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Her Grandmother's Ring

Funny, the things you will do when you get depressed.  My lover had left me for some chick she met in a bar while I was on a business trip;  and the business trip, a last ditch effort to plead for additional funding for the social service agency I worked for, turned out to be a total waste of time when the entire grant was denied and the plug pulled on the whole agency;  my cat died while I was gone and my lover left me a note on the kitchen table telling me that I owed her $85 for the vet bill;   I had little money, no job, no lover, no pet.... even the furniture was gone, for my lover said in her note that she had grown emotionally attached to it and knew I would understand.

So, for some insane reason best not analyzed too closely, I decided that I would turn my life around by learning to play the guitar.  Don't say it.  Just don't go there.  I know how it sounds.  I don't know what the rationale behind my reasoning was.  I only know that it made perfect sense at the time.

And that is how I ended up in the pawn shop, when Lisalee walked in. 

How can I describe her?  I won't..... I can't...... for even now  I can't really see her clearly, she seems so beautiful to me.

Anyway, there I stood, absently strumming an old Yamaha that had seen better days but still sounded like I thought it was supposed to (like I really knew), and I watched her as she paused just inside the door. She had a black eye, bruises on her left cheek and a monstrous hand print on her right.  Her manner was hesitant and she looked at something in her hand as pain flashed over her face and was gone.  The butch in me rose up in a protective wave and my throat clenched.  She was little, she was lovely, she was in pain........and my fingers paused on the guitar.....I wanted to touch her and help her.  It was spontaneous, it was instantaneous, it was inexplicable.  She stood, head bowed, and then her back straightened and she walked to the counter.  I watched as she negotiated the pawning of the whatever-it-was that she  held clutched so tightly in her hand.  Then, as she took the money and left, I saw the tears in her eyes... and somehow  tears of sympathy started in my own eyes.  I gazed through the window at her straight back as she walked rapidly down the street and then I walked to the counter.

The man behind the counter was holding a ring in his callused palm;  he shook his head.  "Man, oh man I hate my job sometimes," he said.  "I can't sell that little girl's ring.  No way, man.  I don't care if I do get fired. I'm gonna put it away till she gets money to come back for it.  About once a month she comes in here, pawns something, and leaves. Half the time she's all beat up..... lord, I hate that.  She's hooked up with some bulldyke looks like she got Virginia hams under her shirt sleeves, her arms are so big..... woman's strong as an ox.... and she's got a drug habit.  She beats on that little girl and it makes me crazy.  My wife and me, we offered to take her in but she just pretends like nothing's wrong.   So far, she's just pawned stuff like TV's, CD players, things like that.   But this ring...... oh, man, I hate my job.  I give her about 6 times what it's worth even though I know the money's gonna just go in the hole in that bulldyke's arm.  Dammit.  I ain't never seen her take this ring off, till now.  It's her grandmother's ring."

I quietly put down the guitar.   There was a small voice in my heart..... one I seldom listened to, but I was listening now.  Oh boy was I listening.   "How much does she need to get it back?" I asked.

When he told me, I stood for a moment and reminded myself that I didn't have a job..... that I was now in the apartment by myself and responsible for the full amount of rent..... that I had just a little cushion in the bank buffering me between stability and homelessness..... but the voice in my heart said back at me, 'She needs you.  She needs you.  You have to help her.'  I closed my eyes and told myself that I was an idiot, a fool, a stupid butch with no more sense than Don Quixote tilting at his windmilling dragons.... and then I took out my checkbook and spent every last dime I had, to buy back  Lisalee's ring. 

That was five years ago.  I write this now, and I think of Lisalee asleep in the next room.  I pause and look again at the ring I have bought her for our 5th anniversary, knowing that she will wear it on the same finger as her grandmother's ring.  I remember that first year we had;  being stalked by the bulldyke with the habit;  being evicted and living with friends till we both found work;  her learning to love without hurting and how hard that was for her; me learning patience and gentleness and loving her more every time she smiled and melted into my arms without flinching; our commitment ceremony at the beach;  I remember it all.  I remember wondering what a beautiful woman like her could possibly see in this clumsy, scarred, big old butch like me.  I still wonder that sometimes but don't dare look too close..... you don't want to peer inside the magician's hat for fear of killing the rabbit, you know?

Most of all, I remember the small voice in my heart, whispering to me to defy the odds and forget my past; the little voice that spoke of magic and heart's desire and dreams come true. 

Do I believe in magic?  Do I believe in fate?  Do I believe that love is where you find it? Do I believe that something scattered fairydust in my path that day, as I walked into that shop to buy a guitar to chase my demons away?

You tell me.  I only know,  my dream is sleeping in my bed in the next room.  And I see fairydust when she smiles.... and moonbeams when she looks at me with that special look she gets right before she kisses me.

I never did learn to play the guitar.  Maybe one of these days..........

~for Teresa, who watched quietly while I sold my soul and then spent all she had to buy it back for me.....te quiero, darling........

©~Marcia Wickes


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