I'm just sick. I can't believe it.
When Chris and I first met in June 1992, one of the many things we both agreed on was how much we wanted to wear each other's rings. At the time, gays couldn't be legally married in the province of B.C., but there was nothing to stop us from buying matching rings and wearing them as a symbol of our commitment to, and love for, each other.
After less than ten months of being together, Chris and I bought rings. I happened to be at Metrotown in Burnaby and noticed a big sale going on at Shamins Jewelers, then located in the mall down from The Bay. I popped into the store, saw the exact type of ring Chris and I had said we liked, and discovered we could afford them. A few days later, I convinced Chris to go to Shamins with me so I could show him what I'd found.
The ring buying experience could be a potentially difficult and embarrassing one, I thought. How would it look when two young fellows showed up at the counter and asked to try on matching rings? Would we need to explain what was going on, or could we buy the rings and get the hell out of there without saying a word? Would the sales attendant figure out we were a gay couple and show us through her attitude that she didn't approve of men being in a relationship together? I was thrilled to be with Chris, to finally have someone in my life at the age of thirty-three, but I couldn't face any more ridicule or scorn.
When we got to the store, I admit I was nervous and apprehensive, but I need not have been. A short, young, East Indian boy, no older than sixteen or seventeen, eagerly offered to help us. We proceeded to the location of the glass display case where the rings I'd seen previously were located. I pointed out the rings we were interested in, and we asked to try them on. Both were 10K yellow gold bands with a narrower white gold band around the center. The one I tried on fit me perfectly, but Chris thought his was a little tight and should be loosened. (Later, he regretted his decision to have it adjusted because the ring would feel loose thereafter. But he told me he'd never sized a ring before, so he didn't know how tight it should feel around his finger.)
When it came time to pay for the rings, the young East Indian fellow was so cool. He asked me if I was paying for Chris's, and if he was paying for mine. No hesitation. No judgment. No circus. I was so grateful for his savvy. I guessed that he'd probably helped out other gay couples before, and it didn't matter to him whatsoever that we were buying rings for each other. In some curious way, his cool validated what we were doing, even sanctioned our union, and I appreciated his role in making this event as meaningful as it was for me.
Fast forward to just a few days ago. Chris and I have worn each other's rings ever since. We can marry legally in B.C. now, but our position is, why bother? The exchange of rings between us years ago confirmed that we're a couple, that we're utterly committed to each other, and that we expect to live the rest of our lives together.
I've rarely removed Chris's ring over the years. There are only specific times when I do, for example, when I prepare a meal in the kitchen and my hands get dirty or greasy; when I make my bed in the morning, so I don't scratch the stained wood; when I apply lotion to my hands to counter an ongoing dry skin problem; and when I sit at my writing table, so I don't mark up the slick white finish on the surface. Apart from those occasions, I don't remove it at all. There's no need to.
Except I must have removed it at some point over the past few days, perhaps not even for the usual reasons, perhaps without even realizing it, because I've been without it now for at least a day that I'm aware of. I first noticed it was missing from my wedding finger early yesterday afternoon, after I'd sat down to write. I didn't think anything about it. I'd probably placed it on the kitchen counter, to the left of the sink in front of the picture window, when I had breakfast earlier. I'd check downstairs later when I went to make dinner.
I was next reminded that I wasn't wearing it when Chris noticed it wasn't on my finger as we sat next to each other eating dinner. I got up from my stool then and searched around the usual place on the kitchen counter where I always put it. It wasn't there. Then I expanded the places I looked to kitchen surfaces in general, places I wouldn't normally set it, but, who knows, maybe I did for some reason.
