the only lights shining inside the three cluttered glass display cases and the light above the jeweler's work station. He was scruffy, with rumpled hair, and dressed in layers of fleece. On the phone, he discussed what to have for dinner. He said, "Okay, I gotta go. There's a nice girl here." He said, "Okay baby, I love you." He said, "I'll see you tonight. Can't wait."

To me he explained, "I'm making dinner tonight."

I showed him the ring, and he said he could fix it while I waited. So I sat in a chair and looked around at the paintings and his jewelry in the case next to me. He told me the rubies were nice ones, he talked about his business, the fate of small business and downtown, and we talked about art. An older woman came in, laughing and chattering. She pulled up a stool next to the jeweler's table. The phone rang, he talked briefly, then told the caller, "Okay, but I gotta go, I've got two young ladies here waiting for repairs." The woman laughed and said to me, "I guess I should pay more for the compliment!"

After ten more minutes, while I sat in my chair and the woman sat in her stool, teasing the jeweler relentlessly, he was done with both our rings.

She paid for hers, a complete resetting of her mother's engagement ring, and when I pulled out my wallet for mine, he said, "Oh, no charge. I tighten and clean for free." "No, but I want to pay you! Let me give you something." "No, no charge."

The other woman said, "Honey, it's true. He's great!"

I slipped the ring back onto my finger, and thanked him repeatedly, and the woman and I left, a little bell on the shop door tinkling in the cold. I walked slowly, to match her pace, because she was talking to me. We crossed the icy street carefully, while she worried about how cold it was in the jeweler's shop. She showed me her mother's ring, which was silver with a big black stone, and a diamond swimming in the middle of the black. She showed me how the jeweler had inserted a spring into her own wedding band, so it would fit over her swollen arthritic knuckles. She pulled her hat down further over her white hair. She talked about ice, and turquoise. Finally we paused at her car, and I said, "Goodbye, have a good evening!" "Goodbye, honey!" she called.

The ice around her parked car scared me. The grayness of the sky from the gathering darkness, and the buildings, and the sludge of dirty snow, and the cold air the crows and pigeons seemed to cut through, it all scared me a bit. For her. But she got into the car safely, and I walked quickly back to work. It was so cold.

Cold lingered in my hair, in my sleeves.

"Did he fix it?"

"Yeah, for free. He tightened all the rubies up."

"Good! Sometimes he's slow, so that's good. I'm going home early. I'm cold, and my house is warm. I think the boiler's broken." She grabbed a green box of cigarettes and shook one out. "But first I'm having a cigarette. Do you care if I go home early today? I just want to."

"No, go home. I'm staying 'til six."

"Okay. Thanks. I just want to go home."

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