I met Ruly when she was still called by another name. This was in 2005, when I managed a bookstore. She had a jewelry store upstairs, and came down with a banner that she needed to hang from the air duct several stories above the main floor. I held the banner while she rigged it, and an exchange of maybe fifteen minutes led to my visiting her store for the beautiful silver she carved. Waves, and trees, and moons, and stars. Streaks of resin. Ravens. Owls. Skeletons laughing their way down a river. I loved her work. Started hucking it at a series of girlfriends as though that were romantic.

Who needs a U-Haul when you have hand-carved silver jewelry?

After break ups, I burn everything. But I couldn’t figure out how to burn the silver. Ruly let me use the welder to torch out the resin, flame against the silver to burn it clean. New. By then I was working for her, keeping her books. We’d sit in the studio and talk art as though we were still in graduate school. Reference books everywhere. The tumblers shaking in the background.

I’d already met my wife, and Ruly was the first person I read my vows to. When I’d finished reading, everything was silent, and I thought, “Fuck. They’re terrible.” But that wasn’t the silence. We weren’t even friends yet, Ruly and I. That was still forming. If we were gangsters, you’d have called it an association. The way I dropped in to create order, and she was deep in a spin of chaos.

She’d tell you a candid story of her addiction, but I will tell you that her work got angry — coffins blooming from hearts, holes in everything. She drew skeletons swallowed into the earth. And then all at once she was done. Sober. Resolved to pay for everything.

Sometimes we’d hand guilt back and forth, the way you do when you’re in the middle of a redemption story. Trying to be good when being good seems like such dreary fucking work.

What are you working on?

I’ve known Ruly for twelve years, and worked for her for seven, and today she gave me a new wedding ring because I outgrew my last one. Yesterday her cat died. She started crying when she was telling me about it. And then I started crying because that’s the fucking worst, man.

“I know you know how this feels,” she said.

Of course I knew. And she knew I knew because we’ve been friends a long time. Long enough for me to see her work become the most astounding hand-made art ever. She’s making me an anchor heart complete with arteries and rigging. It’s funny how the rigging has come full circle. Full heart.

I don’t think we get as many friendships as we expect. The kind that feel like a mitt. As though you can actually see evidence of the ball striking — the wear, the comfort, the aptitude. My wife is covered in Ruly’s jewelry. And I have this small, perfect ring that winds on and on. A loop of pain and joy and love and art and waves of leaves winding round and round and round. She calls it her Growth Ring. Oh yes, sister. Yes.

Posted in Writing | 4 Comments

4 Responses to Rings

  1. Shelly says:

    “What are you working on?

    Nice. You’re right, too, of course: we don’t get as many friendships as we expect. I thought, probably, as a child, that they would be infinite. But they are the exact opposite.

    • Jill says:

      I’m reading the Penderwicks series and it’s filled with nostalgia, and idyllic days of soccer and reading and sisterhood. The novels are lovely. I don’t miss being a child, but I miss the world before cell phones.

  2. Alexandra says:

    As always, your words are some of the most poignant, touching, and heartfelt to the core.

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