Lately, I've been absentminded beyond reason. Anything is possible these days. Several months ago, Chris and I went shopping in downtown Vancouver, and, at the large HMV store on the corner of Burrard and Robson, I bought the new Kenny Chesny Greatest Hits Volume 2 CD. We listened to it in the car while driving home, and I remember bringing it in the house along with all our shopping bags, but, shortly thereafter, it disappeared. I've searched the house thoroughly for it since, including going through all of our alphabetically arranged CD cases downstairs in the theatre room, but it's no where to be found. Chris and I now think it got caught up in a bunch of newspapers that went into our recycle bin, but we have no idea if this is what really happened. In the meantime, we hold out hope it will turn up, somewhere.
More recently, Chris gave me a card for my fiftieth birthday when we were in Kelowna. I read the card, thanked him for his thoughtfulness, popped it somewhere, then we packed the car and drove back home. To this day, I haven't seen the card again. I've checked virtually everywhere I could have put it in the luggage I used for our Kelowna trip, including zippered pockets that I never use, but to no avail. I even asked my mother if she saw the card somewhere in her house after we left, just in case it fell out, but she didn't.
There's a running joke in our household now--that when we find the Kenny Chesny CD, we'll probably find the birthday card. Add to that now the ring that Chris gave me all those years ago.
I've looked in all the usual places for it, all those where I'm likely to leave it for a short time until I finish what I'm doing and return it to my finger, moving every single item to make sure it hasn't fallen behind something or on the floor. And, since I haven't found it in any of those, I've had to get creative.
Last night, I tore my bed apart, pulling off all the bedding, to see if the ring had fallen off my finger during the night while I was asleep (it's never done that before). I looked under the bed and the night tables in the master bedroom. I looked through all of the drawers in the night tables, in the dresser, and in the vanity of the master bath. I went through all of the garbage in the waste basket in the master bath, one piece at a time, and the same in the writing room. I checked the pockets in all of the clothes I've worn in the past several days.
Ever positive, Chris assured me last evening, after seeing me mope around, that it would turn up. That when I stopped worrying about it, it would appear when I least expected it to. He recalled when we'd been out on the weekend, eating a late lunch on Saturday at the Coquitlam Centre Food Court and on Sunday at the Meadowtown Tim Hortons. When I'd gone to wash my hands in the bathrooms, did I remove the ring, he asked. I was sure I hadn't, because I never remove it and lay it on the counter in case I forget to return to it after I've dried my hands. No, I'm sure I had it right up until Sunday evening, when I went to bed.
This morning, I decided to retrace my steps. I think I last removed the ring two nights ago, while I applied lotion to my hands (I don't like grease all over my ring). I went into the bathroom and looked around there again, even though I'd already checked the bathroom thoroughly yesterday.
What did I do next? I walked to the blinds in the master bedroom and opened them. I did that again, paying attention to everything in the area, just in case I removed Chris's ring for some reason and set it down somewhere. No luck.
Then, I put on a pair of walking shorts and went downstairs to the main living level to open the blinds in the front window, in the two dining room side windows, and, finally, the kitchen window. Even though I checked all around the kitchen window numerous times the previous night, I checked it again this morning, just in case I missed something. (Is it possible rings develop legs, walk away when we're not looking, then return later on, where we find them and wonder how we missed them in the first place? I hope so.)
Next, I climbed the stairs and walked into the writing room to turn on the computer so I could check emails. This morning, I removed everything from the top of the writing table, ridiculously leafed through the pages of books and note pads, magazines and newspaper clippings, and searched the bookcase across from the table, checking to see if, for some inexplicable reason, I'd removed the ring and set it on a shelf in front of some books. Nothing.
The computer back in place, I turned it on, checked for emails, then went downstairs.
By this time, I was getting frantic. I'd already checked all of the places I've left my ring in the past, numerous times, and found nothing, so I knew I had to get more creative. Donning latex gloves, I went through every piece of garbage in the bin under the kitchen sink, piece by piece, and every banana peel, shriveled lettuce leaf, bell pepper top, celery shaving, and discarded green onion cutting in our compost box on the counter. I'm determined that we'll remove nothing from the house until it's gone through thoroughly. Again nothing.
