Last Wednesday I took a silversmithing class. Nothing formal, just an evening with an SCA acquaintance who's been making jewelry for the last 30 years. The project for the evening: make a ring out of sheet silver and wire and a semiprecious stone. It took about two and a half hours, including time to hide and correct all my mistakes, and I ended up with a largish, heavy ring set in red onyx, the kind you see in craft fairs by the dozen. I got the same thrill I always do when I do something for the first time, or apply old skills in a new way. I spend my days working with intangibles, data on a screen, ideas represented on paper, and it was so good to see something real taking shape under my hands. It didn't matter that I had very little idea of what I was doing; Jeff is a good teacher, and silver is a very forgiving metal.

As I was polishing the ring with a cloth and jeweler's rouge, something jumped unasked and unwanted into my forebrain.

"I could have kept her with this."

I nearly dropped the ring. I've talked about "her" on the list before; the ex-fiancee who accepted my suit, then came to me the next day and told me the ring was too small for her taste. It fit fine; the band was too thin and the stone too small. Tara and I hashed it out long ago, even tried to make another go at things, but it still didn't work. I've been single now for almost a year, in a self-imposed celibacy that comes as much from fear as it does from self-analysis. I'm afraid that the next relationship I enter will be just as disappointing, and end just as badly.

In some small way, I blame myself partly for it. The ring had been given to me by a female friend, to use as a costume piece. It was gold, set with an emerald and two diamond chips. Rather than spend money I didn't have, I had the ring resized for her. That, as much as the size of it, was the reason Tara gave for not liking it: it wasn't "hers". Did I really love her if I considered a second-hand ring to be adequate?

I thought I had resolved most of these questions. I knew my motives for asking her to marry me; I was afraid she'd leave me if I didn't. I even knew why I used that particular ring; I didn't want to invest in her. But as I shaped the wire and plate and solder into something much more valuable, I started to wonder...

A few pennyweights of silver, an unset stone bought wholesale, a couple hours' work... would things have been different? Would she have done what she did?

Would it have been worth it?

To be honest, probably not. Marriage to Tara would not have been good for either one of us. Both of us too young, both of us with our own private demons that we fight with varying success. But there's still that small voice that won't listen to logic and ignores all evidence to the contrary.

"I could have kept her with this."

© copyright, 1999, Vincent Cuenca
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