Posted Monday, August 2nd, 2004
Jordan E. Rosenfeld
Where other women have wedding rings she has two holes. They are small, so tiny that unless she asked you to place your eyes on her knuckles and look down, just as she has this morning, you would never notice them. You might notice the evenness of the tan along her hand, a hand that looks as though it never wore a wedding ring, not ever, and perhaps never plans to. Who would want to sacrifice that measured brown for a pasty ring of white, a lone ring of Saturn interrupting its uniformity? Not her. These holes fascinate and concern her. A spider has pressed its tiny fangs into the flesh of her finger while she slept.
How do they know, she wonders, to bite me while I sleep? Why not while I am reading mystery novels, still for such long stretches of time? She is offended—not by the tiny red pinpricks that ooze a clear fluid when she squeezes, but by their placement on that conspicuous finger her cousin was just remarking on last week—about its ringlessness. And like genetics on some superswift scale, her mother and her sisters and even her uncle are suddenly discussing that impressively tanned finger as if it needs an intervention. Does it want to be like that forever? Doesn't it want to make a little bit more, you know, effort, to try and become ringed? And now, now the spiders are in on it too. Her mother has always been a powerful manipulator, but she hadn't quite understood to what degree. Her mother clearly rules over nature and perhaps she had better steer clear of beaches until she can be sure her mother doesn't control the tides too.
She rises with a hallucination of earth in her hands, her nude body as pale as the line her finger would bear if she were married. Her face and shoulders are a solid canvas of this plummy brown that only repeated sun exposure can develop, like a photograph urged into color after successive baths in the right chemicals. She gardens for a living, making it easy for the sun to claim her. She is chimera-like: a happy sun-bunny on top, capable of attracting a mate and a social life, but below, where it counts, in the nethersphere where children and love are made she is dewy and pale, nymph-like and translucent, neither here nor there. She wears tank tops that show off her décolletage—that slope down her neck just to the tops of her breasts, her high, protruding collar bones, her proudest feature, more so than the petite triangle breasts that require no bra. She has memorized this half of herself, knows what it looks like at certain angles.
So far, though, despite the many neighborhoods she works in, plucking flowers and trimming hedges and planting the trunks of little saplings deep into the dirt, all she attracts are Mormons trying to sell her on God. She has started to consider their proposals, and finds herself leaning longer into conversation with them. They are usually good-looking young men, just over legal age of consent, their bodies taut but hidden under stiff, starched collars and black polyester pants. She wants to say to them: We are in the same boat you and I. This is your last chance. In a few years, no one will stop to talk to me at all. In a few years, you will be deeply entrenched, impossible to wrench you free from your religious cement. She once brushed her long fingers against the ear of a tow-headed boy, and his blush translated up and down his body at once so that she swore she could see a flush of red beneath his white shirt.
She is not ugly. She is not gorgeous. She is not traffic-stopping but she has turned heads in her life. The heads she turns are usually married. Perhaps she is safe, maybe there is something about her: the Spartan quality of her home, or the loving way she regards her gardening tools, that speaks to them of certain spinsterhood. Even in a time when women do not need to marry, do not depend upon men for their identity, she radiates a pheromone of aloneness and soon—once their wives sniff the rival woman on the scene—her married men return her to it.
She tenderly strokes the rising red welt that encapsulates the spider's bite on her finger. It has begun to itch, and she thinks of her mother again, scolding that finger for its lack, for its nakedness. Wearing only her underwear she moves to her own garden, a tiny rectangle in a sea of suburban concrete, plunges her hand into the cool earth where the itching ceases immediately. She takes a deep breath, full of the smell of blooming white tiger lilies, their mouths thrown back and open like beautiful ladies, just happy to be alive.
Comments [post a comment]
Posted by Ellen Meister [ email@example.com
] on Monday, August 2nd, 2004 at 9:02 PM
Gorgeous prose! This story swallowed me whole. Bravo, Jordan!
Posted by Donia Carey on Monday, August 2nd, 2004 at 9:18 PM
Absolutely beautiful writing. An original take on an old dilemma. Well done!
Posted by Marcia Lynx Qualey [ firstname.lastname@example.org
] on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004 at 2:45 AM
This is beautiful, Jordan. I love the end.
Posted by Lizzie Hannon on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004 at 1:04 PM
Lush and "new" in the way really good writing is; I can finger the collarbone, the welt, smell the tiger lilies, dream of that "long finger" along the ear. A pleasure to read.
Posted by Anna Mini on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004 at 8:55 PM
What a beautiful piece. I keep chanting "a phramone of aloneness" like a mantra.
Posted by Dave Clapper [ email@example.com
] on Tuesday, August 10th, 2004 at 4:55 PM
Loved this, Jordan. Great work.
Posted by Steve Gilford [ Sageprod@aya.yale.edu
] on Thursday, September 2nd, 2004 at 2:06 PM
One of the most wonderful things about personal writings is that they allow you to travel into another's head, to see the world from a different perspective with its similarities and differences. "ring Finger" was well worth the trip both for its content and for the grace with which the ideas and feelings are expressed.