Then I grabbed the keys to the car and went outside. I opened the passenger side door, sat on the seat, and checked everywhere a ring could have fallen (although I was sure it didn't). I got out of the car, crouched down, and peered under the passenger seat to see if anything was there. Only the floor mat from the seat behind, several pieces of dried grass, and a few shards of ice that had fallen into the car when I opened the door. Still nothing.
I returned to the house then, quickly scanned the surfaces in the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen again, as I walked through, and I paused, taking a deep breath. Having looked in most of the places the ring could be, and many it would never be in a million years, I felt a heaviness in my chest. I felt tears form in my eyes, and I forced myself upstairs again, to the master bedroom, where I made the bed, still keeping my eyes open for any place I could have set the ring, and then I went in to the master bathroom to take my shower.
Having eaten breakfast, I sit here now writing this, feeling utterly miserable, wearing Chris's slippers and his army-green fleece, the sleeves rolled up several times. When Chris is away, either at work or visiting his dad in the interior, I feel so much closer to him wearing his clothes. It's almost as if I feel his presence in the same room as me, just because I'm wearing something of his.
Over the years, there have been a few occasions when I've misplaced the ring Chris gave me, but it always turned up after nothing more than a few minutes of looking for it. It's never been missing this long, and the search for it has never been this extensive or felt this hopeless.
That ring is a piece of Chris. Not only does it represent the life we've shared together for so many years, but also it puts me in close proximity to him, whether he's with me in the same room or miles away. Chris gave it to me when he was just twenty-four years old, a mere boy, when our relationship was so new and exciting and scary, and it's come to symbolize everything we are together and to each other. It's just a small, simple band of gold, covered in nicks and scratches, and it didn't even cost that much, but it's worth far more to me now than I could ever have imagined.
Occasionally, Chris and I talk about replacing the rings we initially bought for each other. We laugh and say that when we have the money, we'll buy bigger rings, fancier ones, maybe with several diamonds, ones that closer represent the love we have for each other.
But I know now that I don't want a more expensive ring or a showier one. More than anything, I just want the one Chris bought for me when we went to Shamins, when our relationship was first starting, when we had a whole lifetime ahead of us, when we didn't know for sure that what we shared would last but hoped it would. It did last, and the ring, more than anything else, is a symbol of our enduring commitment and love for each other.
I look at that finger now, the one where the ring used to be, where's it's been since I was thirty-four years old, and I feel empty. It's only a ring, an inanimate object, I realize that, but it means so much to me. As silly as it sounds, having misplaced or lost the ring makes me feel like I've forsaken Chris, like I'm no longer connected to him in the most intimate and profound way that I have been for much of my adult life. I feel incomplete without it, like a piece of me is missing, and all I want right now is to have it safely back on my finger.
I hope that, in my travels around the house, I'll turn a corner, and I'll see Chris's ring resting there, in the most obvious of places, where I should have known from the beginning it would be. But I'm not hopeful that will happen. I wish it would, but I'm worried it won't.
I just want Chris's ring back. Where could it have gone?
P.S.: After Chris returned home from work this evening, I had to tell him that my efforts today to find the ring he gave me yielded nothing. That's okay, he said. It'll turn up. And what if it doesn't, I asked him, fearful that will be the case. It's only a ring, he answered. You still have me. Of course I do, I said, and I'm so grateful for that. That's what really matters. Besides, we can buy you another ring, he said.
There was a time when I would have been happy to hear those words, but not now, not after all these years of having the same ring on my finger, not because I lost it and had to replace it. That ring is my connection to the history we've shared. It's a little bit of him with me wherever I go. It's the proof that I'm with the most wonderful man I could ever be with.
I have always been proud to wear Chris's ring. For so many years, I wanted to be in a relationship, and, when that happened for me, I not only wanted to wear the ring as a sign of our love for each other, I wanted to wear it so the world would know I was no longer single, no longer lonely, deserving of sharing my life with another human being even though I'm gay.
I don't honestly know if I can ever replace that first ring. It will always have such special meaning for me.