He intended the ring to be a romantic gesture, but he made the decision hastily, desperately, in a fit of anguish. Overcome with emotion and unwilling to allow one more public tear to fall, he began to feel as if the maple wainscoting of the mortician’s office itself resembled a coffin. So he picked something and stuck with it, just as he’d been instructed to do a thousand times before by Her. Guided by her, still. God.
Looking through a fucking glossy catalog of ways to display his dead wife was beginning to make him feel like he was on the world’s longest, worst mushroom trip. The whole experience sucked and he wished he could have been drunk all the way through it but they weren’t Irish or whichever denomination allowed drunken funerals. They were the sober kind of mourners, with the white flowers, boring food, and white music. And tears.
He felt embarrassed to admit that he forgot about the ring until summoned down to the Armenian jeweler’s shop to pick it up. The jeweler, a stocky, sweaty man with enough hair for both of them wanted to make conversation with him based on the sheer novelty of it. It was the first time the Armenian’d ever crafted a ring from a dead person and he was excited to share the process with ring’s spouse. He felt sick from the smell of jewelry cleaner, whatever greasy shit those fuckers had for lunch not to mention the beer he smells on this guy’s breath. He just wanted out: away from this pathetic row of shops in this anorexic downtown, obviously struggling to survive despite the story laid out by the commercials and gentrification nearby. The curb littered with potholes, beer bottles. The usual cast of stinky characters occupied the vacant doorways around him as he made he way dazedly back to the car with his hand pinkie finger concealed carefully in his pocket, hot with promise.
He’s not a pinkie ring guy, but he wears this one because by now he misses her and this is a little humiliating to admit, but you know- he MISSES her. For a while he slept with a photo of her pinned to the pillow but then he started to feel a little crazy, especially when he began telling the pillow good night and asking it what he should pick on the tivo. Then, when the housekeeper saw it and called his daughter that was it for the pillowspouse.
The ring is white gold, a manly width and fairly gaudy if you want to know the truth. He wanted it crafted into a wedding band, but those sadists only offered the pinkie style. So he walks around with his right hand in his pocket a lot. Understated can only take you so far when you’re wearing a pinkie ring. The stone made from his wife is a lovely, preternatural, shade of blue reserved for colored contacts, photo-shopped pictures of vacations, and one little girl he sees around town. It’s not a human color, is his problem and he knows she would have hated it. As soon as he slips the ring on he believes he hears her laugh softly. His shoulders relax, he cocks his head to the side and he is right where he wants to be.
Alone with his wife.
Which is how he finds himself addicted to masturbating thinking of his dead wife, seeking therapy, and wondering if he’s finally falling off the misanthropic deep end from which is there is just no fucking return.
At work he is Gollum, nearly helpless to resist the temptation of the flashing stone. He’d been nearly caught in the office bathroom, lost in a memory of the two of them pulled over under a bridge during a rainstorm when the windshield wipers were broken on their fist car, an impossibly dinged up Chevrolet station wagon with a bench front seat. He stumbled back to his desk on shaky legs wondering how long it might take him to pound his way through twenty-three years of lusty memories. He wonders if he’ll do this without getting arrested or injuring himself, and will the ring then finally lose its power? Does he even want that? He not so shamefully admits to himself that he enjoys the fantastical idea that she exists inside this ring and that he can summon her ghost with his cock.
He moves the ring to his left hand and finds to his dismay, and shamefully excited surprise, that he is an ambidextrous mastubator. He thought ambimasturbators were legend- in the seventh grade when he broke his arm that time skateboarding down the 18th Street hill and he truly needed to be one, he could not master the skill.
While at the therapist’s office he learns that there is a support group for people who whack off to their dead spouse’s memory. Wait, what? If Marla Singer is there, he will pay his therapist ten million dollars because he’s sure at this moment that she is also a psychic and knows he would absolutely be able to fuck Marla Singer even with a ring made of his dead wife on his hand.
At the rec center he takes a seat in the circle and checks out every hand in the group. No one has a ring like his, which makes him feel unique just like that time he was forced to attend A.A.meetings (in his ear his wife softly whispers, “like how you decided you weren’t an alcoholic because of your special drinking rules, except you were an alcoholic after all and we almost got a divorce?” and chuckles) so he sits there quietly cursing his wife, contemplating hurling the ring across the room. Then when he reaches over to take it off he feels that telltale warmth spread across his chest and crotch, so he stops.
After an hour be believes he’s picked out the support group junkie in the room and he plans to confront her because even though she’s not Marla Singer she’s pretty hot. Otherwise the group seems to be just full of pathetic people who are jacking off to photos taped to their wall.
They are amateurs. Nothing more. Nothing compared to him, his ring, his wife, his needs. There’s nothing for him here. He arranges his features into a vacant smile and carefully folds his naked hand over the hand containing his wife and waits for the clock and the closing prayer to tell him that it’s time to take her home.