Precious Metal

I put on lipstick and perfume to sell my wedding ring.

I tried to sell it once before, several years ago now.  The jeweler had offered me two hundred dollars for an engagement ring, a wedding ring, an anniversary necklace and a pair of earrings.  The wedding ring alone had cost us over $1,500.  My divorce lawyer had cost me over $3,000.  At the time, it had all seemed connected and utterly unfair.

Plus, all the jewelry had matched.  Kind of.  Wouldn’t someone want a used and almost matching set of someone else’s marriage jewelry?  And they’d have to be willing to pay more than a measly two hundred dollars, right?  I simply couldn’t sell it.

This time, I put all the pieces plus a few other odds and ends into a miniature zip-lock bag and shoved the whole thing in the pocket of my shorts.  I didn’t even on try the ring one last time.  I tried to make my hair look nice—which in summer amounts to brushing it before I pull it back—and brushed my teeth, as if what I looked like would in some way influence the price of gold.  Of course, it was my gold with a little platinum thrown in as a romantic nod to permanence.

I visited a different jeweler this time, too, one that had been advertising on the radio that they bought gold.  They sounded like they actually wanted my scrap jewelry, as opposed to the last guy, from whom I’d gotten the impression that I should have been grateful that he was even willing to take the ring off my hands.  This store was brightly lit, large and quiet thought there were several people sitting in chairs by the window.  A woman offered me coffee while I waited.

The little bag dug into me when I sat down.

When we first looked at wedding rings, I’d been adamant that I didn’t want anything more than a gold band.  I’m not really a jewelry kind of girl and diamonds seemed so expensive for what they were—heavily compressed lumps of coal.  I don’t remember who it was—my ex, the jewelry store, my mother—but someone convinced me that a wedding ring was a once in a lifetime sort of thing, something worth extravagance and beauty.  Because, wasn’t I worth it?  And the ring we settled on was beautiful and not too excessive, with a sapphire center stone and an incredible sparkle in the light.  And I will say, the day I got married, I felt absolutely worth it.

When my number came up—I had to pull a number just like waiting at the DMV—the man behind the glass counter was young and efficient.  He sorted the pieces into piles—platinum, 12K, 18K, 24K, crap—using a loop.  I resorted mentally.  Ex-husband, grandmother, unmatched earrings.  It was unsettling to see him mixing up my associations on the black velvet pad, as if they were all just metal and not things that had been precious.  Once.

He weight out each pile and did a few quick calculations.  Weight x going metal value, that’s it, like calculating the force of two cars in a traffic accident. Doesn’t matter who’s in the cars, where they were going, or whether the crash happened on a city street or in a cornfield.  The force is still mass times acceleration.

He was a nice man, the guy who this time offered me four times what I’d been previously offered for the whole lot.  He counted out eight crisp hundred dollar bills onto the counter for me and I felt reckless folding up that much recognizable currency and shoving it into my wallet.  What he didn’t know, though, was I would have taken two hundred.  Sitting there with all the other suburbanites waiting to tell their bits of gold for a little cash, I realized that it was time. There was nothing left in it but metal.

Ten years, almost to the day, is a nice run for a relationship with a piece of marriage jewelry.  Maybe someday the marriage can stay attached.  Or maybe not.  I’ve never been much of a ring wearer, anyway.

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